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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/journals/TC Update 7/


Ship Logs

Fish Dreams and Airplanes - Updates from the R/V Townsend Cromwell (9/22 - 9/24/02)
Kure Atoll
Posted by Stephani Holzwarth and Joe Chojnacki
Photography by Jim Watt

Hawaiian Grouper.  Photo by Jim Watt.Sept 22, 2002. Kure Atoll.
All we do is eat, sleep, and dive. I see fish and blue water when I close my eyes. We towed all around Kure, and fish and benthic teams did drop dives in all corners inside and out of the atoll. I like the simple fish- razor wrasses for one. They are the color of white sand, with a dark blotch on their side. I flew past one hovering over the sand. First, it tried to hold so still I wouldn't notice it. Maybe I've flown over a bunch of other razor wrasses and not noticed, but this one could tell I saw him. So he screwed up his back into an S, and then shot into the sand. Pretty neat trick. I ran my hand into the sand at the spot the fish disappeared, like a monk seal might do for a snack, but he was gone. ? Don't ask me where. Speaking of eating- diving makes me so hungry! I devour lunch by 10am most days. Brian calls me Velociraptor. ;o) For dinner I ate a huge plate of jambayala, topped it off with a slab of chocolate cake with sprinkles and 3 scoops of icecream, and my belly didn't even feel full when I climbed into my bunk an hour later.

Sept 23. First thing this morning we deployed one of those 1300 lb Ocean Data Platforms (ODP) that measures water currents and temperature. Rusty and Joe scoped out a flat spot in 95 ft of water and marked it with a float and anchor. The ship drove up next to the float and lowered the ODP over the side, depositing it on the bottom. Nathan Hill, our captain, is so good the ODP was no more than 15 feet from where it needed to go. Brian, Bill, and I dove on it and moved it to a pocket of flat sand between two reef ridges.

After a few tows in the afternoon, we drove across the atoll to the shipwreck on the far side. A young monk seal played peek-a boo with us through one of the holes in the wreck. We secured a small temperature recorder to the reef flat to monitor water temperatures in the shallow reef flats. Four huge ulua circled around us, intently interested in our grubbing around on the bottom. I swam around the wreck, peering into the dark cave of the hull. Two threadfin butterflyfish appeared out of the gloom and a few tinsel-colored squirrelfish. I was surprised to see day fish and night fish mixed together. This seems to be everyone's favorite little hiding spot.

Sept 24, 2002. I've recruited my fellow diver Joe Chojnacki to write an e-journal entry.... Today we went towboarding both on the inside and outside of Kure Atoll. The underwater life is completely different on the inside than it is on the outside, so when we work at an atoll, I don't feel like I've really understood the place until I get to see both neighborhoods. The outside gets lots of currents and pounding waves - especially in the winter - and the inside is a lot more protected- kind of like a swimming pool. This means that on the inside you see lots of young fish and small fish that are built for poking around in calm, shallow areas, while on the outside you see lots more adult fish, plus the big guys- sharks and jacks. There's lots of neat stuff to see on the inside of atolls, but I think the outside's my favorite because of the cool caves and canyons formed by ocean waves and currents. Today on the outside my dive buddy, Brian Zgliczynski, and I towed over a long stretch of spur-and-groove reef. That means that instead of being flat, the reef is wrinkled like a washboard so that it forms big hills and valleys of coral, sometimes dropping 50 feet from peak to bottom!

Parts of an airplane wreck at Kure Atoll.  Photo by Hans Van Tilburg.But on our tow this morning we saw a lot more than just neat reefs; we made a discovery of something no one's ever seen before (I think)! Our dive took us to 60 feet, where there were long ridges of reef separated by wide channels of sand. We were towing along counting fish and corals when Brian pointed at something lying in the sand. It was long and straight, and had a box attached to one end. Brian signaled to me that he thought it was a machine gun, but I thought he was nuts! Sure enough, though, a few seconds later we came across the wreckage of an old plane just lying in the bottom of a sand channel. The first big piece we saw was part the plane's wing. We could see that the landing wheel was folded up inside the wing, like it does after it the plane takes off. A couple minutes later we came across another big part of a wing, but this one was a lot more twisted up than the first one. It looked like it had been underwater a long time, and who knows how it got there? We never found the body of the plane, so it's just waiting for someone to come along and discover it! But I'm happy enough with our little find; it's the first wreck I've ever discovered, and something tells me I won't forget it anytime soon!

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Stephani Holzwarth
Stephani Holzwarth

Click here for video clips of towboarding.
Towboarding video clips

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