Four recent University of Puget Sound graduates and their instructor spent Thanksgiving evening on a sandbar at the mouth of the Mississippi River. They dined on sausage, sweet potatoes and vegetables as they celebrated completing a 2,300-mile trip that was the culmination of a new course at UPS.
Sam Friedman, Eric Nathanson, Audra Tromly and Calli Vasatka rowed the river from its source in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, they collected data for scientists, spoke to more than 4,000 students and shot images for Google Maps.
“I’m still processing that we’re finished,” Audra Tromly said of the expedition that started in mid-August. “… It’s very exhausting and very empowering.”
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The course, taught by adventurer Jordan Hanssen, started in January with a class on the history, science and effect of the Mississippi River. Members of the eight-student class who didn’t row helped manage the expedition from shore.
Hanssen, a UPS graduate, previously rowed the Mississippi in 2014 to set the foundation for the course. Nathanson was the only member of the expedition who was not a member of the UPS crew team.
The rowers awoke at 2 a.m. Thanksgiving to row the final 54 miles to the gulf. Friday, they rowed 22 miles back up the river to the closest road. They spent Saturday cleaning their boats and gear. They plan to make several more school visits in Louisiana before returning home to write their final report on the trip.
Once they return home, the rowers will start working to launch their careers. While they don’t yet have any job prospects, Tromly said, they’re hopeful their summer adventure will look good on their résumés.