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Ship Logs

Journey's End
Nihoa Island
Written by Carlos Eyles
Underwater Photography by Jim Watt
October 6, 2002

We blew into Nihoa like a loose kite on a Nor'easter. Rolling on a frontal system of ten foot seas, (predicted by the Captain to reach eighteen feet later this evening) and twenty knot winds. During last night's dinner the seas fell as did the wind and we were all lulled into a false sense of security, to the degree that the cooks broke out their stash of ice cream given as a gift back at Midway. Just about the time the sugar hit us, so did the seas, the combination ended any hope for a restful night. Personally, I got a solid two hours before my back gave out and I waited out the dawn in somnolent discomfort.

Nihoa Island.At 6:45am, with Nihoa in sight, its misty countenance fronting the rising sun, the Hawaiians gave chant on the bow. Nihoa in that moment looked for all the world to be precisely what it is; a portal back into time. We, all of us on board the Rapture, since we first arrived at Nihoa twenty-nine days ago have been traveling back into time, and today we voyage back into the 21st century. It has been quite a journey. We have seen all of the Hawaiian Islands as they once existed hundreds of years ago, and thousands of years before that. We have seen the grand symbols of these islands in their guardians, the great ulua. Everywhere we dove there was the ulua. They would stream in by the score, curious, bold and big, some reaching a hundred pounds. Fearless, they would bolt right up and challenge us, actually bumping into the divers from time to time. Ever curious they would follow divers around like ill-mannered dogs for the entire dive, swooping in, and their scarred faces eyeing us with disrespect. Their muscled shapes swollen with the power and nobility of kings. The life energy of the natural world is found in the presence of the very largest of the species that occupy that domain. They have the countenance of power. To date they know no enemy in these waters, they are not tricked into the fishing line, or ambushed by monofilament nets. They exist as they have always existed, and were designed to Ulua at French Frigate Shoals.exist. As are the sharks, the other apex predator and guardian of these perfect and pristine reefs. The sharks were not as bold or as large as we expected, but they were here in numbers, Maro Reef let loose a hundred sharks on one dive. They were allways about, but more on the peripheries, as the ulua ran the show. Once, when thirty big ulua had taken residence off our stern at Pearl and Hermes, a six foot Galapagos drifted in for some fish goodies we were dropping over the swim step and was summarily chased away, never to return. The sharks however were a presence and accompanied us on nearly every dive, their streamlined shapes always in the misty background, doing their job, patrolling for the weak and infirm. We are only as noble as the creatures with which we share space on the planet. To destroy those creatures will only accelerate our own demise. Perhaps not in the physical sense, though that is more than just a possibility, but certainly in the spiritual sense.

Many Galapagos Sharks.Within any decent myth the seeker of truth, of beauty, of mystical knowledge, or of a treasure, must travel a great distance at great peril and eventually in reaching the entrance to nirvana must engage the guardians. They must then pass through these guardians to reach the object of their search. In this case the ulua and the sharks were such. On the other side of their guardianship lay the reefs, the source of breath-taking beauty, of health, of balance and harmony. Many of these coral gardens were seen by man for the first time, and they embraced the most colorful and exotic fish imaginable. Species found nowhere else on earth. The dance of the tropical fish was unending, and filled with a certain joy that only such fish can express when left undisturbed. The coral gardens themselves were edifices of nature that were stunning in their diversity and perfection. We had stepped back into time, into clear water, unpolluted, and untainted by man's soiled hands. Those gardens cleansed us of our civilization and we were renewed in its healing waters. We have been to a healing place and seen its work, and now we must begin to heal the deep wounds of the planet, and in the doing continue to heal ourselves. We were changed forever, as you might expect to be. Further committed to keep this treasured place intact and unsullied so that generations to come might know such a home exists if one is moved enough to make the journey. Yet there remains the realization that we are running out of time and opportunity to nurture and hold dear what little is left of the legacy that was bequeathed to us; the heart and soul of the planet; the natural world.

Garnder Pinnacles at sunset.Such a place changes us as individuals as it changes us as a group. The place fills us with that which we cannot fill ourselves. Perhaps even more rewarding than the magic that was bestowed upon us was the deep sense of family that developed here. The coming together of the tribe of sea people, whose single thread of connection was their deep and abiding passion for the sea. I made friends in these thirty days that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Much of the work for these field researchers and educators, and scientists is isolated, lonely work, for a time we all came together in a single mission to apply our skills to sustain these reef systems and keep intact their balance and beauty. Their deep commitment to that end is an inspiration to me, and furthers the incentive to protect these reefs and the predators that guard them. Only a healthy mind can perceive a healthy environment, and only a healthy environment can produce a healthy mind. To witness these islands is to hold dear one's own place in the scheme of things, and attempt to re-string the connective spirit that binds us all to our home the planet earth.

NOWRAMP 2002 Group.

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