Sophomore Marsing recounts summers fishing in Alaska
Marsing spent his first semester in Salamanca and led COOT this year.
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Elliot Marsing ’14 must be a pretty exciting guy to hang out with, because at the end of every experience that he recounts, he always states it was “so much fun,” which is a very optimistic view for somebody who also claims, “there are more times I should have died than fingers I have on my hands.”
After Marsing tells some of the stories of his summers working in the fishing industry in Alaska, you get the picture of how even his physics major could seem fun in comparison. Marsing has spent five of the past six summers on “the last frontier.” At first he worked in a cannery—gutting, smoking, deboning, canning and packaging fish. The past two summers, however, he has been out on a commercial salmon fishing boat, the source of all his close encounters with death.
Although Marsing wasn’t on board when his boat was featured on the Discovery Channel’s show “Deadliest Catch,” he didn’t miss out on any of the action. Because this fishing season is so short and they have to capitalize on all the time they have, Marsing and the crew worked 22 or more hours per day among waves that ranged between 10 and 40 feet high.
Even when the seas are calm, fishing is a dangerous job. Last summer, the crew ran out of food, but to avoid the opportunity cost of having to stop fishing to go to shore for more food, they ate nothing but the salmon they caught and rice they stole from other fishermen. “I still don’t know how we pulled that one off,” Marsing said with a laugh.
Another time the crew needed to pick up a spare part but couldn’t afford to dock the boat, so they made Marsing strip down to his skivvies, threw him overboard into the ice cold water and made him swim 300 feet to shore. He then had to run another seven miles and back to get the part they needed from a nearby airport. Though he describes it as an “awful job,” Marsing values his experience because of “the money and the pride.” He even has two small tattoos commemorating the seasons he survived on the ocean (which he gave to himself, of course).
Though he hopes his days as a fisherman are behind him, Marsing still considers himself “an outdoorsy person. He has put his interest in the outdoors to use helping new first-years adjust to Colby as a Colby Outdoor Orientation Trip (COOT) leader.
Marsing never actually went on COOT himself, as he spent his first semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain. He joined the COOT program as a leader this year because he “wanted to make an impact on freshmen, as well as wanting to get involved in some things that looked like a ton of fun.”
Marsing said that the experience “opened up a lot of connections I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and through COOT I became much more of a member of the Colby community….It brought me from thinking this is a good school, to this is the place I have to be.”
Marsing enjoyed his experience as a leader so much that he recently applied and was selected for COOT Committee, the group of students who work year-round to plan and prepare COOT. “I had such a blast leading COOT,” he said. “I want to give back the experience I had to everyone else who leads and goes on COOT.”
Marsing recognizes that he can’t spend his entire life outdoors and hopes to find an indoor job someday. He’s looking for a career with a little less mortal danger than his fishing gig. He says he hopes his studies in physics will prepare him for “a job in design where I can still work with my hands but I can also think critically.” He has spent all of his summers on boats and winters on skis, so he intends to start designing boats and skis of his own in the future.