Guidelines and Regulations for
Living on Mount Desert Rock


Expected behavior while on-island

1) What to bring

Clothes: The weather system that far offshore can be highly variable, ranging from scorching sun to miserable, damp fog and rain, to thunderstorm deluges. The best strategy is to dress is in a series of layers that can be removed or added to adjust comfort. Nothing stays dry for very long on the Rock, so crew members are expected to bring plenty of changes of clothing. Bring some good waterproofs. A pair of rubber boots would also be handy, as well as pair of sneakers for inside the house/rock-hopping. Many of the crew use wet-boots for assistance in landings. Absolute essentials include: flashlight, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat that doesn't get blown off in high wind, a personal water bottle, and binoculars. You will frequently be provided an opportunity to take spectacular photographs, so bring a camera and lots of film. Try to pack your gear in a waterproof bag - many of the long-term crew use dry bags, but several layers of plastic bags may also work.

2) Living on MDR

Living in an isolated environment with the same people for extended periods of time requires patience, tolerance, and altruism. As MDR represents a small, confined community, you are asked to respect the rights and beliefs of your fellow island-mates. If you are new to the island, respect the fact that the present inhabitants have worked out a system that works for the community; a modicum of tolerance is often needed when starting as a new member of the crew.

A numbers of duties and chores must be performed daily, by all members of the MDR crew, for the community to function efficiently. Some of these chores are menial, but are nonetheless essential. Crew members are asked to participate equally in such duty rosters, for the good of the community. If you don't think a duty assignment is reasonable, refer the problem to one of the staff (typically the station manager).

The lighthouse keeper's residence (where dorms and living quarters are located) is an old building that has significantly deteriorated. For most field biologists, it is a paradise, and a far better alternative to living in a tent. However, living conditions are, at best, primitive. The rooms are frequently damp and cold, and its often difficult to keep them spotlessly clean. There are number of midges (non-biting) and spiders that are interested in sharing the residence with the crew. All of this is part of the adventure of living out on Mount Desert Rock. Be aware that those people who require the more modern conveniences of life, and perhaps a more sterile environment, might find these types of circumstance stressful and possibly unacceptable. This is partly why we have a reasonably extensive application process.

While the buildings may not be in the best repair, we do our best to provide facilities so that the crew can maintain their own personal hygiene/grooming. This is imperative for the sake of everyone's health and psychological well-being. Enough gray water is typically available for 2 showers/week/person. Crew are asked to make a daily effort to be presentable to the rest of the community: this has a surprisingly positive effect on community morale! There should be no excuse for a lack of personal hygiene.

Rations on MDR&emdash;both food and water&emdash;are limited and should be respected. Crew members are responsible for their own specialized diets. Power (provided by a generator) is also limited and should be used sparingly. Occasionally crew members may be asked to conserve water in times of need.

Workdays on Mount Desert Rock can be exceptionally long, and usually require the full participation of all community members. All crew are asked to rise punctually in the morning, ready for the workday, sometimes as early as 5-6 am. This often means that 'lights-out' at the Rock is fairly early (9-10pm). Because all the dorms and living quarters are in close proximity to each other, crew are asked to respect quiet hours so that others can get a full night's rest. Chances are, if everyone else has gone to bed, an early rise is expected the next day!

Because fire-fighting facilities at the island are limited, crew members are asked to be especially careful about the risk of fire. Know where the extinguishers are located. Also, no candles are permitted in the house unless they are suitably protected.

There are several ways to communicate with the outside world while on-island. A shore radio provides communication with nearby vessels, but its limited range rarely reaches the mainland. Pre-stamped/paid mail may be sent to and from island on the weekly logistics boat, assuming there's room. Incoming mail should be addressed to the specific crew-member at Mount Desert Rock, c/o Andrew Petersen, College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, although crew members are asked to restrict the amount of incoming mail to a reasonable amount. The island also has a cell phone that is used primarily for business. Crew members may use the cell phone for personal calls, at their own expense (and it is expensive!). Crew members are asked to limit their personal time on the cell phone to a few minutes/day. Crew members that need to contact the mainland more frequently may wish to bring their own cell phone.

