Our last full day in Samoa dawned cloudy and somewhat cooler. Or perhaps we are beginning to get used to the heat and humidity. Yesterday was about 90 with a heat index of 105 and today was predicted to be similar but turned out to be cooler without the sun. The few times the sun did come out, it got steamy.
A quiet Sunday in Apia means not so much traffic and streets you can simply wander around on without anyone hawking Lava Lava’s, local potato chips, or veggies.
It was just us and the pigs. This little porker is a Number 1 Pig, or a small size. We never saw one but some of the crew mentioned Number 6 Pigs that they saw about town.
We actually didn’t do much either, not just because the town was shut down, but because it was a very rainy day. Tomorrow we begin out journey back to Montana. We will try to post something tomorrow, if not our next post will be from Montana.
Thank you for joining us on this adventure and a special thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program and the Officers and Crew of the good ship Ka’Imimoana for making this possible.
Wow! The Captain’s Luau was something else. We all got on a bus to Aggie Gray’s Resort at 5:30 in a tropical downpour and drove for about an hour through the Samoan countryside. As we drove we passed many small villages where it seemed everyone would wave at us. Once we got to the resort we took a look around and then we were seated for the luau, which included roast pig, fish, chicken, sweet potato, rice, noodles, coleslaw, and a variety of desserts.
While we were eating we were entertained by local music and dance.
…and for the finale the fire dance.
Saturday is market day in Apia. While there are vendors pretty much everywhere in Apia, there is also a central market where local goods crafts and other items are sold.
The main market is made up of many stalls, similar to a flea market. Some of the vendors have only Lava Lava’s (the local wrap skirt) and some have woodcarvings and other stalls have designs on the locally made Tapa Cloth.
Tapa is made from tree bark, and from listening to the tour guide at the Robert Lewis Stevenson home in Samoa; typically the paper mulberry or the breadfruit tree is used.
The grocery stores are very different than those we are used to in Montana. They are fairly small but have goods similar to those available to us. It is not uncommon to see small open air restaurants that sell fish “n” chips, chicken and other Samoan fair. The one pictured here is right next to the Samoan Central bank. Churches are quite an influence here. We passed many villages, churches and church schools on our trip to Aggie Grays resort yesterday evening. Some of the churches located in the countryside were as large as the one pictured below (located on the main street of Apia).
By about 2PM everything in town was shutting down in preparation of Sunday so we began to head back to the ship. The after noon gets a little warm and humid, and even the dogs like to find a shady spot to cool and recharge. Not a bad idea in the tropics.
Once we have a chance to do the same we plan on joining some of the crew for dinner at one of the local restaurants that is close to the ship. Maybe even the rainforest restaurant, which looks like a rainforest inside and out.
The first thing that needs to go in the Blog is a Big Thank You to the great folks at the Apia FedEx Office. They were very helpful and without them (and NOAA) Rick would have had a big headache getting the 300 plus shrunken cups back to the USA. His students don’t know how lucky they are to have such great friends in Samoa. Today began early with an invitation from Bob to join him on a drive about this part of the island.
We first hit the city center where the only McDonalds in Samoa is found (we actually avoided this American tradition in favor of the local fare). For lunch we stopped at a roadside café and had fish and chips for $6.50 Tala (or about $3.00 US) a heck of a deal, and it was fresh and cooked to order.
While we had a rental car, private car ownership is relatively rare (or has been until recently) and the more common forms of transportation in Apia are taxi’s and buses.They are like weeds and they are everywhere.
After a brief stop at a market to get some water and snacks were off for the Robert Lewis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island, The strange case of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, and many other books) Museum. The grounds of this estate are lush with plants of vibrant tropical color. It was also nice to be a little higher in the mountains where the air is cooler and the wind a little fresher.
While we were on our way back to the ship we were fortunate to see a man fishing in his outrigger on one of the many lagoons around the island. Tonight we head off for a special luau that the Captain is giving for the crew. We will hopefully have a full report tomorrow.
During our journey to Samoa we have had very nice accommodations and entertainment facilities. There are two lounges each with a big screen TV and plenty of movies to watch. The only live TV channel available by satellite is FOX news (go figure!).
In addition to movies, there is also a fully equipped gym with weights, cross-trainer, elliptical, and treadmill. When exercising you can listen to your favorite tunes or watch your favorite video.
