Monday, March 10, 2008

New Expedition

For those of you who are still checking this feed, we are now off on another expedition, this time to Samoa and the Line Islands. To follow along, hop over to

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thanks and see you next time ...

As you have likely guessed, our mission has concluded with a flurry and most of the science party is variously back in Honolulu or off on further adventures making use of their well earned leave. The final days of the cruise were busy but full of new sights and adventures. We had a few days of wind which made the waters a bit choppy, but nothing more than we are used to. Just enough to remind us how well we were treated by the weather this year. It was truly amazing. Over a research cruise of any length but especially one this long, it is the weather that is the first to sap both strength and moral. There is nothing worse than pounding through heavy seas and driving spray day after day after day. Add rain and cold to the mix and you've made yourself something not al all approaching the heavenly bliss we were treated to this year. I really cannot stress that enough. I might even go as far as to say the weather made of for the non-stop rotation of tuna and egg salad that seemed to greet us for lunch the entire last month of the trip. That was a bit of a downer. The Hi'ialakai has always been the ship we looked forward to sailing with in large part due to the phenomenal cooking of the chief steward, Alan Gary. We're still not exactly sure what happened with the lunches this year. Oh well, small gripes in the end.

After our last days at Ascencion and Guguan we had and overnight steam to Saipan and then a lovely two days in port which most of us, I can happily say survived. Several of us spent a good part of the time relaxing in the pool at the Hyatt before pacing our gear and getting ready for the trip home which was long, but otherwise uneventful.

I am now back in Honolulu. Jake, Jamie and several others have headed off to Palau and Indonesia for surfing and, can you believe it, more diving! Will we never stop. We will spend the next several months consolidating, checking and analyzing our data and should have a report out in due course. We are happy to be home, but will miss the Wake, the Marianas and all the beauty they hold.

At the close, I want to thank each and every one of you for your readership, thoughts and comments during our cruise. All told we have over 1,491 visitors who logged on to 2,834 times. That is incredible and very touching. We have had readers from:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Guam
  • Germany
  • The Philippines
  • The United Kingdom
  • Mali
  • American Samoa
  • Hong Kong
  • The Netherlands
  • Slovenia
  • Turkey
  • Switzerland
  • Kuwait
  • Indonesia
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • China.
Thanks to each and every one of you. Thanks to all of the scientists and thanks to the wonderful officers and crew of the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. As always, this cruise would not have been possible without their steadfast dedication, patience and understanding.

With that we are off. Please check for future expeditions around the Pacific. See you there ...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Maug and Uracas, our farthest north

With Maug and Uracas behind us we have reached the northern limit of our mission and are on our way south and home. Our three days at Maug were some of the most spectacular diving of the cruise. Crystal clear waters and wall plunging hundreds of feet into the blue. Diving, hiking, and a little relaxation were all welcome rest-bits from our otherwise non-stop operations. Maug is made up of three islands ringing a central lagoon more than 500 feet deep. Inside this lagoon, hydrogen sulfide still bubbles from the sand, a reminder that these islands were not always the calm and peaceful waters that greeted us. Our oceanography team spent the better part of a day collecting these tiny bubbles for later analysis.

Uracas served as yet another reminder. While the underwater world was not as spectacular as that of Maug, the above water sights were from another world. Uracas is a grey cinder cone, a over-turned ice cream cone in the middle of the pacific. Constant rock falls and avalanches down it's sides kept plumes of dust drifting through the air. During one of our tows, a section of cliff the size of our boat broke loose and came crashing to the beach hundreds of feet below. It certainly gave us something to look at during the hour long surface interval we have while the other team was in the water.

Uracas also gave me one of my most exciting experiences of the mission when a six foot tuna came to check out my fins during an afternoon dive. Jake and I were collecting Crown of Thorns starfish arms for genetic analysis and photographing the reef when I saw several Dogtooth tuna swimming in deep water. I slowly swam out to meet them as the largest of the group started to angle my way. I stopped and slowly raised the camera to my mask as he glided effortlessly towards me. He came to within two feet of my fin tips before circling around behind and slowly moving away. It was awe-inspiring to say the least.

Tom Schilis contributed photographs to this article