Sunday, September 07, 2008

Take the Treasure Map Quiz!

Editor's note: Here's a sample from our new companion website for children, Notes from a Miniature Submarine 4 Kidz.

Here's a fun project for boys and girls of all ages. Grab a pencil, some sheets of paper, and a flash light. When you are ready, come back and read on. If you have trouble reading big words, ask an adult to help you.

Treasure Map Quiz

Did you know that the Earth's oceans are full of hidden treasure? That, if you or I were able to locate this treasure and recover it, mommy and daddy would suddenly become very proud of us, never, ever requiring that we go back to school again? It's true! More treasure than you can dream of is hidden in the hulls of pirate ships and merchant vessels that sunk to the ocean floor hundreds, even thousands, of years ago. The only problem is . . . how to find them?

The ocean is a big place, and it is very hard to pinpoint where those ships went down. Sometimes, people who survived those shipwrecks drew treasure maps back to the location. But until recently, people did not have the equipment to travel to the wreck sites and recover all of the lost loot. Even twenty or thirty years ago, it was much harder to get to that treasure.

Do you know what a treasure map looks like? In movies, treasure maps are usually very beautifully drawn, and use a letter X to mark the location of the treasure. Most treasure maps, however, are not so pretty. Often, a fisherman or a scuba diver locates a wreck site by accident. He dashes (or flaps) back to the ship's cabin to record his bearings. But, when he gets back to the ship's cabin, all he can find is a pen and a wet napkin. So, he draws the coordinates on the napkin, or whatever paper he can find. Or (if he is really well prepared) he'll already have a map, and he'll mark the location of the treasure on the map with an X or a square.

So, when searching for your treasure map, be sure to keep an open mind. They come in many shapes and sizes.

Are you ready to take the treasure map quiz?

I sure hope so!

Part One

1. How many of your relatives have spent some, or most, of their lives at sea?

2. If you answered "none," don't worry. I'll explain more ways for you to help in a minute. For those of you who do have mariners in your family, have you overheard them talking about the location of a wreck site they discovered, say while fishing or diving, many, many years ago, and for many years have been planning to return, as soon as they can "get the old crew together," and "get ahold of the right boat"?

3. If so, you might want to poke around in grandpa's chest for a while and see if you can find a treasure map. If you can't find one, you might hint to grandpa later on that you are interested in seeing what a real treasure map looks like.

4. Now, say you don't have any mariners in your family, or you just can't find a treasure map no matter how hard you try... the next step is to grab a phone and do some research. Call all of the friends you have ever had. Do any of them have mariners in their families? If so, repeat steps one through three.

5. Go door to door, looking for mariners. When you find one, charm him with your little explorer smile and ask if he has a treasure map. If he does have one, ask to borrow it for a project for school. Do not mention this website.

6. Once you have found a treasure map, the real fun begins! Take the treasure map you have found, and spread it out on the floor. Using a piece of heavy white construction paper, trace every line and number on the treasure map very carefully. When you are finished, scan your entry and shoot an email to:

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Sub-Rising: The Rebirth of the world's most popular submarine-themed blog

To all the loyal readers of Notes from a Miniature Submarine, those who have remained faithful over the span of years:

Are you INSANE?!?!?*

*If you were expecting some sort of in-depth follow up to this question, you are out of luck. That is all I had intended to ask those who have stuck with Notes for this long, considering that it has not been updated in two whole years.

To everyone else:

You may be asking yourself, "What ever happened to that blog about the submarine, my favorite blog, the only one I ever bothered to read that did not feature pictures of girls in bikinis?"

Furthermore, you may be asking yourself, "Before I find out, where did I stash that last can of Milwaukee's Best so my roommate wouldn't take it?"

The answer, it so happens, is two-fold:

Fold One: It is in the Crisper droor of your refrigerator, behind the bag containing pears that have turned a deep brown color over the past six or eight weeks, where no one would ever, ever think to look. Good hiding place!

Fold Two: This is not an easy fold to access. Which is why I have been stalling....

Prologue to a Painful Explanation

Do you know what happens to people, innocent scientists such as myself, when the government decides to nose into their business? I'll tell you what happens: they get their submarine taken away.

...or nearly taken away.

Little details like "accounting," making the numbers match up to within one or two digits, the scrutiny of earmarks called "Porsche," to even stupid things, like claiming to have been on an expedition to Hawaii, when in fact one was on vacation in Hawaii, are enough to raise the scrutiny of the Feds. Before you know it, hefty looking men with Miami-Vice hairdos and dark sunglasses and pin-striped shirts are knocking on the door of your laboratory demanding to be let in. Simply saying, "Not interested, thank you," or "No solicitors," and closing the shutters simply won't do. You have to let them in, or they will get feisty: the knocks get louder, backup is called, the threats of charges becomes more creative, and before you know it, you have what appears to be an Italian mafia hit squad assembled on your lawn, but which is really the United States Government.

