Saturday, August 07, 2010

We’re back!!!

After thankfully uneventful flights to Hawaii and Midway, we’re very happy to see spinner dolphins, the last few albatrosses, turtles, sooty terns, monk seals, red-tailed tropic birds, and all the other residents of Midway.

I think they were happy to see us too – we saw three groups of dolphins and a school of flying fish on our first day on the water yesterday! One of the dolphin groups was the largest pod I’ve ever seen – probably at least 50 dolphins relatively close to the boat, but not remotely interested in us.

We also observed a stripebellied puffer fish at a cleaner wrasse station (in Anne's photograph at left).

Of course, it’s been good to see the people too – big hugs for Pong (our head chef), Leona (wife and partner of acting refuge manager John Klavitter), and many other familiar faces. There are also a lot of people we don’t know – most of the construction crew, all the firefighters, many Thais. That’s not very surprising, since we arrived almost exactly a year after we left last year.

We’re sorry to report that Kate will not be joining us at Midway, even for the short week she was planning, because her flights were delayed and she didn’t reach Honolulu before the plane for Midway departed. We were all looking forward to hearing about her time in Antarctica, but I suppose we’ll have to catch up another time.

We’re still missing permits for most of our projects, but we’re doing what we can and preparing for the rest. Bad news: We visited some of the sites of our experiments that we deployed last year and discovered that winter storms played havoc with our cages, buoys, and spat collectors (Cage frame at left is one of very few cages left intact!). Good news: We’ve received our two new permits for sediment coring and coral restoration.

The big excitement for us is that we’ve had to be “rescued” at sea two days in a row! I’m not sure I’ve ever had to call the island for help before, but it was definitely good to know that John Klavitter, Miller (FWS boat mechanic, who’s a real character!), and others are listening on the radio and will come to help us when we need it. We think the problem's solved and relatively easy to fix, but we were glad it waited for the end of the day!

At right, Anne enjoys her first dive at Midway after finishing her scientific diving course at UC Santa Cruz this spring. Diving without a wetsuit is new to her, since all of her dives recently have been in California or Washington (Brr!!).

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