30 years bring many adventures for Ocean Watch columnist

Published June 24, 2017 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2017 Susan Scott

Columnist Susan Scott is photographed in front of her natural habitat: the water. Some of Scott’s adventures over the years that have made their way into Ocean Watch. ©2017 Susan Scott

Thirty years ago this week, I wrote my first Ocean Watch column for what was then the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It was an exciting day that I thought would never come. Then it did and, well, it never ended. I’m still sharing, with pleasure, my marine adventures with readers.

My funniest Ocean Watch moment came early in 1988 when I walked into the newsroom, and several people started laughing.

“What?” I said.

“Did you see your headline today?” the city editor said. (Columnists and reporters don’t write their own headlines; copy editors do.)

I had written about a pair of red-footed booby birds that landed on Honu’s rail during a long, offshore passage. The birds’ antics entertained us for 48 hours before they took off. The headline? “Two boobies win the hearts of lonely sailors.”

The editors changed it to a less colorful headline for the next edition.

Writing is a lonely job, and churning out a column week after week was no exception. In the early days I often wondered whether anyone was even reading it. Then in the 1990s the internet and email breathed life into Ocean Watch. Readers started sharing stories, telling me which columns they liked and asking good questions. Over the years, thoughtful people have sent gifts of appreciation.

My office is no longer a lonely place.

Most readers who email me are as friendly as can be, but when I make a mistake, I hear about it in no uncertain terms. I complained to an editor about that once, and he said, “At least you know they’re reading you.”

In the early ’90s I stuck a toe into ocean politics and nearly got it bitten off. People who disagreed with me about creating marine sanctuaries, making stricter fishing regulations and such wrote hateful letters, called for my firing and even threatened me.

“What should I do?” I asked an editor. “I feel awful.”

“Susan,” he said, “just write about fish.” It was good advice.

My saddest column moment arrived in 2010, the day editors announced that the Star-Bulletin was shutting down. But after a week of moping, my happiest moment arrived. The Star-Bulletin lived on by buying, and then merging with, the Advertiser. Ocean Watch made the cut and gained a lot of new readers.

I can’t count the number of friends this column has brought or the doors it has opened. I also appreciate that it keeps me up to date in the world of marine science.

Occasionally I get frustrated churning out a column week after week, year after year. But whenever I decide to quit, I feel depressed and quickly get over it.

“You have the world’s perfect job,” people often say to me.

I agree. Thank you, kind readers, for making it so. Here’s to another 30 good years.