An Ocean of Awe
When Jacob Burningham ’08 wants an adventure, he doesn’t have to go far — just deep. We’re not talking about digging holes in the backyard, but about swimming with lingcod in the Puget Sound. For the past two years, Burningham has filled his weekends with treasure hunts for wolf eels, sixgill sharks, and the ultimate diver’s prize: the giant Pacific octopus.
About 35 pounds and 14 feet in diameter, these Pacific Northwest natives are the largest of their species. Calling them “GPOs” or “octos,” Burningham likes to feed them urchin from out of his hand.
Burningham is working toward his instructor certification, and assists Mark Emery ’82 with his scuba classes. Emery is a high school science teacher and a scuba instructor at a local dive shop, but his favorite place to teach scuba is at Seattle Pacific University. “There’s no comparison,” Emery says. “The enthusiasm of the students makes it interesting.”
Emery’s been on hundreds of dives, but says he never grows tired of seeing creatures in the wild. Recently, he and Burningham were diving in Tacoma and saw at least a dozen GPOs, which is extremely rare. One of them — after a gentle nudge from his slumber — transformed before their eyes.
Its skin turned from deep purple to light beige, with every combination in between; its texture raised to spikes and bumps and then relaxed to a smooth sheen; it flattened itself against the wall, and then stood up as big and tall as it could. “It was the coolest thing,” Emery says. “I’ve seen it before, but you never get bored of that.”
BY JULIA SIEMENS
Floating in a kayak on the Fremont Canal, SPU alum Beth Rorabaugh ’08 prepared to escape her vessel and plunge into the cold waters. But she didn’t realize just how cold those waters were. Once she slipped out of the kayak, she found herself gasping for air. Just then, a man rescued her by pulling her onto a nearby dock.
This story never made headlines. The escape was actually a “wet exit,” an exercise in SPU’s kayaking and canoeing class, and the man who was ready to help was Bob Weathers, professor of physical education. Rorabaugh, who was one of three students who had trouble with the cold shock, registered for the class with little experience.
“I assume students know nothing,” Weathers says. By the time she finished, Rorabaugh knew everything from how to steer the boat to how to read water currents.
Most of class time is spent out on the canal learning maneuvers, launches, and transporting among other things. “You have to enjoy being outside,” Rorabaugh cautions. With a waitlist every year, it’s easy to see that most SPUers don’t mind the open air.
“It’s a class well worth taking,” Rorabaugh says. When she went to Blakely Island with her biology class, she got to put her kayaking knowledge to the test, taking to the water with her classmates. It’s another example of why Weathers has enjoyed teaching the sport for 30 years. “I love seeing people master skills,” he says. “By the end of the course, they can make the boat do whatever they want.”
BY KRISTEN ROSS ’05
Resolved to Rise
Confession: David Salciccioli is afraid of heights. That is, except when it comes to rock climbing. “There’s always fear involved, but after you take some big falls, you start to gain more trust and feel more confident in your climbing,” the junior from Bend, Oregon, says. Salciccioli started rock climbing in high school with his dad. They’d mainly go to Smith Rock in Oregon, a world-renowned climbing locale.
Here in Seattle, Salciccioli prefers the outdoor climbing rock in the University District –– although that’s where he shattered the bones in his foot last year, thanks to a 15-foot drop. But a little injury like that hasn’t kept Salciccioli away from the rocks. He has completely recovered and still climbs because “it’s fun being outside; it’s a communal thing.”
Salciccioli tries to climb as often as possible, despite the fact that it’s hard to do in rainy weather. There’s always Stone Gardens, the indoor rock wall in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, but that can get expensive.
A peer advisor in Ashton Hall, Salciccioli readies himself for climbing by doing pull-ups on door jambs. “Its cool feeling comfortable with being up high … you have to stretch yourself,” he says about his favorite sport. But is the activity an easy one to learn? “Once you get the gear, it’s really easy,” he says. “The climbing community is really helpful with techniques.”