The light tower on MDR is commonly used as an observation platform by crew members. The light tower also serves as an Aid to Navigation. College of the Atlantic maintains an agreement with the US Coast Guard not to interfere with the navigation equipment installed in the lighthouse. Any interference is considered a federal offense. In an absolute emergency, and if Allied Whale's shore radio fails, the Coast Guard maintains a VHF radio in the light tower.

The tower is very high (70'+), and exposed. If you suffer from vertigo, it is possible that you might not be able to tolerate standing watch up on the tower. Please let us know in advance if this is going to be a problem, so that we can re-assign you to other duties. All crew members are expected to conduct themselves in a safe and secure manner while standing watch on the tower, and to remain in contact with the ground crew via a handheld VHF radio.

All crew members are required to participate in daily work and research activities. This includes, but is not limited to; tower watches, helping staff with data logging, assisting in boat landings and launches, assisting in logistic runs, and transport of supplies, house cleaning chores, cooking, etc..


3) Unlawful activities

Any activities considered illegal on the mainland are considered illegal on Mount Desert Rock!

This includes underage drinking, and any use of any illegal narcotic substances. If persons of legal age wish to consume alcohol, it is expected that such consumption be done in a responsible manner. The term 'responsible' includes that no person on duty, or in a boat, should be under the influence of alcohol.

Any infringement of these policies will be treated on the basis of no tolerance. Offenders will be shipped off the island at the next available opportunity. Senior staff members retain the right to report any unlawful incident to the appropriate authorities.

All buildings on-island have a no smoking policy due to the remoteness of the site, and the flammability of the all-wooden buildings. A majority of the crew are also non-smokers. Allied Whale requests the cooperation of smokers in refraining from smoking anywhere near the compound - especially near fuel depot areas, or close to animal colonies. Smokers are expected to clean up after their activities.

No smoking is permitted on any COA vessel at any time, no exceptions.


4) General behavior towards animals

Marine mammals are protected by law. Any attempt to harass any marine mammal species (seals, whales and dolphins) can result in a fine and imprisonment. Members of the MDR crew are covered for incidental harassment of marine mammals by a federal permit issued to the College. However, it is still important to respect the spirit of the law, and to minimize harassment of marine mammal species on land and on the water. Your participation in any marine-mammal-related activity must follow the guidelines of the federal permit. A copy of the permit is kept on the island - take the time to study and understand the boundaries it sets. In terms of general behavior, the permit requires you to act calmly and responsibly around the animals: do not chase or provoke them, or cause them to alter their current behavior. You must follow any directions Mt. Desert Rock staff give you on boat or on land regarding behavior around marine mammal s. If you observe a fellow crew member&emdash;even a staff member&emdash;disrespecting these rules, politely bring this to their attention. Often they will be unaware that they were doing it, and will thank you for letting them know that they were doing something to harass an animal. If, however, they continue to disrespect the rules, bring your concerns to a member of the staff.

Although nesting birds on the island do not enjoy similar levels of protection, inhabitants of MDR should also treat them with respect (it is still illegal to harass or harm them).

Any person seen disrespecting the local wildlife on or off-island will be asked to leave on the next available boat.


4) Safety

Both on land and on the water, remember that you are at least 40 minutes away from a hospital (by helicopter) should an emergency arise. Should an emergency arise, a med-evac procedure may be initiated. Staff are expected to maintain currency in first aid and CPR. Given the potential delay in receiving professional EMT care, island inhabitants should take extra care as they conduct themselves. The footing on the island is rarely even, and often slippery.

Whenever on the water, and whenever helping to launch or receive a boat on the boat-ramp, all crew members must wear a life-jacket. It is the responsibility of all crew members to be aware of where the first aid kit is, and all emergency protocols. Any accidents or injuries, regardless of how small, must be reported to a staff member immediately. If a potentially dangerous situation develops, crew members must be able to follow the instructions of the staff, quickly and without question. Also, the light-tower's foghorn, which must be kept on at all times, is extremely loud. Any person working in the vicinity of the horn must wear ear protection, even if it doesn't seem that loud.

