Tall ship brings lessons about Great
By Jon Malavolti
Muskegon Chronicle (MI)
Posted on mlive.com on August 9, 2005
While the makeshift crew of the Inland Seas didn't find
any new species dwelling at the bottom of White Lake on
Monday, they did discover a new smoothie flavor.
At least that's what the green sludge sample taken from
the bottom of the lake resembled to young members of the
White Lake Yacht Club who participated in an educational
sail on the tall ship.
The Sutton Bay-based schooner will be tied up on the
Muskegon Channel wall Wednesday and Thursday near the
USS Silversides, providing free dockside tours and an
opportunity for a paid science-oriented sailing trip.
Tom Kelly, the ship's captain and executive director
of the Inland Seas Education Association -- the group
that owns the Inland Seas -- said their mission is to
teach people about the Great Lakes.
"The idea is to get people to understand how the
Great Lakes work and all the organisms that are in here
and what they do -- to learn what makes the lakes tick,"
The smoothie-like sample, meant to collect plankton from
the bottom of White Lake, was later examined with a microscope
and produced some interesting results.
Several different types of plankton could be spotted
swimming around in tiny droplets of water taken from the
sample as it was magnified onto a television monitor below
the ship's deck.
Back topside, young sailors aided the four-person crew
of the Inland Seas with steering duties and raising the
sails. Kelly said normally he has a small staff closer
to about a dozen people during such educational voyages.
"We wouldn't of been able to do everything without
their help, so they really got a chance to see how everything
works," Kelly said.
Sally Schwartz, a teacher in the Detroit area and member
of the yacht club, said she saw firsthand the educational
advantage of the trip on White Lake.
"Any opportunity to get hands on is very beneficial,
to learn by doing," she said.
For 10-year-old Chris Lopez, the trip was both educational
"I love sailing, it's my favorite thing to do,"
"It was pretty cool raising the sails," he
said. "And later I'm going to look up some more information
and learn a lot more."
That's exactly what Kelly, a White Lake native himself,
was hoping to hear at the end of the sail in his hometown.
"My interest in aquatic ecology stemmed from when
I saw that this lake was in trouble from various pollution
sources like sewage and the chemical companies, so that
inspired me to go on to college in that field," he
After graduating from Whitehall High School in 1966,
Kelly went on to earn a bachelor degree in conservation
and masters in fisheries and biology from the University
"So I'm hoping that I'm going to inspire a generation
of new kids, some who may become scientists who help solve
problems in the future," he said. "But it's
also important to have the average person understand what's
going on out there and how important it is.
"Even if you don't live on the Great Lakes, it's
the basis of our economy and it's hugely important for
the state of Michigan and we need to take care of it."