A Northwest Heading
Stephani Holzwarth, Day 1, Honolulu Port, 13 Sept. 2004.
This reminds me of so many other cruises- sleepily tossing my sea-bag onto the backseat of my jeep early just as the sun is coming up. Most of the city is still asleep and the streets are quiet. Somehow I manage to lose enough time that I am sweating at the traffic lights trying to get to the ship on time. Seven am, we are all on board, or in the vicinity anyway, except for one stray person who is running late. The captain is tense, the chief scientist paces, and it is all for naught, because she arrives, and then the freezer is down. We sit at the dock until almost 3 pm. All of the people who gave us leis and waited at the dock to wave goodbye are long gone. Finally, all is in order, and we cast off our lines.
Once we are out of Honolulu Harbor the ship launches two small boats. I am in one of them. We travel half a mile east into the mouth of a huge rainbow that formed in the rain squall. "Who wants to go in?" Jim Bostick, our Dive Supervisor, asks. Casey and I roll in and he practices climbing out. Then I play dead- floating face down in the water, "unconscious". They haul me in, give me oxygen, and speed back to the ship. The ship raises the whole boat on the davit which puts us right across from the hyperbaric chamber, where I would be "pressed" if I had indeed risen to the surface unconscious. This might or might not alleviate what would be a suspected case of Air Gas Embolism (AGE), which can be fatal. It is caused by a panicked diver ascending too rapidly and holding their breath, which traps the expanding air inside their lungs. The key is to never panic underwater. We are all well-trained and experienced divers, so the risk is low, but it is essential to be prepared for emergencies.
The ship steams northwest, leaving Oahu behind. We are on a northwest heading, and will pass Kauai and Ni'ihau later tonight. After that there is nothing but open ocean until we reach the more ancient part of the Hawaiian chain, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
We eat dinner early. After tending to various tasks, most of us go to bed. At 9:30pm I am the last to slip into my bunk and pull shut the sliding curtains. It is delicious to read for half an hour and then weariness from the frenetic cruise preps overtakes me. The ship rocks back and forth, gently moving forward through the light sea. It is a familiar, comfortable sensation. I fall asleep and dream of banquets and stairwells and dancing, strangely enough.