Saturday, October 29, 2016

Did anyone notice what was missing from my blogs this past summer?

I am surprised no one commented on my several blog entries this past summer where I talk about the logistics of the night operations Tim, Ana, and I did. Didn't you wonder what we were doing motoring across the lagoon in the dark, trekking across the sand flats in waist deep water, and then pushing through the chest high ferns of the tropical rainforests covering the Palmyra islets?

It turns out Tim had received funding from National Geographic to support his research on coconut crabs. I had to sign a form acknowledging they had exclusive rights to the photos and story. So even when I accompanied Tim and Ana on their night field work, I didn't even bother taking a camera since I wouldn't be allowed to post them on this blog.

Tim's story is now out along with some great photos taken by Ana. Be sure to check it out by going to Tim's Young Explorer blog entry "Tracking the World’s Largest Land Crab". It is a great story.

Below is a relatively small coconut crab I photographed during my first summer on Palmyra back in 2013.

Coconut crab with flip-flop
Birgus latro


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Flight from Palmyra to Honolulu

I went out to the airstrip to greet the arriving group of 11 scientists and snapped this photo of the Falcon50 on its approach to the Palmyra airstrip.


Falcon50 approaching the Palmyra Atoll runway

While the flight that brought us to Palmyra was configured to hold a lot of cargo inside the plane's cabin, our return flight was configured to maximize the number of passengers it could accommodate. We were bringing back a 90 lb cooler filled with all the tiles that we retrieved after being on the reef for 3 years. We had two additional coolers weighing just under 50 lbs each that held two microscopes and lots of other gear. Then there was Tim's very large dive bag, both our carry-on bags, and the 37 in camera stand upright. There were only three of us flying back on a plane, so all our baggage fit in the plane's hold.

After moving the basket, I was able to stretch out on the 3 seat bench shown below and catch up on my sleep.


The three seats on the left form a bed for me to catch up on my sleep.

Tim, who was even more sleep deprived than I was, is able to recline his seat more than one can on any commercial airline when flying in coach.


Tim getting ready to get some shut-eye

A view of cockpit as our pilot George and co-pilot Jonathan prepare the plane for takeoff.


cockpit of the Falcon50


One last view of the reef as the plane leaves the runway.


the reef off the north shore of Cooper Island on takeoff


Friday, August 12, 2016

Departing Palmyra today

Today I did the final bit of packing and cleaned my cabin for the next scientist, Stacie, to enjoy. I had a little free time, so I biked out to north beach to take in the view one last time.

relaxing on north beach before my flight back to civilization
I spotted the dorsal fin of a fairly large blacktip shark curating through the water that was only a couple of feet deep, but I didn't get my camera out fast enough to capture it on film.

I realized I hadn't gotten a picture of Alex among all my photos, so I grabbed a quick shot of him as he finished preparing lunch for a crowd. The population on Palmyra almost doubled with the arrival of the plane.

Alex prepares breakfasts and lunches and the occasional dinner



Terrestrial wildlife

I still haven't managed to get a good photo of the white fairy turn while it is hovering in place, but I did photograph this pair perched in a tree.

white fairy terns
Gygis alba
It is not all about the animals. The vegetation on Palmyra is dense. Here are some photos of the Hala tree. The is a dioecious tree with the female producing a fruit that I am told some people confuse with the pineapple.

Hala tree
Pandanus fischerianus

unripened fruit on a female Hala tree
Pandanus fischerianus


ripe fruit from a Hala tree, a feast for crabs
Pandanus fischerianus


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday was a Community Service Day on Palmyra

Usually on the day before the plane arrives with a new group of scientists, everyone at the station spends an hour raking up the leaves on the paths between the cabins and other buildings. The leaf free paths don't stay that way very long, but they should still look pretty good when the new teams arrive on the plane around 11 am tomorrow morning unless it is real windy tonight.

Below is a pair of "before" and "after" photos.

You may notice the "before" photo is a bit hazy. This is because my camera had been in the air-conditioned dry lab, and it had not adjusted to the hot and humid outside air. I would have been late to the raking party if I waited for my camera to adjust, so I wiped the camera lens and took a photo as quick as I could before it fogged up again. I just wasn't quite fast enough.

path before raking

path after raking




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back in the water today

After many days working on dry land, I made it back in the water for a 2+ hour snorkel at Penguin Spit. The display screen on my Olympus TG-2 camera cracked and flooded during a dive near the start of this trip. This has been very frustrating, since I also used this camera for most of my terrestrial photos. It fit easily in my pocket, and it didn't matter if I got caught in a downpour which happens frequently on Palmyra. The good news is I was able to use one of the GoPro cameras during my snorkel. I still would have preferred my Olympus since it has built in color compensation for doing underwater photography. I ordered a new camera online, and it is waiting for me back in Pacific Grove.

Here are some screen grabs from the video I shot with the GoPro.

coral head at Penguin Spit, Palmyra Atoll

school of black durgon
Melichthysn niger


goldfin dascyllus
Dascyllus auripinnis

group of onset snappers under tabletop coral
Lutjanus monostigma


Idyllic Palmyra evening

On Tuesday night we had a very nice sunset.



Palmyra sunset on August 9th

After it got dark Tim and I went to Sand Island for some night ops. While we had strobes out to help guide us to the island in the dark, the moon and stars were out and we could easily make out the island from the boat dock without the strobes. The water was so calm it was like being on a lake.

After our return and a shower, it was approaching midnight, and the moon was starting to set. I know my dead Olympus camera does a much better job taking photos at very low light levels, so I was wishing it wasn't dead. But the moon reflecting on the water was just too beautiful not to try and capture the moment with my terrestrial camera. Here are two shots I got, one with the white moon casting its reflection on the water, and a second as the moon is starting to turn red as it approaches the horizon. As you can see, not the world's best photos. You just had to be there.

white moon reflecting on the waters of Palmyra's west lagoon



red moon reflecting on the waters of Palmyra's west lagoon