Earth Misnamed: Ocean Symposium

On February 3, 2011, AWC's Departments of Chemistry and Honors presented an Ocean Symposium entitled Earth Misnamed: A Look at the Influence of the Oceans on Human Civilization, Thought, and Sustenance with keynote speaker, Raymond Ashley, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

AWC Chemistry Professor, Scott Donnelly organized the event. He began by explaining the title Earth Misnamed because more than three-quarters of the Earth is covered in water. "We should have named our world, Oceanus. But, we ended up with Earth because we're obviously land animals."

He then introduced the first speaker, AWC Professor of Geosciences, Kelly Esslinger. Prof. Esslinger spoke about how the oceans affect our daily weather patterns and the climate.

Michelle Faust, AWC Professor of Spanish, told about how the ocean affects the people and literature of the Spanish, French and English speaking Caribbean. There are groups of people in the Caribbean that have migrated from every continent in the world. She spoke of how that migration process affected the literature through the ages.

Prof. Donnelly then spoke about how the oceans have influenced our civilization in many ways as large populations around the world migrated to major maritime cities. One area that was highly affected by the oceans and ships were the trade industries, particularly the spice. We also get a huge amount of food and medicines from the oceans.

Then came the time for the keynote speaker, Ray Ashley. Ashley has a vast amount of knowledge of the History of Science, especially in regards to navigation tools and the deconstruction of maps. We can tell a lot about the history of the world by the way people drew their maps.

Dr. Ashley spoke of the San Salvador project the Museum is working on. The San Salvador project is a life size replica of the first ship to make the journey down the coast of California. Eighty years before the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic and sixty-five years before the first English settlement in the East, Europeans made first contact with the natives along the west coast of what we now call the United States. The San Salvador was perhaps the most powerful vessel in the Pacific at that time.

There was also a theatrical presentation called Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, recited by Christian Truckenmiller, a student of Prof. Chip Straley, Theatre Professor.

This symposium is the second annual spring event that looks at academic and practical components of current issues. Last year the symposium was on solar energy and future electricity.

For more information about this topic please email Scott Donnelly at

Earth Misnamed: Ocean Symposium





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