Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rose Atoll Rock-n-Roll

I've just come up from the dive locker where the Hi'ialakai band is cutting their latest hit. There really isn't much missing on this ship ...

Today was another terrific day at Rose Atoll. We spent most of our day in the lagoon collecting water sample and making CTD casts to measure temperature and salinity in the lagoon. There was more of a breeze blowing today which kept things a little cooler than usual under the southern summer sun.

Towards the end of the day I was able to get into the water for a quick snorkel as the oceanography team completed their final casts in the one pass that connects the inner lagoon to the outside ocean. As the tide changes the current rips through this pass making for one wide ride for the lone snorkeling running the rapids (ok ripples). The trip through the pass was pretty quick and once I got to the outside the water turned crystal clear and I was greeted by schools of jacks, parrotfish and a single old barracuda patrolling his territory.

After my brief dip and tour around the reef it was time to get back in the boat and head back to the ship where the rest of my compatriots were waiting. You see, today was my birthday and, as such, I was treated to my ceremonial birthday shower. This time in the form of about 70 gallons of ice mixed with sea-water cast from buckets, coolers, and trash cans from the upper decks as I may my approach to the rail. The cold was biting, but brief.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Diving at Rose

My first day of diving at Rose Atoll and I was not disappointed.  On my first dive, the Oceanography team we replaced a wave and tide recorder on the north side of the Atoll.  After finishing the replacement we dropped down thewall and continued around the reef finding a nice school of Heller's Barracuda.  A little later in the day we replaced several bottom temperature recorders and spent the next hours or so working our way down the reef at about 20 feet and it was like diving in an aquarium.  Clouds of fish and water so clear you could almost imagine it was air.  Near the surface, the reef on this side of the atoll has many fingers separated by narrow canyons and crevices perfect for exploring.

During our dives, several other members of the expedition went onshore at Rose island to repair a monument placed there by the first governor of Samoa almost 80 years ago.  In the intervening years the monument had fallen into disrepair but was successfully repaired by our team.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rose Atoll

Today was our first day at Rose Atoll and it was breathtaking.  The weather was perfect.  Blue sky, puffy white clouds, and a sea as calm as glass.  I was serving as coxswain (driving the boat) with the Oceanography team deploying instruments to measure conditions at the Atoll over the next two years.  At the same time we recovered a variety of other instruments which have been measuring the water temperature, currents and tides during the two years since our last visit.

New this year we are conducting some experiments looking at the residence time of the water within the Rose Atoll lagoon. To do this we have deployed an acoustic doppler current profiler which will measure the speed of the water flowing into and out of the pass at the northwest corner of the atoll. This will be combined with other data including that from a temperature pressure meter measuring the change in depth of the water in the lagoon to create a model showing scientists how quickly the lagoon is flushed with open ocean water. Understanding this is important for studies of ocean water chemistry because water that has stayed in the lagoon for longer periods of time will be more affected by the biological activity within the lagoon itself.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Leaving Pago Pago

After getting settled in last night and saying hi to everyone on board, I headed to bed for some much needed sleep. This morning we awoke to another one of chief's sumptuous breakfasts. It just doesn't get much better than that. Eggs to order, pancakes, fruit ... almost whatever you can imagine.

After breakfast we made the ship ready for a visit from the Governor of American Samoa, his cabinet, and various members of the American Samoan Department of Commerce and other agencies. Basically bringing them up to speed on everything we are doing while we are. The presentations seemed to be well received and everyone was excited and I think slightly amazed by the amount of data we are collecting and synthesizing.

Now we are casting off lines and heading out to sea, bound for Rose Atoll which will be our first stop on this leg of the voyage. We start operations tomorrow morning.

48 Hours and Here I Am

Well, it has been 48 hours since I found out I was coming to Samoa and I am now sitting aboard the NOAA Ship HI'IALAKAI sitting gently at the dock in Pago Pago on the Island of Tutuila in American Samoa. This is a change of pace. After a bit of running around picking up a few last minute things I was on the plane.  The flight was uneventful and, happily, I was picked up at the airport by several of my fellow scientists.  Pago Pago is very humid, even at eleven o'clock at night. We are in the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere after all.  It appears we are to have a VIP visit from the Governor and Cabinet tomorrow, so all hands on deck early to make things ready.