Nancy Lewis, September 16, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 16, 2003

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

0815       Anchor Aweigh:  Underway

Weather Observation Log:  0100

Latitude:  8 degrees, 56.7′ S
Longitude:  139 degrees, 59.1′ W
Visibility:  12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction:  100 degress
Wind speed:  18 knots (kts)
Sea wave height:  5-6 feet
Swell wave height:  5-7 feet
Sea water temperature:  27.2 degrees C
Sea level pressure:  1013.8 mb (millibars)
Dry bulb temperature:  28.0 degress C
Wet bulb temperature:  23.0 degrees C
Cloud cover:  2/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Personal Log

Today is my first full day on the KA’IMIMOANA, and we steamed out of the harbor of Nuku Hiva at 8:15 am past the huge rocks that guard both sides of the bay.  I was out on the forward deck for much of the morning, admiring the striking coastline of Nuku Hiva as we got underway in what were somewhat rough sea conditions.  I took some pictures of the dramatic cliffs that break off sharply down to the sea with not a sign of any human habitation. I was somewhat wistful at departing this very unspoiled island, but thought, perhaps some day I will get to return.  After all, I never in my life expected to ever visit such a remote spot as the Marquesas Islands.  Off in the distance, so shrouded in mist it seemed almost a mirage, could be faintly discerned another one of the Marquesas Islands, its craggy peaks rising up like castle ramparts in a fairy tale. I remained on deck taking in the salty breeze, but the ship was heaving up and down in seas that were at least 6-9 feet.

I thought I should go back to my stateroom and finish my unpacking and arranging my things, as everything on board a ship has to be “ship-shape,” meaning neat, clean  and orderly.  I was aware that I really wasn’t feeling all that well, having developed somewhat of a queasy feeling from the rocking of the ship while in the bay at Nuku Hiva. I went outside a few more times to catch some final glimpses of  island we were leaving behind, and it  seemed that the seas were definitely rough.  Uh, oh, I had heard horror stories about some crew members being seasick for days on end.  By this time, I was feeling quite ill.  I talked to several “old hands” on board, and several urged me to take it easy, and maybe try and sleep.  We were steaming to our destination at 4 degrees South Latitude from Nuku Hiva, which is at 8 degrees South latitude, and so were basically headed north, along the 139th meridian of Longitude.   We had no buoy operations scheduled today, so I decided it would be best to just take it easy.

There is nothing worse than being seasick, although I never really got that bad.  I took some more Dramamine and hoped for the best.  The few times I did get up in the afternoon to go down to the mess for some tea,  I saw other crew members, and they were telling me it was unusually rough, and I was not the only one feeling sick.  So there isn’t much to tell about today, except that they say that a little seasickness comes with first going to sea until you get your “sea legs”.  As I turned in for the night, I imagine my face looked a little green, and I was fervently hoping I would get those legs as quickly as possible.

From the Plan of the Day:  Notice:  ” Secure all items for sea”

Does that include lunch?

Aloha from the KA!

Nancy Lewis, September 15, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 15, 2003

Nuku Hiva:  Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Personal Log

Several of us piled in Rose Corser’s Land Rover and were dropped of at the school in Taiohae, where we soon found the principal’s office.  I was pressed into service as interpreter since the principal did not speak English.  We were directed to one of the classes, where Tom Nolan and Tetsuro Isono made a short presentation to the students.  “Le professeur” explained a little about the mission of the KA’IMIMOANA,  and I was able to understand a quite bit of what he said.  Except for the language being French, I would have thought I was in a classroom in Hawaii.

The students then came outside with us and sang to us in the Marquesan language.  With the bay in the background, the KA moored in the harbor, it was one of those “island moments.”  Our objective today was definitely one of diplomacy and good will.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Students from the school in Taiohae sing in the Marquesan language.

Our next stop was the Mayor’s office where there was to be a presentation from the KA’IMIMOANA to the VIP’s of Nuku Hiva.  The current mayor of Nuku Hiva was there, along with the past 2 mayors, the island Chief, the head of the Gendarmerie (Police) and the French representative for Nuku Hiva.  Captain Mark Ablondi presented them with an enlarged satellite photo of Nuku Hiva.  Many speeches were made, expressing appreciation for the collaborative work of all the parties in the effort to better understand the world’s oceans.

It was now time to take the water taxi out to the KA’IMIMOANA for the tour given to the VIP’s. This was my first time on board the ship, in fact, my first time on board any ship! I joined in the VIP tour of what would be my floating home for the next 2 weeks.

Lewis VIP tour
The VIP tour of NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA.