Fortunately, long before the raid, I knew something was coming...I knew something (for lack of a better word) "fishy" was going on. For months prior, I had been receiving notices in the mail, strange notices, official looking documents with red lettering that read "COURT SUMMONS." Savvy of such schemes, I would immediately toss them into the paper-shredder in my office marked "Spam." I was not about to be taken by some clever hacker/indentity thief, who had expanded his operations to the normal mail.

Then came the harrassing phone calls. I assured the hackers, etc., that I was not interested....which only seemed to make them more agitated. Fearing for my livelihood, I decided to...

[Let me interrupt this dialogue by stating, unequivocally, that I do not know where the submarine is at this current moment. I am pretty certain that it still exists, in that I took it out for old times' sake a couple of days ago and it runs fine etc., but I digress.]


By the time of the raid, the laboratory was nearly empty. The trick was on them: having already cut the funding for my research, I had used up nearly all of the supplies on hand. The important point, though, is that the submarine was gone. No one could find it. Not one of the detectives, though smartly dressed, etc., had a clue to go on. I certainly didn't have a clue.


The Body of the Matter

So, it's been two years. I lost my laboratory. I lost my interns. I lost my dignity.

What was even worse, I lost the ability to update the blog. Until yesterday, I was under a court order not to post any new messages. And yesterday, to be perfectly frank, I was just too lazy to update it.

The good news is that, from this day forward, I vow to once again obtain funding (through some means) to continue the vital research to which I have devoted my life. I vow to bring you, dear reader, along for the ride: even if that means forcibly placing you in the submarine, which is unlikely to happen unless you are a Brazilian model of sorts.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A shortage of scientists? I think not

Hey, lady, what is your job like? How are you so lucky to work here? Can I get a job here when I grow up?

When schoolchildren visit the laboratory, they have lots of questions. What is it like at the bottom of the ocean? Who built the submarine? Do you have a boyfriend? Some of them, I can answer. Some of them, I cannot.

Since I started to work here in June, one thing I have realized over and over is how much I have yet to learn, and how, like a child, I must continually ask questions of those around me. As a scientist, inquiry is at the very core of my nature, and without it, I am doomed.

At the start of a tour, Jerry will ask the children to gather in front of the submarine. When he gives the signal, I kill the lights. "This is what it looks like at the bottom of the ocean," he'll say. Then he turns the sub's spotlights on, and the kids start to go crazy. "Without these spotlights, it would be about as boring as walking around with a bag over your head. But with them...we can chase sharks!"

Like the children, I find my heart racing with anticipation throughout the tour. Every time one of their hands shoots up, and a question is asked, I find myself wondering the answer as well. So many times, I'll hear an answer and say, "Wow, I didn't know that."

Over the course of the summer, I have learned about deep sea exploration, examining samples taken from the deep ocean, and how repair a submarine. And even though I have a B.A. in Marine Biology and am studying for my Masters, I didn't have a clue about any of this stuff beforehand.

So, the next time a child asks me, "How do I get a job here?" I will be tempted to reply: "You can apply next summer. You already have all the skills that you need."

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I am sorry to have to post this; it seems that no one updated the blog for me while I was away on vacation. Waikiki was great, but having to return to this?

The task of updating the blog on a daily (and, preferably, hourly) basis has belonged to two graduate students who are interning here for the summer. Tanya and Jenna have narrowly escaped termination on the promise that they will pick up this blogging thing in days to come. Their excuse for not blogging, not once, in my absence, is that (and this is a direct quote) "It's, like, hard to come up with things. Giggle Giggle Giggle."

The good news: Tanya and Jenna will help with the blog starting today.

The bad news: Tanya and Jenna are the best America has to offer in the way of future scientists.

Have I mentioned that Waikiki was great?

I will never forget the view from my hammock, between the two lone palm trees on that white sandy beach... the wind slightly caressing the skin, the feel of a cold Corona in my right hand... and nothing but clear sapphire-blue waters as far as the eye could see. To my left, a scantily clad woman. To my right, another scantily clad woman.

And later that evening, when I gave them what they wanted.... a ride in the submarine. Helping them down inside, their bronze skin glistening, and then climbing in on top of them (the sub is designed for two people), awkwardly groping...for this or that control. Cruising around Mamala Bay, in shark infested waters, pointing and making funny faces as the sharks swam by, because we knew they wanted to, but couldn't, eat us.

Ah, yes...

Stay tuned for: updates from Tanya and Jenna.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Advertising Update: WBXTR 880

Notes From a Miniature Submarine was recently featured on San Diego's public access channel WBXTR (channel 880), in a segment titled, "Stuff you never knew existed in San Diego, Part IV."

An excerpt from the interview:

WBXTR 880: You've been involved in deep sea exploration since you were a child. How did you get started at such a young age?

Electric_Eel: You must have read my resume. Well, I might have exaggerated a little. I actually got into it right after college, when my step-sister married a scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I was able to talk my way onto a couple of ALVIN expeditions, and become a pilot myself.

