Jonathan Wilbur interview

Posted April 13th, 2012 in News by Charles Radville

From Horizon to Horizon with a Mattapoisett Land Trust Scholarship

By Ellen P. Flynn, Chair of Education Committee.

While still in High school Jonathan Wilbur, 2011 Mattapoisett Land Trust scholarship winner, attended a Weekend Environmental Symposium at Mass Maritime College. He spent the night on the T.S. Kennedy maritime ship, attended lectures, learned about sharks, and got a taste of what his college life experience might be like, if he chose to attend. After the weekend he told his parents “that will be my choice”.

EF. When you were thinking about colleges what part of the decision process helped you choose Mass Maritime?

JW. I wanted to be close by to my hometown and on the water, able to have an outdoor environment and hands on experience. I have selected two majors: Marine Safety and Emergency Homelands Management, a curriculum similar to environmental Police. All throughout H.S. the courses I enjoyed were Marine Biology and the sciences.

EF. Share with us some of the skills you have learned at college and on the T.S. Kennedy.

JW. Orientation up at 4:45am, run a mile, do pushups, crunches (sit ups), mountain climbers, learn knot tying, line splicing, and academics of Labs& Lectures, and advanced algebra, with Marine Biology. There was a manual we held and read about chafing gear. Our squad leaders instill a lot of discipline and respect. Before boarding the ship, we take a course on Vessel Familiarization we raise & lower 7ft life boats, we are taught how to stay alive at sea, meaning if an oil fire broke out on the starboard side and the winds were blowing in that direction do not jump into the wind. We are always busy on the 540-foot long vessel with 600 cadets and 100 crew members. We do painting, scrubbing the decks, some do outside work on line handling, and transportation, others times we are down below working as engineers.

EF. While at sea with only you the horizon and the ship how did that experience affect you? Did you have any type of awareness about the power of humans vs. power of the oceans? Where else did you sail on the T.S. Kennedy?

JW. Just yesterday I saw the entire Milky Way, from Horizon to Horizon. It was so peaceful and so clam. The stars were like a fog of lights traveling through the air, it was nothing like just looking at the sky from my hometown. My 1st semester friends became better friends and closer classmates, while at sea. When leaving St. Thomas we had an experience of rough seas, a wild ocean storm, with forty-foot waves normally the kind you might expect off Cape Hatteras, the Graveyard of the Atlantic. At that time upperclassmen and our supervisors were really great to assist us. While traveling to Cuba on the ship, I turned 19 years old, having no phone service, and not hearing from my parents was a unique time for me. Crossing the equator and being so young, was an experience of a lifetime!

 EF. When attending to the poor in the poverty stricken areas, how has that experience changed you?

JW. When traveling to Ecuador we collected clothing and gave out food and supplies for the hospital. At first it was a scary time to see collapsed buildings and we were instructed by Embassy representatives of the dangers of blacked out areas, and the very high crime rate. We saw junk cars abandoned in the streets with garbage strewn around. I realized how thankful I am for my home life and how I have a great love for the Mass Maritime Academy. I kept a journal and saw flying fish, sea turtles and dolphins, but after 52 days it did seem too isolated for my world

EF. Coming through the Panama Canal what was that experience like?

JW. It was beautiful, at early morning 5:30am seeing the fog was like being in shock and watching the water rising up at 85 ft above sea level, to the three sets of locks, on the Gatun Lake, and the Gaillard Cut. It was much wider than I thought, and it took five hours for the transit through two sets of locks over to the Pacific side. I was able to work from start to finish and also see the building of the new canal. It was good luck for me! Panama City is so much more developed than I what saw in other areas. It is the city of world banks lining the streets. The architecture is outstanding, spiraled glass buildings and cranes everywhere for new building. From the docks you see boats bringing in all the money for exchange to the banks. It was very different from the streets of Massachusetts

EF. I realize this experience is early in your lifetime but can you see how it might change your course of where you want to be in the future?

What kind of advice can you offer younger people like H.S students or even younger who are looking for a unique college experience.

JW. Yes, while in H.S. I enjoyed nature and being outdoors, hunting and learning about the natural world, and the marsh and its habitat. Hunters are some of the best conservationists. In the future I would like to talk to teachers and keep a connection with my H.S. to relate to younger students about how important it is to choose a college that best suits what you want to do in life.

I will do two or three internships where I will travel to Alaska, or possibly to Shanghai, China, where our school has an exchange research program. My interest is in studying and following trout patterns, and how I can continue to help protect wetlands and hunting grounds. I hope to work with Ducks Unlimited and a future plan is to raise a population of approx 100 Wood Ducks by building Wood Boxes similar to bird houses, (only much larger) clip the ducks’ flight wings and keep them close by like on the Mattapoisett River or the marshland. This poultry is a type that helps keep away coyotes and creates a habitat for the wetlands. Most of my leisure time has been shared between Mattapoisett and St John in the Caribbean where I travel with my grandparents and family. These environments are two totally different worlds, one being tropical and the other having all four seasons, so here in Mattapoisett with the water and the woods, I have it all; and I am grateful to the Mattapoisett Land Trust for awarding me this scholarship.