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Ship Logs

D-Day minus one.
by Carlos Eyles

The Rapture at dock in Honolulu

We depart for the Northwestern Hawaiian islands tomorrow at noon the eighth of September. We, the members of the scientific, education and documentation teams are stowing our gear this Friday morning. The one hundred and fifty foot vessel, Rapture rests at the dock on Sand Island at the Coast Guard Station on the island of O‘ahu in the heart of Honolulu. Working my way up the gangway past sweaty men loading machinery I cannot identify, I dodge around heavy hawsers on deck, outboard motors some so fresh they have never felt the wound of salt, others seemingly in disrepair with covers off exposing their maladies. Mechanics working at an unhurried pace in the way of their trade. We will be gone a month and all must be in working order. Boxes and buoys strewn about the deck as well, what looks like a new compressor awaits loading on the dock. It is a ship preparing to depart.

I share a room with two others, Andy Collins, who heads the education team and Jim Watt the chief photographer whom I've known for twenty five years and is a veteran of expeditions such as this, "but never," he says, " one of such magnitude." Our quarters are not exactly roomy, though if pressed could bed nine souls. Already it is cramped with equipment, primarily Jim's underwater photography gear, filling every corner, piled high on unused bunks and in general eating up floor space. For now our dive gear must live in these quarters along with tools of our respective trades, reducing it down to what has become a rabbit hole.

Down on the lower deck of this three deck vessel is the main salon/mess hall where lie 14 long tables with booth like benches. Already electronic equipment is being set up and wires spider web the floor Here is where the bulk of the topside work will be done, and will be the nerve center of the entire operation. The aft wall is honeycombed with scuba tanks that await their respective Decompression chamber.scientists, archeologists, fish counters, and educators. Forward is a brand new decompression chamber, its parts still sitting awaiting assembling. It is claustrophobically small, I would not wish to more than a few minutes sealed in its chamber. Starboard forward stand O2 bottles and a foose ball game. Port forward is a kind of bar which on this dry ship seems strangely out of place, perhaps to compliment the foose ball game which stands awkwardly next to the chamber I wonder if it will still be here when we depart. (It is)

Wandering the boat I find a covey of surfboards and skateboards wedged above a stair well. Forward port in a dead quiet stateroom are some sixty-five white buckets sealed with names like Nihoa, Pearl and Hermes, Necker, French Frigate Shoals, Laysan, and Lisianski written on their lids. These are the islands whose terrain we will be investigating and inside the buckets are the clothes, all decontaminated, that we will be wearing.

All this and of course much, much more for the express purpose of gathering data on the reef systems and terrestrial mysteries that lie within these incredibly wild and remote islands. Then to make this data available to the public and as Robert Smith, who, among others, largely made this expedition possible said, "We will bring the place to the people rather than the people to the place." And so we will. There is a sense of value here, of importance, that what we will provide in terms of data will determine the future of these precious waters. Each of us from every discipline holds a measure of responsibility that is not only valuable in its own right, but in a way, sacred insofar as this is history in the making. History for the Hawaiian culture, for science, and for the generations of children who will have a natural world to connect to if they so desire.

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Carlols Eyles, contract writer.
Carlos Eyles


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