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You are here: /main/research expeditions/August/September 2007/Pearl and Hermes

Day 6 - Pearl and Hermes Atoll
Thursday, August 30

by Carlie Wiener

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Last night we finally arrived in Monument waters. The ship took quite a large turn which triggered some upset stomachs, nonetheless we are finally here!  I went out on the boat deck last night and spotted some bright blue phosphorescent organisms in the water, it was really neat. This morning everyone was up bright and early loading their gear into designated areas. I am surprised by the fact that we can still only see water; even though Pearl and Hermes is a sizeable atoll.

Launching H1
Launching HI 1 for Steve Karl’s coral research team , Carlie Wiener.

Maritime Heritage underway
The maritime archeology crew pull away from the ship to embark on their exploration of Pearl and Hermes, Carlie Wiener.

All the scientific personnel meet right after breakfast to discuss the last minute boat changes. Nothing is really static, and much of the work is weather dependent. There was some concern about launching the zodiac boat during rough seas, but the waters seemed to calm down this morning and everyone is happy to finally be on our way. I have been fortunate enough to travel with Dr. Rob Toonen and the invertebrate’s team on the zodiac today, otherwise known as Team Z. Since we were launched last everyone pitched in to help see the other teams off. The crew on the boat work very hard lifting the day boats on the cranes and into the water. This is much more of a process then you would image, not only do the boats need to be deployed but all the diving gear, equipment and lunches for the day need to be placed in the boats. Once we were off, the zodiac headed straight for shallow reef area where known invertebrates (animals without a spine or backbone) are located for collection.

Dr. Rob Toonen investigates a sample.
Dr. Rob Toonen investigates invertebrate sample collected on dive, Carlie Wiener.

A few sea birds follow us out from the boat, and it amazes me at how far from land they travel. The sites we are exploring today are on the north western end of the atoll. This is unique as usually the weather patterns make this side of the atoll to rough to travel around. It is so fascinating to think that we are diving in a place that may have never been explored before. GPS units are used to navigate the boats out in the water. I never realized how important this technology was for marine science. The Z team completed two dives throughout the day brining up sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, crown of thorn starfish amongst other invertebrates.

Clipping a sea cucumber
Assisting researchers obtain a sample by holding the sea cucumber from the collection, Carlie Wiener.

The team completed a third collection stop in shallow reef area which made for amazing snorkeling. I am so taken back by the reef development, the size of the corals and the variety and size of the fish. The first time getting into the water in the Monument was very surreal, it was my “ah ha” moment, “so this is what a reef is supposed to look like”. It excites me to see what pristine, untouched reef actually looks like, and it would be so great to see the reefs of the main Hawaiian Islands restored to this level. This place really is so special and I am so happy that it is protected for future generations. From Pearl and Hermes Atoll a hui hou!

Derek Smith investigates the reef.
Derek Smith investigates coral for invertebrates at Pearl and Hermes, Carlie Wiener.

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