Moss Landing: a poem

By Ed Stark (MLML student in 1969)  [8 April 2016]

Moss Landing life ring

One day the cosmic chef

Looked into an empty freezer.

A few odds and ends remained:

Sand and water, dead kelp and fog.

He made the beaches of Moss Landing

As an afterthought to an orgasm of creation.

Who could love

A place of infinite beaches

Wreathed in fog,

That makes the sun a celebrity

In an endless troup of gray days,

And the wind

That whips the sea

In patterns of white lace

When the fog burns away.

There is so much to see and feel.

In constant flux

The mosaic of the offerings on the beach

Through a backdrop

Of kelp, driftwood, and dead sea creatures,

Shore birds pirouette and weave

Before the waves;

A ballet of nature,

In which there is no conscious repetition,

Only change.

In an area so small,

With no supermarkets or suburbs,

Whose only claim to fame

Is being on the outskirts

Of the artichoke capital of the world,

My mind is stretched thin

By the complexity

Of the many forms of life

That inhabit Moss Landing,

Tenuously nestled under the foreboding shadows

Of the P. G. & E. stacks.

Moss Landing from the water.


[Note: This poem was sent to us by Chuck Versaggi who stated that Ed Stark was a cohort in the 1969 MLML class. Chuck wrote: " Ed was as an avid surfer who enjoyed the waves and beaches of Moss Landing. Both he and his male dog (I forgot his name — it was probably “Thor” or something supremely masculine) were fearless in the face of nature. One day there was a young California Gray Whale that ventured into the Moss Landing Harbor mouth. I happened to be nearby (I think I was in a study group laying an intertidal transect for an ecological study) and witnessed an amazing moment: Wearing his neoprene suit from an afternoon of surfing, Ed and his dog jumped from the jetty rocks into the harbor water in attempt to swim up to the whale. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The whale appeared to be oblivious to its terrestrial visitors as it continued to swim up the under the Hi 1 overpass with Ed and his dog struggling to keep up..."

Aerial shot of the Elkhorn Slough


Bill VanPeeters remembrance:

I remember Ed Stark.  The guy was large and strong and his dog… it was one of the largest black Labs I had seen (more than 120lb) with a tendency to jump over board whenever the boat stopped.  I remember how difficult it was to deadlift a wet 120lb dog up and over the gunwales of the boat.

Well one day we got  a call into the lab that a Whale Shark had been seen off the beach near the Lab.  So Gregg Briggs, Myself and Ed Stark and probably either Chuck Versaggi or Dave Lewis decide we are going to look for it in the school boat the Orca.  As I recall, a boat Dave Lewis referred to as a 30ft. round bottom, singularly screwed research vessel in one of his research papers.  Ones of us called Dr. Morejohn and reported the sighting.  Dr. Morejohn asked us to try to bring it in for research purposes….in other words harpoon it and tow it in.

So we load the boat with a harpoons. A rifle or two, and floats.  Greg Briggs, myself, Ed stark (probably his dog) and either Dave Lewis or perhaps Chuck at the helm.  The idea being if we spotted the shark, Greg would stand on the bow, harpoon the shark and I would kick the floats over the side and no one was certain what would happen next.  That was the plan.  Out of the harbor we went and sure enough just a little south of the harbor was a beautiful whale shark as long as the boat, and almost awash on the surface, just outside of the breakers.  I am assuming it was Dave Lewis at the helm, but whoever it was they went south of the whale and came up from  outside of the whale shark putting the shark on our port side and outside the surf zone.  Gregg got ready with the Harpoon, and I behind him ready to kick over the coiled line and floats once the harpoon was set. As we came up on the shark, and I think the helmsman put the boat in neutral.   I could see the beautiful pattern of white spots and checks on the indigo back of the shark, as we coasted up on the shark.  I was not sure, and I’m not sure any of us were, of the ethics or morality of what we were about to do.  Just as we were getting within range to set the harpoon the engine coughed a couple of times and quit. We watched with mixed feelings as the shark swam off, I think a little disappointed in missing the “adventure” and also grateful to have missed it.

Now we were just outside surf zone, the motor down, the deck fouled with harpoon gear, floats and line and slowly drifting into the surf.  We hadn’t bothered to check the anchors when we left, they weren’t rigged.  What to do?

Ed Stark without a word, grabs the boats painter, jumps over board and starts swimming the boat out of the surf zone with the painter in his teeth.  It gave us enough time to rig and set the anchor, and restart the engine.  Just another day at the lab.