Any visitor to MDR that plans to stay on-island must complete a medical release form (which will come with your acceptance letter, or is obtainable from a staff member). In the case of guests staying overnight only this requirement may be waived at the discretion of the director/station manager. This form must be completed before landing at MDR, and then presented to the Station Manager or his/her representative on arrival. This information is kept confidential, but may need to be divulged to care providers in the case of an emergency.

While on-island, several safety drills will be conducted throughout the field season. All crew members are expected to participate in these drills.


5) Onboard crew assignments, duties and responsibilities

In acknowledgement that,

the following regulations concerning boat operations are mandatory:

a) All Allied Whale vessels must have at least one staff member onboard that acts as Skipper. The skipper is the ultimate authority onboard at all times. The skipper is responsible for supervising the preparation of the boat before a research cruise, for all decisions (both safety and scientific) while on-cruise, and for stowing boats and equipment post-cruise. Also, the skipper is responsible for supervising the collation and post-processing of daily data and samples. These activities may be further broken down into specific duties, as follows:

Pre-cruise: Preparation of vessel (fuel, oil, repairs, safety check). Preparation of field equipment. Float plan and course plot.

On-cruise: execution of research transect/navigation and predetermined data collection. Skipper also doubles as Safety officer. Scheduled radio check-ins with base.

Post cruise: Storage of boat and equipment, returned in working order. Storage of biological samples. Write-up of daily research activities that evening. Debriefing of activities with other staff to determine activities for following day.

b) The skipper's responsibilities are, in order of priority,

Safety of his/her crew

Execution of the research plan

Education of less experienced crew-members

c) At least one other crew-member, other than the skipper, should have sufficient experience to return the vessel to port should an emergency arise. Typically, this person will be another member of the research team. The skipper, in coordination with other members of the staff, may choose a 3rd and 4th crew-member from volunteers, interns, or in good conditions and as appropriate, guests. These latter positions will rotate on a space-availability basis.

d) In recognition of College of the Atlantic's educational mission, the skipper may delegate piloting and/or navigation duties to another crew-member for the purposes of training. At all times however, the skipper maintains ultimate authority on the boat. Except in exceptional circumstances, the skipper will pilot the boat during marine mammal encounters, and during landings and departures. Crew are asked to respect the fact that permission to operate a vessel in the vicinity of marine mammals is given by privilege of a government permit that stipulates certain mandatory requirements; the skipper is legally required to ensure those requirements are followed at all times.

e) All personnel onboard must wear lifejackets at all times. All personnel receiving or launching a vessel must also wear lifejackets. The skipper may also require crew to wear survival suits during inclement weather.

f) All boats must regularly check in with base by radio. Especially in cases of more inclement weather, these checks may be quite frequent

g) At base, a radio-watch must be maintained for the duration that vessels are on-cruise. Maintaining a radio-watch is a position of great responsibility. All research team members and volunteers should be fully trained to maintain a radio-watch. This training should occur as new members land on the island. Responsibilities of the person on radio-watch include

  • an initial radio-check with a research vessel as it departs
  • maintenance of approved coastguard radio protocols at all times (as a reference, the call sign for our radio is Mount Desert Rock Light Station, WHU 980 (Whiskey Hotel Uniform Nine Eight Zero).
  • maintenance of regular check-in schedule with on-cruise vessels, obtaining and logging current position of vessel, current activity, and time of next check-in.
  • coordination of vessel-to-vessel messages, cell-phone-to-VHF messages, where needed.
  • notification to vessel crews of events that concern safety (incoming weather systems, accidents on and off-base).
  • Assist in coordination of emergency response procedures should an emergency occur.
  • On completion of a research transect, obtaining of ETA for the vessel back at MDR, and coordination of assistance in receiving the vessel when it arrives.
  • The radio-watch bears particular responsibilities during the day of a logistic run, coordinating trips between the supply vessel and shore. In such cases the radio-watch person may operate outside using a handheld VHF radio.