After lunch on board, a class of students from the school joined us and I enjoyed trying out my French with them, and just generally enjoying being around the kids.  By the time they served ice cream in the mess, several of the crew on board had become celebrities, signing autographs and the subject of many 14 year old girls’ giggles.

For the last night on Nuku Hiva almost the entire crew went out for pizza after saying our goodbyes to Rose and Diana, the manager of The Pearl.  It was nearly eleven by the time we took the water taxi to the ship, and I was shown to my stateroom.  Tetsuro had flown back to the States, and I was taking over his berth on the ship.  I must admit that my few hours on board earlier in the day had  given me a bit of a queasy stomach, so I regretfully swallowed some dramamine before turning the lights out.  We would get underway in the morning continuing the work of the KA’IMIMOANA near the equator.

Bon nuit and au revoir Nuku Hiva!

Nancy Lewis, September 14, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 14, 2003

Nuku Hiva:  Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Personal Log 

A group of us from the Pearl Lodge signed on to make the day long trip back into the interior of the island to see a one thousand foot waterfall.  We were to have Jean Pierre, a native Marquesan, as our guide, but first we had to take a boat over to Hakaui Bay to reach the trailhead.  Once we reached the mouth of the bay, things got really interesting, with  our pilot expertly navigating the moderate sea swells that seemed much bigger from our small craft.

We came well south of the bay passing sheer headlands that plunged right to the sea, and then entered into Hakaui Bay facing a gray sand beach fringed coconut trees, the perfect picture of a wild, tropical beach.  As we all gathered on shore to begin the trek, an old Marquesan woman appeared with a dog on a leash, seeming to come out of nowhere. She reminded me of the stories of Pele back home in Hawaii. We soon started our trek, and found the very small village of Hakaui, and Jean Pierre, our Marquesan guide, told us that there had been many people living in this valley until 1942 when a malaria epidemic forced most of the inhabitants to leave.  We also met Daniel, a spry Marquesan who’d lived in the village since 1927.

The hike to the waterfall first passed through some of the village’s cultivated cleared areas where they were growing bananas, coconuts, and papayas.  We soon entered some dense tropical jungle, and were glad for the deep shade provided against the hot sun.  We passed many stone foundations of houses, called in Marquesan “papais”, remnants of former human settlement.  At one point, I saw a stone tiki sitting on top of one of these papais, and it seemed to be guarding some secret.  Although there was a trail, we had to cross the river several times, and so we definitely needed Jean Pierre’s services.

Just before reaching the falls,  we encountered several hunters on horseback, who had their kill wrapped in cloth and slung over their saddles.  A little further on, spiky ramparts of needlelike rocks rose up five hundred feet, and Renault, our other guide, told us that there were the bones of human sacrifices hidden in the clefts of one of the needles.

We soon reached the base of the falls with its sheer cliffs rising up in a narrow gorge that reminded me of certain places in Utah.  There was a spacious pool easily accessible,  but further back behind some rocks was the pool where the cascade roared down.  Several of us jumped into the cold fresh water, and eventually we found a way into the cascade pool, and discovered a hidden grotto behind the rocks.  The water was very cold, but invigorating.

After our swim, and a bit of lunch, we started back , but took a slightly different route, arriving at the beach of Hakatea Bay where our boats were waiting.  The ride back to Taiohae was exciting, and well, dangerous.  The seas had kicked up to between 9 and 12 feet, and we were literally holding on for dear life to stay in the boat as it crashed into one trough and rose up to meet the next:  and we had no life preservers! Jean Pierre was in my boat, and a few times had a worried look on his face, but I enjoyed it immensely.

We cruised into the harbor past the KA and piled into the back of an open Land Rover to go back to the lodge.  It was satisfying to turn in early after the excitement of our expedition into the interior of the island, and to once again hear the soft sounds of surf at the close of  a great day.

Nancy Lewis, September 13, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 13, 2003

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Despite my intention to catch up some sleep,  I woke up for the stunning sunrise across  the bay.  Because of some dense tropical foliage obscuring my view from the lanai, it was not until I walked over to breakfast that I could see that the NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA had arrived and was anchored peacefully in the bay.  My colleague, Tom Nolan, a scientist from NASA,  had gone to meet the ship, so I took advantage of this opportunity to steal back to my bungalow and read.  I had brought with me a copy of Herman Melville’s Typee, which is the semi-biographical account of how he jumped ship on this very island of Nuku Hiva, and escaped over into the next valley to live for a period of time with the notorious Typee natives. I mused on his descriptions of tyrannical sea captains, and inhumane treatment aboard his ship, and dreamed myself of stealing over to Taipivai Valley to visit the very place of his mild imprisonment with the “fierce Typees”.

