Islander Profile: Victor Garcia

Victor’s life reads like articles in OUTSIDE adventure magazine. Each issue has a new and different adventure. The man that sits across the table from me appears to be quiet and unassuming until he begins to speak:

After receiving his Degree from University of Washington, he applied to three graduate schools. All Prestigious. UC Berkley, Cornell, and UT Austin all wined and dined him. He was an excellent candidate with good scores and he was published as an undergraduate. He was offered 6 years, full time funding for his PHD from all three schools.

Awesome. But even more awesome, he met this young woman and wanted to ride bikes across Australia with her. He decided to cut a deal to start school 6 months late. A call came just three days before he left for Australia. In essence, he was told his school funding was Federal and he needed to “start immediately” or lose it. He said he would send a postcard from Down Under. No doubt about his priorities!

Victor and the new woman in his life spent three months biking across Australia. He doesn’t have the PHD, but the girlfriend became his wife, and the mother of his children. The two had other biking adventures and biked across Thailand and Malaysia, as well. He has no regrets; The PHD will always be there. Perhaps after he has put his kids through college.

He spent 8 months a year for the next six years in the Bering Sea. He first worked as a biologist doing joint US/Soviet and US/ Japanese research for National Marine Fisheries Service. He found the job interesting and the “big seas” of the Bering made it exciting.

He soon realized that he really wanted to attend graduate school. At his current pay scale it would take forever to afford that realization. Commercial fishing was the answer. It was big money fast! He had some hair-raising stories under his belt. His bank account was growing, but soon, so were his doubts about the benefits of expensive seafood’s contributions to society.

The decision was made to attend graduate school at this time. He was unsure which direction he was headed. It became a toss up between physical therapy and teaching and teaching won out. He received his Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt, University in Tennessee. He loves teaching, in spite of the fact that he took a $30,000/year pay cut from fishing with his first teaching job. Not to mention less paid vacation.

He teaches Biology and Marine Science at Anacortes High School. He relishes making a contribution to the lives of young people. He enjoys teenagers; he says they are “like the sea, constantly changing”.

Approaching the research vessel Atlantis.

In 2004, seven outstanding teachers funded by the National Science Foundation, along with researchers from UofW, Canada, and Japan sailed on a unique vessel. The 270ft research vessel Atlantis can turn on a dime for precision positioning and is equipped with sophisticated state of the art equipment and the experts to operate it. In addition there is AUV a 1500 lb robot that takes a payload underwater and remains there for as long as 30 hours without recharging. Victor was one of the seven.

Lowering the underwater robot.

REVEL stands for Research, Education, Volcanoes, Explorations and Life. There is recent research indicating that in the presence of liquid water, volcanoes on the seafloor can sustain life forms without sunlight. By inference, volcanoes on other planets may sustain similar life forms. REVEL explores the relationship between different types of volcanoes and life, using this central concept to entrain teachers and their classes in today's scientific quest. Volumes of data were gathered, and new graduate students will spend their entire career sorting through it. Being selected as part of this 2004 expedition with the many experts, scientists, and researchers is a lifetime achievement.

As a kid, growing up in Grays Harbor, his mom would give him 50 cents a day {this bought him an ice cream sandwich and a strawberry Crush} and he would spend the summer days down on the docks crabbing. To this day he is a devoted crabber.

Victor, Libby, Aidan and Kestral aboard Atlantis.

"Home” had to meet specific criteria for Victor. He wanted at least 5 acres, he wanted to be no further than 30 miles {as the crow flies} from a 4-year college, and he wanted to be able to ride his bike to goods and services. He wanted all this at a level he could afford. Guemes filled the bill.

He bought his 5 acres in the early 90’s. He has since {along with his wife Libby, son Aidan, and daughter Kestral} built his own home and created a “hobby farm” with horses, goats, sheep, and chickens. They started a 4H group on the island. He is a member of GIPAC and feels strongly about being involved in his community. Guemes, and the unconventional type of individual that lives here, have a definite appeal to Victor.

Victor rode his bike to school all but ten days last year. After dark he wears a headlamp to light his way home. I, personally, don’t think a headlamp is necessary. He has a shining brilliance that lights up wherever he goes. Truly a gem of immeasurable value to Guemes Island.

by MJ Andrak

Visit the REVEL web site for more information about this program or to read Victor's log entries and view additional photos of the trip.

Profiles of Janice Veal, Dorothy Bird, Tim Wittman and Joost Businger

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