THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 51 50 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 say goodbye to a man who added so much to their lives, as he did important work that advanced the preservation of dozens of marine species across the world—while saving thousands of distressed and injured animals by his own hand. While Tony’s work in Texas is what made him publicly fa- mous and most acclaimed, it was his work at Columbia University that made him something of a legend in the world of oceanography. Tony Amos was the only (known), published and professionally recognized ocean researcher to not hold a college degree of any kind—high school only, and educated in the field. While working as a research technician on expedition in the Indian Ocean in 1965, Tony discovered and proved the origins of a mysterious “visible front” at sea. “We would hear this roaring noise and see this immense line of breaking waves in the middle of the ocean—three hundred miles off the coast of Sumatra,” Tony explained. The line of waves— whitecaps in fact—were accompanied by no wind and stretched for as far as the eye could see in opposite directions. Riding atop the waves was a vibrant population of sea life, from sea snakes and small sharks to flying fish and sea turtles, along with a ravenous population of sea birds feeding from above. He also observed gar- bage—wine bottles and soda cans, even planks of wood—traveling along the front. It was Tony’s first observation of refuse at sea. “It was an exciting time in ocean science because it was just becoming electronic,” Amos explained, “and I was working on a new instrument, the CTD—Conductivity, Temperature, Depth me- ter—and I asked the chief scientist if I could take measurements along the line of the front.” Tony Amos photographed for Texas Monthly magazine in 1996 holding his famed HP Algebraic Scientific Calculator on which he recorded his daily beach surveys of birds, other animals, and debris on Port Aransas Beach. Rocky Kneten photo Tony’s discovery that the front was the result of heavy rains running into the Indian Ocean from feeding rivers, was parallel to that of historic ocean researcher, Fritjof Nansen, who used his “Nansen Bottle” to take underwater samples of similar offshore fronts produced by fjords in Norway. Sixty years later, Tony had essentially invented the electronic Nansen bottle and deployed it to prove a similar ocean phenomenon on the opposite side of the earth. He was encouraged to present his findings at the convention of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C., where Tony Amos made history in the field of marine science by accom- plishing more than many PhD’s, strictly through his intelligence and ingenuity. He was accepted, acclaimed, and on his way to a career in marine science that took him to all the world’s oceans, and to Antarctica almost forty times. This little celebrated side of Tony Amos’ long biography is known by few, but deserves accolades equal to those he received for his work saving marine life. At least to us old Ocean nerds. Tony Amos was the only (known), published and professionally recog‑ nized ocean researcher to not hold a college degree of any kind—high school only, and educated in the field. T ar on the beach was a way of life for more than twenty years in the Coastal Bend, following the blowout of the Ixtoc I, an experimental well drilled by Pemex, the Mexican state oil company, in the Bay of Campeche in the south- west corner of the Gulf of Mexico. From June 1979 to March 1980, the well spewed from 30,000 barrels (1,260,000 gallons) of crude oil per day, soon after the blowout, to 10,000 barrels per day before it was finally capped. Tony Amos took to the ocean within days of the spill to observe and document the oil on its clockwise journey around the gulf, driven by the mighty Gulfstream currents, and headed into the geologically formed catch-all known as the Coastal Bend of Texas. At that time the biggest story about the “Campeche Oil Spill” was the inconvenience of tar on the beach to the vacationing public, and its economic impact on tourism along the Gulf Coast. After a month or so the story expanded to commercial fishermen and how their catches were being ruined by the oil, and then to offshore charter guides, and then to inshore guides and the public fishing in the surf and from piers. Sadly, of last concern to the public and news media was the impact of the oil on shore birds and marine life, until seagulls and pelicans were found covered in oil or dead from its ingestion. Then sea turtles and marine mammals, especially the Bottlenose Dol- phin made beloved and famous by Flipper, began to be found washed up on the beach dead, covered in Pemex crude oil. “I managed to save a few of them,” recalls Amos in my 2005 interview. It was at this point in Tony’s distinguished career that his mission expanded from one of scientific observation and theory, to one of very active field participation—followed by short term veterinary care, rehabilitation, and even long-term, lifetime care for animals Tony had started to rescue. This was a mission beyond science. It should have been irrational to a scientific mind like Tony’s. In a way, maybe he did not really know what motivated this very caring vein inside him—because there was little scientific significance to taking on the Herculean effort to save injured and distressed animals in need, one by one, in this little corner of the world. But if you know a little about how Tony Amos grew up, you might conclude that his motive was one more of the heart than of the mind. Tony Amos was but three years old when the Germans began bombing his home- town of London during World War II, known simply as “The Blitz.” Thousand of fami- lies like the Amos’ fled London to the English countryside to escape nightly raids by the Luftwaffe, which affected every area of London, and in which 43,000 British civilians died over eight months in what was intended as the prelude to an all-out invasion of Britain by the Nazis. It was in the village of Oak- ford where the child Tony became fascinated with birds, as he first experienced the natural world of forests, streams and wildlife. When it was finally safe to go home to London, four-year-old Tony was most concerned that the Nut Hatchers had enough to eat—his mother obliged and left them a loaf of bread. “I managed to save a few of them.” It was at this point in Tony’s distinguished career that his mission expanded from one of scientific obser‑ vation…to one of very active field participation. This was a mission beyond science. Tony’s mother died when he was seventeen and he was given the choice of attending a formal university in England, or accompanying his father to Ber- muda where he had accepted a job working for a firm whose mission was to develop flat screen color television—in 1954. Tony chose Bermuda, and with it, his destinies in life. He took an apprentice job at the electronics firm where his father worked, and he became introduced to the ocean and life on a remote island. Above all, he met his mate of what would be sixty years, Lynn, and to- gether they moved to Philadelphia and then to New York, working together first at Columbia and then UTMSI in Port A. Upper: The Ixtoc I experimental well, owned by Pemex, the state oil company of Mexico, exploded in June 1979 and spewed over 200 million gallons of crude into the Bay of Campeche, in the southwest corner of the Gulf of Mexico, much of which emerged as tar on Texas beaches for over two decades. Lower: Tony Amos photographed rescuing a Green turtle injured by a boat prop and trapped in the rocks of the Port Aransas south jetty.