My reveries were soon broken by the arrival of the party from the ship, and soon I was sitting and conversing with Tetsuro Isono, the scientist from Japan who was on board for the first leg of the KA’s mission from Honolulu.  I also met Diane Bernstein, from the University of South Florida, who is working on calibrating an instrument designed to analyze CO2 dissolved in the water. It was great to meet these people and all of the other folks who make up the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA.

The day ended for all of us in a very special way.  After dinner, a local dance troupe came and entertained the party with traditional Marquesan dancing and drumming.  The young men and girls were decked out in hand made costumes of feathers, beads, and raffia, and they brought out huge homemade drums.  The performance was a spirited dance that had the bare, painted chests of the young men glistening with sweat.  The only complaint was that the dancing didn’t go on all night.  I thought again about Melville’s time that he spent here on Nuku Hiva.  His story helped to fuel the romantic ideas associated with the remote South Sea Islands.  I walked back to my bungalow with the scent of tiares wafting down the path, and the moonlight reflecting off the waters of the bay.

Nancy Lewis, September 12, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 12, 2003

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Personal Log 

I arrived in Nuku Hiva on Friday, September  12, 2003  after flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles, and from there to Tahiti.  I spent one night in Papeete, Tahiti, then boarded another flight for Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands,  3 hours by air from Tahiti.  From the air I could see many of the other islands and coral atolls that make up French Polynesia, and which are strung out over one thousand miles of ocean.  The Marquesas Islands are one of 5 island groups comprising French Polynesia.  The other island groups are the Society Islands, the Austral Islands, the Gambier Islands, and the Tuamotus.

Lewis 9-12-03 Nuku Hiva
A map of the island of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

The plane landed on the southern end of Nuku Hiva, its landing strip right beside the ocean, as the island rises sharply into craggy peaks affording little flat, coastal ground. I was greeted by Jean Claude, who asked me if I spoke French, as he informed me, in English, that he would be my driver to the village of Taiohae, on the other side of the island.

We soon departed in Jean Pierre’s Land Rover, and  it was to be a two hour  ride over a very rough, unpaved road, definitely a four-wheel drive track.  The road wound its way up into the mountains of the interior, and the views were spectacular.  One particularly deep valley, almost at the summit, is called the Grand Canyon, and it aptly deserves that name.  We bounced over the deeply rutted, twisting dirt road, and I was very glad that the rainy season was past, as I could tell that the road would have been absolutely treacherous under wet conditions.  In many places, we were right on the edge of steep precipices, with no protection, but Jean Pierre was an excellent driver.

Along the way I was observing the plants and trees, and saw many that were the same or similar to what we have in Hawaii.  We began to descend out of the steep crests of the interior mountains, and passed pastures with cows and horses grazing.  All at once we came to a paved road, and Jean Pierre joked that we had reached the “freeway”.  A young Marquesan waved to us from his horse. A freeway indeed!

Soon the village of Taiohae was laid out below us, nestled around the horseshoe-shaped bay, truly a delightful scene of tropical tranquility.  We descended into the village and came to The Pearl Lodge, my accommodations while in Nuku Hiva.  The grounds of The Pearl are a botanical garden, carefully tended by Rose Corser, an American woman who started the lodge with her late husband, Frank.  The bungalows are built in the Tahitian style, faced with split bamboo, and most tastefully decorated.  My lanai faced the bay, and at last,  I could have a rest from my long journey, and drink in the serene beauty of Nuku Hiva.

In the afternoon, needing some exercise after two days of being on an airplane,  I rode a bicycle from the lodge to the far end of the village,  and stopped at the quay at the end of the harbor.  Young men were just coming in on outrigger canoes and there were a number of people from the village there.  On my way back to the lodge,  I was hailed by some girls from the school, who said “stop” and indicated they wanted to talk to me.  They soon brought their teacher over to talk to me in English, as my French is not very good. It was wonderful to meet these young people and to explain why I was on their island.

I had dinner that evening with Rose and Tom Nolan,  a scientist representing NASA from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and who would also be joining the NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA. Tom endeavored to coax Rose into telling some stories from her adventurous past, as evidently she had sailed around the world and certainly had a wealth of tales to tell.

My first day on Nuku Hiva closed with the moon shining brightly over the bay, back-lighting the peaks of the mountains cradling the bay, and with the soft whisper of the surf  a lullaby of the island.