Samoa at last! We started smelling land just about dawn today and slowly, it seemed slow anyway, made our way toward the mouth of the Apia harbor. The closer we got to the harbor the easier it was to make out the mountains and the city itself.
Once we got to within a couple of miles of the harbor, we were joined by a pilot boat and two Samoan harbor pilots came aboard the KA to make sure we got into the harbor safely.
Once under their guidance we made our way in and proceeded to secure the lines and set the gangway so the customs officials could come on and clear us to go ashore.
Once the gangway was down the customs officials board the ship and check our passports against the customs form that we were required to complete before disembarking. The whole process was very easy and only took about an hour. At that point we were then given the OK to disembark and explore the town.
Apia looks to be a city of about 50,000 so it between Helena and Billings in size. Tomorrow we will do some exploring and see what Apia and Samoa have to offer.
Steaming and dreaming, that was the order of the day. We had the opportunity to spend a little more time on the bridge today. Here you can see three of the Ensign’s standing watch. While on the bridge we learn about how the radar works.
Most people in Montana are familiar with the concept of radar since that is the basic method used to measure our speed.What do you think is similar about the radar on the ship? What is different?
We also took a look at the ship’s wheel.Like most people we envisioned the wheel to be like one you would see in an old movie or perhaps like those on the tall ships of old. The wheel of the KA is smaller than the average steering wheel, but it gets the job done.
We participated in several meetings to prepare us for our stay in Samoa.One presentation, made by Joe our Electronics Technician was focused on customs and taboos that we need to be aware of as guests and representatives of the US government. Joe has a unique and useful understanding of Samoa since his wife is from Western Samoa and he has lived here so he knows what we can and can’t do.
We also decided we better do laundry today! The washers and dryers will be secured tonight for our arrival in Samoa tomorrow morning. While the crew visits the island, the engineers will need to purge the sewage system of gray water – water from cooking, showers, toilets etc. The ship will also take on water from the port at Apia, Samoa were we are docking. The ship has great laundry facilities and also very nice exercise equipment. Even though we are seeing the pacific, we still have to take of our chores!
Land tomorrow! Until then happy sailing and calm seas.
Safety Drills and an island on the horizon were the highlights of the day.Today we had quite the rainstorm, it came in gray sheets that pounded the deck and boiled the sea surface, like we were running the ship through a car wash back home..We also had gusts that cooled the air for the first time in several days. It was pleasant while it lasted but when the sun came out the air was steamy.
Safety is a big issue on a ship. We have regular weekly drills including Man Overboard, Abandon Ship and Fire Drills. In addition, today after lunch we participated in what is called a safety stand down where we observed several safety demos including using a line gun. You can see Art prepping the gun under the watchful eye of Chris the Chief Bosun and Rick firing the gun. The line gun uses 3000 psi of air pressure to shoot a small rocket with a line out to 750 feet. This tool is used when it is necessary to get a line to another ship or land facility when the ship can’t be close enough for a safe hand toss. After our time on the firing line we learned about fixing ruptured or leaking pipes and how to shore up a sagging upper deck with telescopic metal vertical braces.
When a safety drill is called, a general alarm bell (see picture) is rung notifying all of the ships’ crew, scientists and others to muster (or go) to their assigned stations. The stations are different positions on the ship such as the buoy deck (man overboard station), the top deck by the RHIB (abandon ship) and the mess – cafeteria (fire). The positions in parentheses are my stations for this cruise – they differ for other participants. When practicing the drill for abandon ship, we are shown where the inflatable life boats (see pictures for life boats) are stored and to know to bring as much water as possible from the water locker.
We have begun a series of video interviews of the different NOAA corps crew. We began yesterday with the three new Ensigns. Today we interviewed the oiler, Mike Robinson and the Lieutenant Commander Helen “Doc” Ballantyne (Ship’s Nurse/PA ). Our tour of the engine room was fascinating in addition to being very noisy and very warm. This area can really be considered the heart of the ship. The diesel engines, generators, propulsion mechanism, sewage disposal system, and filters for producing fresh water are all located here. L
t.Cmdr. Ballantyne or “Doc” is not only a nurse who takes care of sick crew members but is also responsible for procedures for handling and storing hazardous materials, disaster care, and other safety related issues. NOAA is always looking for good nurse practitioners, so if you want adventure on the high seas, give NOAA a call!
