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expeditions/September/October 2007/Embracing pathways
Pathways to the Sea
by Yumi Yasutake
here to see where the Hi'ialakai is now.
here to see current data from the ship.
As the ship sways gently through the September trade wind
swells, a feeling of sedation can overtake one who is not
actively working on a task. But it’s not all
fun in the sun on research cruises to Papahānaumokuākea Marine
National Monument, not for the crew of the vessel Hi`ialakai
anyway. While en-route to the monument for the 2007
annual marine survey trip I was fortunate enough to chat
with Navigation Officer James Falkner while on the ships
bridge. It’s the top floor of the vessel, a room
filled with an array of complex navigation and communication
equipment, all displaying some type of digital output of
the surrounding environmental conditions. Because
of its location on the ship, approximately 40-45 feet above
the ocean’s surface, one needs to adjust quite dramatically,
standing at severe angles in order to compensate for the
intensified pitch and roll of the ship.
Hi'ialakai bridge. Credit: Yumi Yasutake
(Embracing pathways to the sea) is a 224 foot NOAA research
vessel that calls Pearl Harbor her home port. It spends
approximately 240 days per year at sea, transporting scientists
to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for a variety of research
and survey projects, all used to gain a better understanding
on how to best manage the largest fully protected marine
conservation area in the world.
need to get baseline data so we know what is changing, how
and be able to make management decisions on information collected
on these research cruises” says chief scientist Elizabeth Keenan.
like many other large research vessels, has quite a colorful
past. Originally a United States Navy ship, christened in 1984 as a submarine
hunter, she was transferred
to the U.S. Coast Guard in the late 1990’s, then taken
over by NOAA and refit for scientific operations approximately
5 years ago. Complete with satellite internet access, two
jet-water propelled boats, two safe boats, two zodiacs, one
fast rescue boat, one crane, two davits (a double armed crane
used for deploying the jet boats),
a medical officer, a one room infirmary, and even a decompression
chamber for decompression
related injuries for Scuba divers, the ship is a comfortable
home away from home.
HI-1 jetboat being launched. Credit: Yumi Yasutake.
Decompression chamber. Credit: Yumi Yasutake.
Hi`ialakai is also equipped with
a wet lab for the messy onboard scientific work, and a dry
lab which comfortably seats a dozen people and laptops for
compiling and sorting through the collected field data. If
you are not watching a movie in the front mess hall (dinning
area), the social hotspot in the evening is the ship's store. Here
you can buy anything from candy, to batteries, and even Hi`ialakai
the ships many amenities, it takes a crew of 20 hardworking,
dedicated individuals to keep life at sea feeling like a
warm cohesive community of friends.
Ship's store. Credit: Yumi Yasutake.
trips to and from the Monument each year, special precautions
are taken to ensure non-native species are not transported from the Main Hawaiian
boats on deck are rinsed with fresh water after a two-day
dry out, and filter screens are cleaned and checked for debris.
Screen check on the jetboat. Credit: Yumi Yasutake.
flushes are then conducted for five minutes each, cleaning
out any water that was in the engine's coolant system while running in Pearl
water is just as threatening to planktonic marine life as
cleaning agents, killing the microscopic organisms suited only for life in the
ocean. Special oil
absorbent pads are then are placed in the engine compartments
of inboard engines, helping to prevent any petroleum products from leaking into
the surrounding waters.
Using absorbent oil pads on the jetboat. Credit:
that are in active use are checked daily for oil and fuel
leaks, then flushed with fresh water between remote dive
sites. Hi`ialakai herself is inspected
at port before departure for any creatures hoping to catch
a ride elsewhere. Hull
inspections are performed by a specially trained contractor
who gives the vessel clearance to make way into the Monument. Any
attached invertebrates such as barnacles and tube worms,
are systematically detected and scraped off. In
addition to the Hi`ialakai’s gear, all dive gear brought
on board by the scientists is soaked in an antimicrobial
disinfectant, and then flushed with fresh water to once again
remove any microbes that may be hitchhiking from the previous
rigorous protocol of the gear helps to minimize the scientific
impact on the Monument, and prevent the unintentional spread
of alien organisms.
Disinfecting dive gear. Credit:
here for maps of the region