Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey of Scoby

I have to admit, I had started to give up hope on finding our little tag. It had been 11 days with no sign, no word. I had searched the beaches, listened with the VHF antenna, and posted signs with not so much as a glimpse, a blip on the receiver, or a phone call. And then it happened…

Grace and I were in the car when her phone started alerting her of messages, emails, voicemails. We ignored them at first (she was driving after all), but eventually Grace had me check to see what was up. She had emails, texts, and missed calls from several different colleagues, all regarding the discovery of a green tag by a beachcomber 10 days earlier. All of the messages asked the same question: was it ours? Yes, yes it was!

This was amazing news, and we were ready to stop what we were doing and head out to wherever this mystery person held our tag! We got the phone number for Mr. Lance Arnold and immediately called him. When we finally got to talk to him, we discovered he really did have our Scoby and that she was intact and seemingly unharmed. Based on what Lance described, that one of the LED lights was flashing at the top of the minute, she also still appeared to be recording something! Now came the snafu. Lance lived in Connecticut…here is Scoby’s story.

Lance found our tag while combing the beach on April 20th, the day after we deployed Scoby. While our contact info was on the tag, it’s unfortunate placement hid it underneath some electrical tape (oops). With no way to know this, Lance had no idea who the tag belonged to. Being a former marine science instructor however (oh what luck), he knew it was a scientific instrument and that whoever it belonged to probably wanted it back pretty badly. Right he was. With not much to go on other than that he knew the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was right nearby and possibly involved, he began by contacting them. Since we had requested help from everyone we knew, including some WHOI affiliates, most researchers in the area were aware that we had lost a tag. It took 10 days, but eventually word trickled down to us that our tag had been found.┬áMeanwhile however, Lance returned home to Connecticut. With no other options or leads at that time, he took our Scoby along for the ride. Grace and I discussed our options, and although Lance generously offered to ship us our tag, we decided it was best, safest, and easiest for someone to just drive the 2.5 hours and go get her. That someone of course, was me.

So I set out early the next day for Ashford Connecticut to meet Lance Arnold: Scoby savior. Unbeknownst to me, he was also Lance Arnold: artist and sculptor. Here is a little blurb about Mr. Arnold from his artist statement:

A former science teacher and self-taught artist, Lance Arnold was born in Boston and raised in Hingham, Massachusetts. He graduated from American International College with a BS in Biology and later earned a Master’s in the Art of Teaching from the University of North Carolina. Mr. Arnold has always possessed an intense love of the ocean and he often harvests treasures from the sea and beaches (thankfully for us!) for his one-of-a-kind glass compositions and sculptures. There is an organic feel to many of Mr. Arnold’s pieces, which celebrate nature in all its various forms. Making use of driftwood, animal bones, oxidized metal, and sea creatures, he creates the many unique images that appear in his glass panels and found-object sculpture. Mr. Arnold’s varied palette also consists of bits and pieces from abandoned dumpsites and roadsides, as well as from the shore. These are assembled in sculptural works marrying an aesthetic sense for color and shape with a quiet respect for found objects and serendipity. He also creates functional and ornamental art consisting of glass boxes, vases, wind chimes, and jewelry.

I had the pleasure of not only meeting Lance, who is delightful by the way, but I got to see his amazing studio. As an artist myself, I have to say I was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. It was filled with finished sculptures, paintings, and jewelry but also with trinkets and treasures waiting to be transformed. If you are an artist, a lover of the sea, or just anyone who likes to see boxes of wild animal skulls, I highly recommend going to see his studio. Visit his website if nothing else, you won’t be disappointed!

Scoby is back with me now in the Parks Lab in Syracuse. Will briefly looked at it and it seems the tag was only on the whale for about 2 hours. Better than 30 seconds of course, so I can’t/won’t complain. I plan on browsing the audio this week, so let’s hope for some good data! Thanks again Lance!

lab member holding tag
Really happy to be reunited!
four lab members one holding tag one holding sculpture
Hannah, myself, Jess, and Leanna proudly holding our returned tag and the medusa glass sculpture Lance Arnold gave to the Park’s Lab!