As we were on deck for the man overboard we passed Nassau a small island in the Cook Islands located close to 11 degrees 40 minutes South and 165 degrees 24 minutes West. Another day of sailing and we should be close enough to see the Samoan Islands.
Painting in the morning, painting in the afternoon.We had a time change this morning, we set our clocks back (retarded) them one hour so we are now four hours earlier than Montana or 11 hours earlier than GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or Zulu. This means that we are almost half way around the world from the Prime Meridian that runs through Greenwich England.
You might notice that it looks like Rick is in a fog, well he is. The difference between the inside of the ship and the outside of the ship in regards to temperature and humidity is huge. The ship is generally around 21 degrees c or close to 70 degrees F with low humidity and outside has been close to 31 degrees c or about 87 degrees F with high humidity. When you bring something like a camera outside from the cooler interior of the ship the moisture in the humid outside air condenses on the camera and instant fog.
We painted the international yellow on the top half of the four tolroids and now all the buoys will be the new color scheme, no more orange and white top half’s anymore.
You may have noticed that the sky is gray and the sea is fairly calm. We are in the Doldrums, an area of low pressure and often very little wind. This area is also known as the “Horse Latitudes”. Do you know why?
While we were waiting for the paint to dry we watched Alen refresh the sonic releases that connect the anchor to the nylon anchor line. Each of these releases costs about $12,000 and it is essential to use them over and over so replacing the battery, the rubber “O” rings and filling them with argon is a must after they are recovered with the anchor line Nilspin and nylon, pretty much ever thing that can be re-used is reused in order to minimize the cost of the project. Because we are able to use the acoustical releases only the iron anchor and some chain are left on the bottom of the ocean where they rust away eventually. It is hard to see but just before the releases are approved for re-deployment Argon is put into the body of the refreshed unit to provide and inert environment for the electronics. By removing the air, the risk of oxidation to the components is reduced.
After lunch the paint was dry enough that we taped in prep for painting the black waterline and we put the TAO on the donuts.Now these are ready for deployment on the next two legs of the cruise. We also had some time today to interview some of the crew on the KA. Today we chatted with three of the four young Ensign’s who are stationed on this ship. We asked them a variety of questions about life in NOAA and the types of degrees that they have and their interests. We discovered that one of the Ensign Rose (white shirt) is from Wyoming and that Rick went to school with one of her uncles and that she is distantly related to his wife through a cousin. Weird how small the world really is.
Two days ago, on 1/16/10, we conducted the last deep CTD at about 3,000 meters (about 2 miles). Rick had about 130 cups to send down and Art ran an experiment with control for Rossiter School in Helena. Just to review, this operation sends down a large, round instrument with tubes that collect water samples at different depths up to 3,000 meters. The intent of this procedure is to measure the salinity, Temperature and Pressure at different depths of the Ocean. As the depth of the ocean increases, so does the pressure of the water. An experiment that we can do to see the strength of the pressure is to attach a bag of Styrofoam cups to the CTD instrument. As the instrument sinks, what do you think would happen to the Styrofoam cups? Look at the picture of the cups before being sunk into the ocean depths and after. How would you describe the pressure of the ocean waters at 3,000 meters?
Today was not all that physically demanding which is good since it was 30.5 degrees Celsius by 9:30 AM ship time.My students should be able to figure out the temperature in temperature units they are more familiar with.While it was still fairly cool this morning Art and Rick helped Alen paint the anti fouling paint on the bottom of each of the three tolroids that needed it. Once the deck crew flipped them back to top side up, Alen discovered that one of the buoys had been hit and was cracked and so he needed to do some grinding and patching before painting the yellow. So we are going to finish the paint job early tomorrow after the patch has time to cure.
Land Ho! Later in the day we sighted land for the first time since we lost sight on Hawaii on the 6th. We came upon Tautua Island, which is part of the Cook Islands. If you take a look on Google Earth around 9 degrees: 13 minutes South and 157 degrees: 58 minutes West you can see the
island and the village on the island. We weren’t very close, so we couldn’t actually see the village, but it was nice to see land after 10 days of the vast expanse of the Pacific in every direction to the horizon.