WBXTR 880: You've been called one of the world's leading experts on the migrating patterns of blue whales. Tell us about that.

Electric_Eel: While I have encountered a lot of blue whales out there, and photographed some of them, it's not clear to me where you got that idea from.

WBXTR 880: It was on your website.

Electric_Eel: Oh.

WBXTR 880: Before we continue, I wanted to thank you again for appearing on tonight's edition of Stuff you never knew existed in San Diego. Your blog, Notes from a Miniature Submarine, has captivated millions of readers since its inception in 2006. What motivated you to start this blog?

Electric_Eel: Well, a couple of things. First, I'm always looking for ways to publicize my research so that I can obtain bigger contracts and bigger grants. I've had a few close calls with the Discovery Channel, but for now I am stuck with government grants. And for the past couple of years, this has amounted to, "Am I going to stand by the beach with a tin can and beg for donations for our next expedition, or dip into my own savings?" So, yeah, it's been rough.

Secondly, I wanted to capture the experience of being the captain of a miniature submarine in a way that hadn't previously been done. Sure, some large budget television stations have filmed documentaries, and Disneyland used to have that abysmal Submarine Voyage, but no one had yet blogged about their experiences as the pilot of a miniature submersible. So, as you can see, it has generated a lot of interest.

WBXTR 880: You mentioned the need for bigger grants for your research. Has interest in your blog generated any potential leads?

Electric_Eel: Most of the feedback I have gotten so far has been from young people and other scientists. The National Geographic channel has written, but only to demand that I stop using their name on my website.

WBXTR 880: So there has been controversy.

Electric_Eel: Yes, most definitely. Sad to say, but I am having to burn up stacks of hate mail all the time. The deep-sea research establishment has not been too keen on all their precious secrets getting out to the public.

WBXTR 880: That said, what are your hopes and aspirations for a better tomorrow?

Electric_Eel: Access to Notes for schoolchildren around the globe.

Read the complete interview here:

Friday, June 09, 2006

Beware the MILF

"In early 2003, Philippines forces had discovered some documentation from the MILF camp, which suggested that the MILF was considering purchasing underwater scooters from Scandinavia. "

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A day in the life

As a veteran submarine pilot, I find myself drifting asleep behind the joystick all the time. People have often said to me, "You are so lucky to have your job, it's the best in the world!" but the truth is, it's boring. The longer I spend down with the blue whales, pirate ships and manta rays, the more I wish I had become an insurance claims adjuster instead.

A summary of a recent dive to the Juan de Fuca Ridge:

0400 hrs

Descent begins . . .

BRRRRRRRRRRRRR (sound of engine humming)

I start to punch dive coordinates into the on-board computer.

0830 hrs


The ship is now safely on auto-pilot.

1200 hrs


I can't see anything through the ship's porthole. It is pitch black down here without the spotlights on.

I start to thumb through an old copy of SCUBA magazine.

1400 hrs


I think I saw something like a piece of seaweed or a fish scale pass in front of the porthole, but it was probably just my imagination.

1800 hrs


I arrive at the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Photograph volcanic vents spewing black smoke from the ocean floor.

Toodle around the ocean floor for a while, until the batteries for the spotlights run out.

1845 hrs


Ascent begins....

And that's pretty much how it goes 95% of the time. The other 2.5% is pure pleasure, and the other 2.5% the boat doesn't start to begin with.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Corporate Advertising

Even though this Blog is new and the traffic is relatively low (only a million hits so far), I have decided to go ahead and lease out parts of it to corporate advertisers.

So I phoned a representative from the Coca-Cola corporation, and told him about the deal."Two eight by two inch banners at a thousand dollars a month, plus $0.02 royalty on every coke sold through my site."

He asked me how many submarines I would be putting the banners on, and if they showed up in any National Georgraphic or Discovery Channel documentaries.

"I meant for my website," I said.

"Does your website link with the National Geographic or Discovery Channel's website?"

"Not now, but I haven't called them yet. They were next on my list."

With Coca-Cola noncommittal, I next phoned the offices of Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine. A man with a gurgling, high-pitched voice answered, "Who's this?"

I told him about the offer, and that I would lower the asking price to a one time fee of five thousand dollars for an eight by ten inch banner, with a royalty of $0.01 for every magazine sold through my site.

He said that he was sorry, but he couldn't take on any more debt at the moment. Larry Flynt Enterprises had spent so much money on internet advertising that it was down to one employee again. Larry thanked me for calling, but said that there were already enough banner ads for Hustler magazine to stretch from here to Venus and back, and he paid out a nickel every time one was clicked.

I thanked him for all the good times, and hung up.

I next phoned Google, the popular internet search engine, and told them about the hottest new site on the web. They almost immediately agreed to the terms I offered, with one exception. They wanted me to pay for a link on their site. "Listen, lady," I said, my pride hurt, "there isn't enough room on the internet for both of us. One day, we'll either merge, or you'll come around and pay to advertise on my site."