By Sandy Webb, Saturday, August 13, 2005
We were all tired last night at 11pm … having been so excited for so long and bouncing lesson ideas off each other for several hours, I think we were finally winding down. Still many of us could not go to sleep without heading out to look at the stars and the reflection of the half-moon on the water – I thought I would be alone on the deck, but others were there who felt the pull of the ocean and the sky.
We were passing Kauai - our last look at civilization when a meteorite streaked overhead - the last of the Perseid meteor shower. After one last burst of excitement we were off to our beds to be rocked to sleep by the ocean swells.
This morning the energy was back and like kids, we all ran out to the upper deck to catch our first sight of Nihoa. As we looked around I finally realized how remote these islands are and yet, there were the birds fishing on the surface of the ocean just as we had seen off the coast of Kauai. Angela, one of the scientists on board, let us know that these were sooty terns – a species that we don't see on the main Hawaiian Islands. The terns flashed their white undersides and disappeared as their dark top sides were facing us. These birds are small, yet fearlessly and expertly skimmed the water catching their morning meal. I found my self thinking of how the sight of these birds was assuredly a welcome sight to Hawaiian voyagers of the past and how much skill they must have had to find tiny Nihoa Island in the middle of the Pacific.
Our NOAA ship has all the technology we need to voyage here and this morning, "Drew," the ship survey technician, demonstrated the use of a device called the CTD sensor. An amazingly efficient probe that when lowered into the see, collects data on conductivity (salinity), temperature, and density. As soon as the probe was lowered into the sea, data began streaming back to the indoor dry lab computer and we all gathered around in amazement. Drew also shared that a variety of probes and water sampling devices are a regular part of all NOAA voyages and a vital data collection practice that is used by fisheries and those who manage the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. I'm excited that I purchased water quality probes for my students to use back home- I can see how efficient they are and how much they will increase the authenticity of the science investigations that my students participate in. I hope my enthusiasm and the use of technology will spark more of my students to enjoy learning about water in their backyard!