No one aboard the MV OCEARCH has seen more life transitions than Juan Valencia. Responsible for the critical role of operating the hydraulics for the giant research lift and boom crane, Juan brings a larger-than-life image and a soft voice to the controls. Many would cringe at the thought of lifting and lowering a cantilevered platform at precisely the right time and speed amid high winds and rough seas—with a live shark, scientists, crew members and expedition leader Chris Fischer aboard. But Juan has a clear, calm focus. It's a focus that comes from a different perspective. Growing up in Southern California, including on the mean streets of East L.A., he was exposed to a harsh side of humanity few people have seen firsthand. After losing his brother to gang violence, Juan had to find a way to rise above it all. Since walking aboard the MV OCEARCH at a commercial dock in San Diego and asking for a job, Juan has spent every day proving that taking a chance on him was a very smart call.
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