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Angelica Willis, an urban outreach educator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, holds a huge blue crab trapped on the Susquehanna Flats during an educational trip on the bay with Aberdeen High School students last month.
Angelica Willis, an urban outreach educator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, holds a huge blue crab trapped on the Susquehanna Flats during an educational trip on the bay with Aberdeen High School students last month. (Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation / Baltimore Sun)

A group of Aberdeen High School students were out on the educational boat Snow Goose, studying water quality in the Susquehanna Flats, when they got a giant surprise.

When they pulled up a trap set by Captain Ian Robbins during the Sept. 27 trip, they discovered a massive blue crab that shocked both the 14 environmental science students and Robbins, who works for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which hosted the students.

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A photo of CBF urban outreach educator Angelica Willis holding the crab "in absolute awe," as the nonprofit conservation organization put it, has drawn plenty of interest on social media.

What's the view from Havre de Grace? Residents and curious onlookers alike can now get a front-row seat to the city's acclaimed Promenade and one of the most breathtaking panoramas of the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to a live webcam launched Wednesday from the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum.

The majestic-looking crab measured 8 inches point to point, Aberdeen High teacher Heather Runkle-Smith said Thursday.

"It was pretty awesome. They got really, really excited, and when they caught the crab, everybody wanted to hold it," Runkle-Smith said about her students, describing the whole trip as memorable.

"A lot of the kids had never been on a boat before," she noted.

The students ranged from sophomores to seniors, Pam Gschwind, an AHS environmental and earth science teacher who organized the trip, said.

Mary Kpalbil, center, and Tewarna Webb, right, are two of the Aberdeen High School students who got to check out a giant blue crab they caught during a Sept. 27 boating trip in the Susquehanna Flats.
Mary Kpalbil, center, and Tewarna Webb, right, are two of the Aberdeen High School students who got to check out a giant blue crab they caught during a Sept. 27 boating trip in the Susquehanna Flats. (Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation / Baltimore Sun)

"We had never tried anything like that before," she said about the boat excursion. "It had a huge impact on the kids. The kids who came back, they all came with their phones and were showing me pictures of the crab."

Not everyone got to hold the crab, and "he was kind of an aggressive crab," Runkle-Smith said, but the experience still made an impression.

"A lot of them were like, 'Whoaaaa,'" she said about her students. The captain "kept saying, 'This is the biggest crab I have ever seen.'"

"It was really cool, and they put him in a bucket," she said. The crab was later released back into the wild of the Bay, CBF spokesperson Tom Zolper said.

The amount of pollution that washed into the Chesapeake Bay dropped dramatically in 2015, a trend advocates said is promising but also may have more to do with

CBF takes about 40,000 students each year on similar programs, Zolper said. The Snow Goose, a work boat that usually puts out from Baltimore's Harbor, spends a week or two in Harford County at least once a year, he said.

Runkle-Smith said she had gone crabbing before but had never seen a blue crab that big. The students also had a great time seeing fish and other marine life, as well as learning about water quality, she said.

"It was definitely unusual, for sure," she said of the surprise catch and the whole trip. "It was really, really great. The crab was kind of the icing on the cake."

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