Today was a day of odds and ends.We had planned to paint first thing after breakfast and Art and Rick got started masking off the water line on one of the orange and white buoys that needs to be painted. This one was chosen to do first because it only needed a coat of yellow and not a complete repaint. The other three buoy floats need the rust colored anti-fouling paint and the yellow. Just about the time we got the tape on, it was determined that all the buoys
would have the anti- fouling paint first so we had to wait while the tolroids or “donuts” were
flipped. In the process of turning them we discovered that a couple of the buoys were partially full of water and Alen had to drill them out to allow the water to pour out. While these were draining and drying we were put on hold for painting until tomorrow. Alen had to carefully look over the donuts and fix any cracks in the fiberglass hull and reseal the mounting brackets where they pass through the hull.
Since painting was sidetracked for a day, we got to participate in one of the necessary, but less exciting aspects of scientific research…inventory. As we mentioned yesterday, science is hard work and hopping a buoy or working on the fantail doing fairings with the ocean breaking over the deck has an element of risk and can be exciting. In order to do the exciting parts of the research safely and efficiently means that you have to have the right equipment and the right number of parts to make the instruments work and the science happen.
So today we counted bolts, and paintbrushes, screwdrivers, nylon zip ties and even pencils and post-it notes, everything that allows us to do the science. Today was a reminder that even the most exciting job in the world, like climbing up a swaying mast on a ship, might have to be done because you need to get the serial number off an antenna, an antenna that allows you to communicate the fruit of your research back to those who can use it to understand the world’s climate a little better.
About 4:30 pm today we approached a TAO buoy that needed to be visually checked for any damage. Prior to this check, the ship makes several close passes to the buoy for examinination and more importantly so the crew can fish! Six long lines were in the water as we past the buoy on four separate occasions. No one caught any fish. However, Alen speculated that this was because the buoy had been deployed fairly recently and there was not enough time for it to form a food chain of small microorganisms that eventually attract top level carnivores like Ono, Tuna and Mahi Mahi. Bummer!
The last order of business today was to deploy the last deep (3000 meter) CTD at 8 South on the 155 West Longitude line. Rick sent the remainder of the Styrofoam cups from his school, cups for Art’s wife’s school in Helena (Rossiter Elementary) and a couple for his grand kids plus two extras he had for the Ensigns down in mesh bags attached to the instrument.
Soon we say farewell to the 155 West line as we make our way toward Apia, Samoa and the end of our experiences aboard the Ka’Imimoana.
We have our last buoy of the 155 West line in the water and the anchor is set. Today began with a ride for Rick over the old buoy where he was responsible for removing an old loop of rope in order to put on the shackle and line that the tow line would be attached to.
You would think that cutting a three-eights nylon line would be pretty easy, and you would be right if that line wasn’t attached to a rocking, slime covered buoy floating in the middle of an ocean that is over 5000 meters deep.
It would also have helped if my knock-off Leatherman had a sharper blade.Anyway, Al and I went out the buoy on the RHIB and got a pretty good spray here and there as you can see from the water drops on some of the images.
Once we were on the buoy Al removed the ‘Bird” and handed to the support crew in the RHIB.If it weren’t for these men and women we (the scientists) would not be able to collect the data.This is science on the front lines and it takes a dedicated and well-trained crew to make the endeavor of science one that produces meaningful, valid, and important data.
Once the ‘Bird’ is off the buoy and the towline is attached it is time to go back to the KA to pick-up the towline so that the buoy can be recovered and the next phase of the process can begin, deployment of the new buoy that will replace this one.
During the recovery Art and Rick often work as a team spooling the nylon because it takes two people to re-spool the line in a way to prevent tangles, one person to provide the turning and another to be the ‘fair lead’.
The fair lead actually has the harder job because they have to keep constant eye on the line as it spools.With seven spools of nylon all over 500 meters and the 700 meters of Nilspin recovery is a team effort by everyone.
Like the recovery, the deployment is a team effort and many hands make the work easier for everyone.But at this point of the cruise Art and Rick can pretty much handle the nylon line individually, but work as a team to move the empty spools and reload the spool lift with full spools. Deployment of this buoy ended just about 4:30 PM with the anchor splashing and some deck clean up then it was out of the sun and into the air-conditioned comfort of the ship for some clean clothes and good food.