Diane Stanitski: Days 20-25, September 4, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 20: Friday, August 30

We arrived in Nuku Hiva with a bright sun beginning to set behind a band of gorgeous clouds. There was an air of excitement flowing through the group as land came into view. Because it’s customary to raise the flag of the country that you’re visiting, Steve, the ablebodied seaman and the XO, Doug, raised the French flag before arriving in port. We had a morning all hands (all on board) meeting to collect passports and explain procedures for docking. I spent most of the afternoon answering emails and working on lesson plans, two things I hadn’t had time to do this week because of the daily broadcasts that we completed. I also packed my books and clothes and began taking more pictures of all the spaces and people I hoped to remember on the ship. Aaaahhhh, I had such mixed feelings about leaving. We slowly made our way into the middle of Taihoae Bay, anchored, and raised a round black flag on the front mast designating that the ship is anchored. As we were waiting to hear from the gendarmerie, Nemo spotted three manta rays off the port side of the bow. They sailed through the water with kite-like bodies. Rain began to fall and we were finally told that we could take the RHIB to shore and that our passports would be stamped the next morning. A group of us decided to visit one of few local restaurants, a place that serves pizza, and we all enjoyed an evening together on land. Many people said that they still felt the rocking of the ship, even though we were on land, but I felt firmly planted. Don Shea and I felt so good that we decided to run back to the pier after dinner. Oh, what a feeling to run on solid ground!

Day 21: Saturday, August 31

I awoke early on the ship to depart on the 7:00 AM boat taxi to town. We wanted to make sure that we received the appropriate departure paperwork so we wouldn’t have a challenging time leaving French Polynesia in four days. With all paperwork complete a group of us walked along the one main road in the small fishing village to the bungalows at Pearl Lodge where John Kermond and I would stay. Wow, what a wonderful place! It overlooked the bay and had a beautiful (very small) pool with a pretty patio. I filled out the necessary paperwork for my room, but it wasn’t quite ready so I decided to return to the ship to gather my luggage. After a final goodbye to the KA (or so I thought), John and I returned to the Pearl Lodge, found our rooms, and were able to unpack and settle in for two nights. The Captain led a group hike over the mountain behind the lodge to beautiful Colette Bay where we swam in the waves and imagined that we were part of the Survivor series. We then scaled the volcanic cliffs to the end of the peninsula where a group of people were fishing for barracuda. Upon return to the hotel, I showered and decided to return to the KA one last time to check and reply to emails from my students. The ship was quiet because almost everyone was cherishing the last moments on shore before ship departure the next morning. I walked around the ship and a real feeling of sadness came over me. I was very surprised at my response to bidding farewell to this ship and the people I’d learned so much from during the last two weeks. I could really get used to life at sea. With a wave to the XO and Fred Bruns on the ship deck, I hopped back onto the boat taxi around 9:00 PM, was whisked away into the night air, and then returned to the bungalows for a much needed rest.

Day 22: Sunday, September 1

Nuku Hiva is predominantly Catholic and so the 8:00 AM Catholic service in town was the place to be on Sunday morning. The entire town was there. The church was absolutely beautiful and the music lifted the roof (as John said) off the building. The service was in both French and Tahitian, but very traditional and so easy to follow. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE sang the songs and that made it very powerful. After the Mass, we walked back to the bungalows to film the ship’s departure, however, it didn’t leave until nearly noon and so we waited for 2 hours on the hotel’s patio while the weather changed from hot and sunny to a torrential downpour with strong winds. After its departure we were then invited to take an afternoon jeep tour to the Typeevai, the valley where Herman Melville wrote his book Typee. We hiked to a ceremonial site with 11 Tikis carved in 1200 AD from the volcanic rock of the island – beautiful! It poured on us and our guide broke off a huge banana leaf that we used as an umbrella. I managed to receive about forty mosquito bites on my legs and arms and our guide picked a lime, cut it open, and applied it to the bites to relieve the itch – marvelous. What a gorgeous island.

Day 23: Monday, September 2

After a few hours making final arrangements for our flights and filming the last shots of Taihoae, we departed by four-wheel drive Land Rover later in the morning for a two-hour exciting trip to the airport northwest across the mountains and valleys of the remote, rugged island of Nuku Hiva. In the pouring rain the trip was treacherous. At times, the mud was up to the top of the tires and, although we had a difficult time seeing through the fog, we could tell there were steep cliffs on one side. Our driver had clearly made this trip before. We arrived safely and waited for our 3-hour flight to Papeete, Tahiti. We flew over atolls and through beautiful trade wind clouds.

Day 24: Tuesday, September 3

This was our only day in Tahiti. We awoke early and called Meteo France to see if we could have a tour of the weather station at the airport. We were trying to discover where the meteorological readings had been taken for the 100+ years of data recorded and now used to determine the Southern Oscillation Index. After a challenging conversation half in French, half in English, we were finally able to ask the necessary questions and receive a historical summary of the station. We were given a tour of the airport’s weather station and pamphlets to provide to my classes. John filmed the entire meeting. I was especially excited about this side trip because I’d always wanted to visit this specific weather station. Next on my list is Darwin, Australia, the sister site to the Tahiti station – maybe in a few years.

This experience has been like no other for me. I am so grateful to Dr. John Kermond, Jennifer Hammond, Rear Admiral Evelyn Fields, NOAA, NSF, Shippensburg University and all those responsible for my incredible journey. I will use the information that I learned on this trip in my classes, but more importantly, I hope to share the excitement and wonder of science with my students and my teaching colleagues so that they can understand the importance of conducting scientific research to discover more about our world and ourselves. Thank you to all!

Signing off for now, but I hope to hear from you again at dmstan@ship.edu.
Best wishes,

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