Jenifer Clark ’75 MA is a satellite oceanographer specializing in the patterns of the Gulf Stream. She worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for 27 years and now runs Jenifer Clark’s Gulfstream, a marine advising service, with her meteorologist husband.
Who uses a marine advising service?
It’s a seasonal business. In October and November, we get requests for routing packages for people doing boat delivery for the snowbirds going from Massachusetts and New York to Florida. April through July are the most popular months for [sailboat] races. We work 60–80 hours a week at that time.
How do you help people navigate the ocean?
We help them pick the best window to sail. My husband gives them a weather forecast, and I give them an analysis of the ocean, the wind, and the currents. The water temperature in the Gulf Stream is much warmer than the water around it. There is a lot that goes into studying it because of the ways that the eddies rotate.
What are some of the most interesting routes you’ve worked on?
We worked with Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida. She tried five times. Finally, we picked a time of year when the temperature, waves, and meteorology were just right, and the jellyfish didn’t come up to disrupt her swim. Erden Eruc, who rowed around the world, came to our house for a home seminar. We routed him with ocean maps and weather for seven years. It’s fun to work with people with these unusual desires.
What’s one of your favorite things you’ve done as an oceanographer?
I was invited to Bermuda to brief the tall ships in 2000. About 25 boats were going from Bermuda to New England or Delaware. I had to plot a route for each one along their particular “rhumb line,” and a lot of them didn’t speak English.
What do you love the most about your work?
When I got to start working with the Gulf Stream, I knew it was my baby. I have never sailed, but I know the ocean like the back of my hand. I’ve done this for 45 years and I will never stop.