Larry LaRue

Larry LaRue: Ahoy, Nautilus — Tacoma intern wins permission to come aboard

Lynn Cook poses with his favorite video camera Thursday in a TV studio at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. He is set to begin a 5-week internship aboard the Exploration Vehicle Nautilus. The ship will be used to produce a live online feed for universities and other organizations’ classroom experiences.
Lynn Cook poses with his favorite video camera Thursday in a TV studio at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. He is set to begin a 5-week internship aboard the Exploration Vehicle Nautilus. The ship will be used to produce a live online feed for universities and other organizations’ classroom experiences. Staff photographer

Lynn Cook joined the Navy for a five-year hitch to see the world. That bought him 2 1/2 weeks at sea.

“I was stationed in San Diego and Pearl Harbor,” he said. “That’s the world I got to see.”

Now 56 and a newly minted graduate of Bates Technical College, Cook is going back to sea. And he’ll double the time the Navy let him sail.

Beating out candidates from around the nation, Cook was awarded an internship aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

Oceanographer Robert Ballard, best known for finding the wrecks of the ocean liner Titanic and the battleship Bismark, sails the Nautilus, and movie director James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) used the ship while filming documentaries at sea.

What’s Cook’s job? He will use the digital media skills he gained at Bates with a Bachelor in Science degree.

“I’m a production assistant, and as I told them when I interviewed, I’m not afraid to get dirty,” he said. “I set up the camera, the lights, frame the shot — but it also means pulling and cleaning cables.”

At sea, the 40-person crew of the Nautilus will produce a live online feed, and work with universities and other organizations’ classroom experiences.

Cook will run the camera.

Just a few years ago, he was working construction in Tacoma.

“I’d just finished a house and realized I’d beaten my body up for a lot of years,” he said. “I thought I’d look for some other line of work.”

So he went to technical college in Tacoma. Again.

“In 1990 I came out of the electrical engineering program at Bates,” Cook said. “When I wanted to change careers again a few years ago, I thought I’d look into what they had to offer now.

“I checked into computers on campus, saw the digital media program and it caught my eye. I knew nothing about it, but it fell into my world.”

The courses threw him into fields such as animation and editing software, prepared him to create graphics and work a camera — still and motion picture — in almost any situation.

That will help on board the Nautilus, a 211-foot former East German research vessel.

“I’ll be working with cameras on remote operating vehicles — that’s an unmanned submarine — that will dive down 2,400 meters,” Cook said.

The opportunity came his way through his Bates instructor, Brian Parker.

“I was ready for an internship and Brian put me in touch with the executive director aboard the Nautilus,” Cook said. “I had an interview, and I think they liked that I had life experience. The next thing I knew, I was invited aboard.”

As internships go, this one is sweet. Five weeks at sea, bed and board paid for while the crew recovers old equipment and places new gear somewhere between Seattle and Alaska.

Oh, and it pays $500 a week.

“That helps, because since I went back to school, my wife Lia has paid the bills. She’s a Realtor and librarian. She said once I get back from this trip, I’d better start looking for a job.”

“I’m involved with two new production companies, one of my own, one with another student,” he said. “We’re going to work toward creating a feature-length movie, but that will take years.”

Cook loves his new field.

“Every time I’m behind a camera, I learn something, because no matter how well you’ve planned ahead, something will happen to change everything,” he said.

The Nautilus sails Aug. 23, and Cook is more than ready.

“I’ve known about it for the past six months, and time hasn’t dragged like this since I was getting ready to leave the Navy.”

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