The troop took four dads and 15 scouts to Sandy Hook National Park on Friday afternoon. We camped near Horseshoe Cove on the Bay-Side of the park at campsite #2. There were two other scout units camping at the park with us.
After getting the site set up, our patrols made dinner — TrashBag Taco Salad for Lancers and Hot Dogs for Stealth. Desserts included giant campfire marshmallows (which seem to be more popular to burn than to eat) and fruit/yogurt parfaits. Following a short troop meeting and devotional time, the scouts played team games and everyone got to bed by 10 PM.
Breakfast consisted of bagels, butter and cream cheese, juices, milk and hot chocolate. Stealth also added sausage to their menu.
We broke camp and loaded up our vehicles. After a final trash pickup, we met up with our Oceanography MB Workshop Coordinator – Jessica. Jessica works for the NJ Sea Grant Consortium, our host for the five-hour workshop. A group discussion about Sandy Hook helped us learn how it was formed, the types of plants found here, and more. Interestingly, we learned that one of the key plants on the peninsula is poison ivy since it has very long and dense root structures it literally helps keep the sand spit in one piece. We also brushed up on how to recognize the plant and learned that it grows in three forms on the island — low vines, brushy bushes, and high vines that crawl out tree branches. This was important so that we wouldn’t place any equipment or buckets on these plants — the oils can rub off onto the equipment and transmit to other people’s skin later on.
We moved to the pedestrian platform at the salt marsh to learn about the relative salt tolerance of various plants — how some thrive in salty or brackish waters and others don’t like the salt and will grow at or above the high tide line. Salt marshes are important since they act like big filters to collect trash and pollutants.
Moving to the beach along the bay, we organized into buddies and teams to take turns going into the bay. The boys were taught about seining — fishing by using a net in the surf. Each team was able to catch fish, crabs and shrimp in the bay waters. These creatures were placed in a bucket to be taken back to the lab. Additionally, the boys were able to use the plankton nets that they had built at home to collect plankton samples. There were both plant and animal plankton found in the bay water and we were later able to study them under microscopes at the lab.
After collecting the equipment, we headed over to Fort Hancock for lunch. Next we visited “building 22” — the home office of NJ Sea Grant Consortium. They had many tanks of local fish and even turtles. The beach sand collections and sea-shell collections included many exotic specimens.
The boys were taught how, and given opportunities to, test sea water for salinity levels and dissolved oxygen content. Both of these measures are important to sustain marine life and to understand what’s happening in the environment.
After some hands on work with the labs’ equipment, we headed home! While it was a short trip, everyone had fun and learned a lot about oceanography.
Photos from the weekend have already been uploaded to our troop’s photo share site.