Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things are winding down

After our flight back in the luxurious Gulfstream IV, we faced a 9 hour layover in the Honolulu airport. It started off with me, Paul, and Sabina going through the Delta check-in line 3 times. The first time we learned that the ice chest with the microscope and drill weighed 60 lbs. They told us where there was a scale to use if we wanted to redistribute the weight to some of our other check-in bags to avoid the fee. We went over there, but because the ice chest was so well packed and taped up with miles of duct tape, we though the grant could afford to pay the extra $25 for the overweight ice chest. So we got back in line only to discover it was $100 for the overweight bag not $25. Since we had many hours to fill before our flight left, we went back to the scale and de-duct taped the ice chest trying to preserve as much of the tape as we could to re-use. We ended up moving the drill, a drill bit, and the base plates into Paul's checked bag which had room and was relatively light. Except for the microscope, most of the rest of the stuff wasn't very dense and was being used as padding such as my wetsuit, booties, knee pads. Removing the above mentioned items we got it down to 49 lbs. After all that work carefully re-duct taping it, TSA ended up choosing only the ice chest among all our bags to open and inspect. With all that tape, it looked suspicious.

ice chest covered with TSA inspection tape

The good news is we had an uneventful flight back to SFO, and everything I have unpacked so far survived the trip. I gave the microscope to Cheryl today to re-assemble and make sure it is OK.

Here is a photo of the Paul and Ron posing for the camera before we took off from Palmyra.

Paul Leary & Ron Harrell - diver dudes with shades

Paul became quite skilled in making hats out of palm fronds and was also instructing others on how to make them. Here are a few examples of the results of his work. He left them all behind for the Palmyra residents as he was not sure Hawaii would allow them through the agricultural inspection one faces both on entry and when exiting Hawaii.

palm frond hands by Paul and his students

As with last year, I may do a few more posts like this one, but soon this blog will go into hiatus until hopefully I return to Palmyra next summer to complete the 3 year project.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Finally some good aerial photos of Palmyra Atoll

When we took off from Palmyra yesterday the pilots did a loop around the island, so we were all scrambling to the windows to get photos. I have been finding and using (with proper photo credit) aerial photos taken by others, but I really wanted to have some of my own. They are not perfect, and I would have loved it if the pilots had circled the atoll a second time, I am still pleased with how some came out. I may call upon Chris Patton to photoshop out some of the reflections from the window glass that show up in some of the photos.

This is the best photo I got that shows the entire atoll.

Palmyra Atoll looking from east to west

A view of some of the islands on the eastern side of Palmyra.

eastern islands of Palmyra

Here is a picture of the north/south causeway the U.S. Navy built during WWII.

north/south causeway

Here is part of the runway on Cooper Island.

runway on Cooper Island

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I want my own private jet

I must say flying is really nice in a Gulfstream IV. I suggested the pilots take us all the way to San Francisco instead of just to Honolulu. Getting on the commercial flight in coach is going to be hard. Here are some photos as we were getting ready to take off this morning. The pilots were preparing the plane, including taking off the red covers over the jets they put on yesterday to keep the birds out.

Gulfstream IV with one jet cover on and one off

rear view of the plane almost ready to take off

me, Sabina, and Paul in our Charlie's Angels pose

Here are some interior shots.

wide leather seats that move, tables, a couch, but no WiFi

bathroom with gold appointments

pilot with GoPro camera mounted on his window

Some screen grabs from the GoPro plus one last sunset

I really liked having the GoPro mounted on my mask on the second to the last dive. My one disappointment is that I didn't see any megafauna like a manta, sea turtle, or shark to get a chance to film them hands free. If they swim by while I have a camera in hand, I am concentrating on the camera getting the right shot instead of enjoying the encounter. With the GoPro mounted on my mask I can both enjoy the experience and get it on film.

Down at 60 feet I saw my first sea cucumber on the fore reef. I now know you have to get a lot closer with the GoPro since it has such a wide angle lens. I am pointing to the sea cucumber, but you can't really see it. It is the dark horizontal blob about two thirds the way up between my finger tip and the top of the image. Not something you can really see in this shot.

me pointing to my first sea cucumber on the fore reef

Here is a screen capture of several lobsters at 70 feet. Paul was there taking still photos with his camera, so I didn't get any closer.

lobster antennae

The one plus for staying an extra night is we finally got a decent sunset.

I like the one below because if you look closely starting at the bottom of the photo you can actually see the bottom of the ocean, then the light reflecting on the surface of the water, and then the sky. That is not a shark fin on the bottom right. That is part of the palm frond floating horizontally across the frame, and below that is a coconut floating on the water.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stuck on Palmyra one more night

The weather on Palmyra was very bad when we got up this morning which contributed to the delayed departure of the flight out of Honolulu. The weather improved, but by the time the flight landed, the pilots decided to stay the night and fly out tomorrow morning. One would think this would be a good thing, but really it is a total waste of the day. Instead of spending the afternoon snorkeling, I was on the phone with a terrible VOIP satellite connection trying to re-book our flights. I also had to change my Monterey Airbus reservation, etc. I had moved out of my cabin, so now I have to move to another cabin, etc. We hope to get in to Honolulu around noon which means more wasted time as our flight back to SFO doesn't leave until 10 pm. This is a bummer. On the bright side, it isn't raining right now.

Here is a partial group shot. Perri was off dealing with the plane issues, we didn't track down Jack, and Ron was out on the Zenobia with the UCSB team.

Here is our ride out of here tomorrow morning.

More photos from Engineering Island adventure

Getting to Engineering Island requires anchoring the boat at the edge of the sand flat and then hiking a long distance across the sand flats.

sand flats along edge of the north/south causeway

In our case, we were walking along the edge of the causeway. Every so often there is an opening in the causeway and water is always rushing through those breaks. The water is also deeper. Below is a photo the Fish & Wildlife officer, Lindsey, took of me as I moved across one of these openings. My waterproof camera is underwater in the pocket of my shorts, but I had brought along my terrestrial camera to take photos of the hospital we never found. It was in a dry bag inside my backpack, but I still didn't want to risk dunking it. The current was strong and the bottom covered in large, slippery boulders. To be save I was going across sitting on my butt holding my backpack over my head with one hand.

me trying to keep my terrestrial camera dry

While we didn't find the hospital, we did see a number of coconut crabs, including this one up a tree.

coconut crab above us on a tree trunk

Also on the way back we hit a spot with a large number of sea cucumbers in about a foot of water. On the fore reef I only saw one sea cucumber in all my dives, and that was only when we went down to deeper water.

sea cucumber in the shallows of the sand flats

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pretty underwater pictures

Here are some of the photos I took on Monday's last dive of the trip.

red morph of blackside hawkfish
Paracirrhites forsteri

whitemouth or turkey moray
Gymnothorax meleagris

guineafowl puffer
Arothron meleagris

finally a sea star, only the third one I have seen in 90 dives over two years

finally a half way decent blacktip shark photo, but I wish I were closer