Local youth joins Ballard on ocean expedition

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Rackley “CB” Wren’s diverse range of interests have taken him all over the world.

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Rackley ''CB'' Wren, a sophomore at Augusta Preparatory Day School, clowns around aboard the Nautilus. He spent a week aboard the research vessel exploring the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico with oceanographer Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic wreckage.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Rackley ''CB'' Wren, a sophomore at Augusta Preparatory Day School, clowns around aboard the Nautilus. He spent a week aboard the research vessel exploring the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico with oceanographer Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic wreckage.

Most recently, it took him aboard the Nautilus for a week of oceanic research with oceanographer Robert Ballard.

Ballard is known for his discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic, the battleship Bismarck and the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.

Walking around on Ballard’s 180-foot exploration vessel gave Wren plenty of opportunities to interact with the scientist.

“Most people think he’s uppity. He’s one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met,” said Wren, 16.

Wren said actually none of the scientists he encountered fit his expectations.

“I thought they were going to be scientists with the lab coats or whatever (and be) all stuck up,” he said. “Turns out, they’re actually really nice people.”

The opportunity to join the expedition arose after Wren applied for the scholarship through the National Eagle Scout Association.

Wren submitted a résumé, essays and a video, and was chosen as the only representative of the Eagle Scouts.

Each year, the Eagle Scout Association sends one student to join an expedition through Ballard’s JASON Learning, an educational program operated jointly by the Sea Rearch Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

For one week in August, Wren worked with a team of 13 other student and teacher argonauts to explore the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

“It was a lot of data collection,” Wren said.

The group gathered readings from a tri-beam sonar that created a 3D image of the ocean floor. They measured the amount of aerosolized particles in the atmosphere between the earth and the sun, and gave that data to NASA.

“We took a number of readings from the ship’s instruments, such as wind speed, swell height, swell direction, things like that,” he said. “A lot of data stuff all the time.”

Wren has always enjoyed exploring new places.

About six years ago, Wren and his family visited the Galapagos Islands to see the natural habitat of the blue-footed booby bird.

He saw a picture of it on a magazine cover and told his mom he’d like to see it.

“My mom was like, ‘OK.’ I didn’t really take her seriously, but then she’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going to see the bird,’” Wren said. “We went to the Galapagos and had a really great time.”

Since then, he and his twin sister, Julia, have become involved in the Boy Scouts of America’s Venturing Program.

They have camped in Columbia and Tanzania, and have participated in runs on the Great Wall of China and in the salt fields of the Great Rift Valley.

“We took a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti. I thought it was pretty neat. We watched a jaguar stalk and kill a gazelle,” he said.

While he was in Africa, he witnessed diseases and health problems experienced by some of the people there. Because he is interested in medicine and needed an Eagle Scout project, he developed a program in which he advocates immunization to schools and civic groups.

He would like to reach some states that have a philosophical or religious exemption to immunization.

“While I understand that, I think it’s important to get immunizations,” he said.

Wren recently received a $1,000 grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics to purchase books to expand his advocacy.

Despite his interest in a variety of scientific fields – medicine, exploration, marine biology, biology, technology and bioengineering – Wren, a sophomore at Augusta Preparatory Day School, said he isn’t sure what his future holds.

“At this point in high school, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up,” he said.


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