Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back on Dry Land

We have safely arrived back in Honolulu after a wonderful and invigorating expedition.  While we will definitely miss the wonderful diving and camaraderie I think there are few of us who are not happy to be back on dry land.  We are in the process of unloading the ship and will then do our best to settle in to the process of data analysis before our next expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in September 2008.  To keep tabs on future cruises, tune in to www.oceanben.com

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kingman Reef

We have finished our work at Kingman Reef and are transiting back to Honolulu as we speak. The weather has been a little rough, but not too bad.  Two more days to go.
Kingman was again amazing.  The REA team had the opportunity to survey the area around a new shipwreck that appears to have occurred within the last year.  It appears to be a derelict vessel that has been floating around the Pacific for a time before grounding itself on the reef at Kingman.  Conveniently, this also allowed for us to go 'ashore'.  "Shore" in this case consisted of a spit of land that took 5 minutes to walk the length of and at its widest point was maybe 20 feet!  The island itself is fairly ephemeral and has disappeared at high tide in years past.  This year it was visible throughout the day.  Perhaps a recent storm has deposited more material.
Our last dive site was at a place called 'Clam City' which has a higher density of giant clams (up to 3 feet wide) than we have seen anywhere in the Pacific.  Giant clams are really a beautiful creature with the mantel, or soft part, coming in colors of blue, green, purple, turquoise and any number of patterns. Very beautiful. 
video
Kingman, however, was ready for us to leave.  We were called back early from this dive due to boat troubles on the surface. By the end of the day, two of the small boats needed to be towed back to the ship, squalls had closed in and one last dive that was attempted had to be ended early due to high current.  Everyone made it safely back to the ship, however, so all in all it was a successful day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Our last days at Palmyra

So I have been very delinquent in posting recently. The past several days have been terrific diving, but less than invigorating on the surface. My first post from Palmyra documented driving rain and fierce winds. In the subsequent days both abated slightly, but not enough to make it what you would call ... nice.

The diving, however, was spectacular and I personally think that many of the areas of Palmyra rival if not surpass Jarvis in sheer brilliance. In many areas coral cover was near complete and the fish life was spectacular. Missing were the clouds of yellow and purple anthias that covered the reefs of Jarvis, but n their place are clouds of fusiliers and jacks along with a multitude of sharks, napoleon wrasse and milkfish. Some of the most spectacular diving I have done so far.

On our last day at Palmyra we finished operations early and were able to take in a few hours of R&R on the island. The Nature Conservancy personnel on island were very hospitable and pointed us in various directions to a secluded beach on the north side of the island, the airstrip with the remains of a plane whose landing was less than perfect, a small path through the jungle patrolled by hermit crab sentries, and finally and idyllic swimming hole complete with a rope swing suspended from palm trees high above. The sun came out for a few hours that afternoon bringing with it welcome warmth and the lighting of spirits we all needed.