SEA Currents: s254
Reflections on PIPA
We made landfall with the first light this morning, the tall green peaks of Tutuila emerging from the early morning light. After the flat coral atolls of PIPA, this lush verdant island cuts a very different figure. So do all the houses, cars, the many sizes of fishing vessels in the harbor, and the loud yellow McDonalds on the town waterfront. Ahead of us here are final project presentations and goodbyes, the crew of this amazing voyage will disembark on Monday morning.
Approach to American Samoa
It is nine o’clock in the morning and we are just making our approach toward the green and verdant hills of American Samoa. How strange it is to see such vibrant colors after days and days of blue. It consistently amazes me how tenacious life can be. Any little rock or bit of sand that sticks above the surface of the ocean will be covered in green living things so long as it receives sufficient fresh water.
Like so many other things in the oceans, islands are bridges between the freshwater realm of the atmosphere and the salt water below.
Motorsailing by the Full Moon
Well here we are motor sailing along on a port tack as the full moon is off our port beam and we are making our final days approach to American Samoa. Its been a full 5 ½ weeks of sailing and there has been much accomplished on this voyage thus far, and still much more to come even in these last few days!
Today we did one of my favorite deployments to conclude our sampling schedule on S254: the styrocast.
The Junior Watch Officer, or JWO, stage of the trip is now in full force. Each student must take the con and apply everything we‘ve learned throughout the trip to run the ship for a full watch. As this stage is extremely effective in realizing what were capable of, it also serves as a reminder that our epic exploration of PIPA is nearing its end. As our first full day outside PIPA concludes, and we make way for American Samoa, I can’t help but look back on the amazing environment we had the opportunity to explore.
Hello world this is Laura Page, the C watch deckhand here to write your blog post for the day. Our biggest news of the day has to be the leaving of the Pheonix Island Protected Area waters. After 3 straight weeks of sailing and sampling here it is hard to believe we are in truly open ocean with only a week left of program. Our goal for this trip was to explore and discover unexposed aspects of these Kiribati islands.
I waited until now to write a post so that I could share with you a truly unique experience I have witnessed while sailing with class S-254.
Colonization of PIPA
We have been in the Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA), for almost three weeks now and will be leaving it sometime tomorrow. We navigated in PIPA and visited more than half of the islands (Kanton, Enderbury, Orona, Birnie and Nikumaroro) and the Winslow reef. People of the Seamans had the chance to go ashore on some of them. Coming from a Pacific island, I find it interesting to see how these remote islands bear the marks of human activity - mostly of European and American origin.
Of Sharks, Whales and Squalls.
It has been about 5 weeks and over 2500 nautical miles since Hawaii. Nikumaroro is now astern of us, about 1.5 miles away as we slowly, but surely leave her behind.
I’ll never forget Nikumaroro. I had one day on the island, and it couldn’t have been a more remarkable day. Just being there knowing that there’s no one else but you and the island in all of her glory (excluding the thriving rat population of course) is a truly wonderful state of being. If you ever get a chance to sail to Nikumaroro, do it. But today’s story has nothing to do with Nikumororo even though many tales circle around our three days spent there.
A Painted Ship Upon a Painted Ocean
Winslow reef has come and gone and what an amazing place it was. Using CHIRP we found a steep rise starting at about 3000m and shooting up to 40m. We then found a plateau of about 50 feet and snooped around until we found a nice sandy patch to anchor in. The winds were calm and there was a gently rolling swell.
Once the anchor was down and the sun was set did it sink in what we had accomplished.
Finding Winslow Reef
07:50 We’ve been sailing in a large circle overnight, waiting for the daylight to begin our approach to Winslow Reef. The reason for this wait is that Winslow is one of those rare unmapped places of our planet, and so we have no good charts to rely on in the absence of daylight. To fix this situation a big part of todays mission is to use our onboard CHIRP sonar system to produce some accurate soundings of this large series of subsea peaks that may or may not pierce the surface of the sea. With the sun sufficiently high in the sky and the CHIRP pinging away we begin our first survey line toward a seamount some 8 nautical miles from what we think is the shallowest point of the reef.
28 days and 3 island sites into our Phoenix Islands Expedition finds the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) fish team with 278 fish sampled, including 57 blacktip and grey reef sharks and 4 manta rays. The rest of the Seamans crew has taken to calling the WHOI fish team the Tweedles, but it remains unclear who is dee and who is dumb. Despite the confusion about
our names, the smell of fish while visiting an island site is unmistakable and is a telltale sign of our current location.