4 June 2013 – Johnston Atoll Final Day and Transit Day

Centropyge fisheri

Centropyge fisheri

Josh Copus spreading rotenone

Josh Copus spreading rotenone at 200′

Picking through the rotenone

Picking through the rotenone, looking for ichthyological treasures

We are finished with our first full transit day, having left Johnston Atoll a day and a half early due to an injury to a crew member. He is expected to make a full recovery, but understandably the Captain and doc want to get him to a tertiary care specialist as soon as possible. We were actually underwater when the recall notice came over the radio, and the surface support crew initiated the diver recall system. There are several audible methods to communicate a recall to a dive team, the first is repetitive revving of the small boat’s engine. The second is a klaxon style alarm that was very effective. We were thick into searching for and bagging the tiny fish stunned or killed by the rotenone when the recall sounded, and we had to scramble to pack up all of our spears, bags, nets etc. and send them to the surface. We still owed about 60 minutes of decompression, which we did, wondering what the recall was about, and hoping that a serious injury wasn’t the cause.

The airstrip at Johnston is considered closed now, although rescue medevac flights have been made, once the birds are cleared and any rocks or debris removed. Thankfully, the injury wasn’t serious enough to warrant a medevac flight, and since we were so close to the end of the expedition anyway, the decision was made to begin our 96 hour journey home. The seas did come up as predicted, which is making for a rocky ride for some of the scientists; we are getting our core isometric workouts just trying to sit still or walk around the ship.

P. hawaiiensis - male

Male Pseudanthias hawaiiensis

This afternoon, Marine Archeologist Dr. Kelly Gleason presented to the crew an excellent update on a wreck found at French Frigate Shoals in 2008, and identified in 2011 as the Nantucket whaler the Two Brothers. Many of the Hi’ialakai crew and some of the science team onboard today participated in finding, documenting and recovering a few artifacts from this historic wreck. I have attached a couple links for more information, but probably most interesting, is the ill-fated Captain George Pollard of the Two Brothers, who also commanded the Essex, famous for having been stove in by a whale and sunk near the Marquesas, inspiring the novel Moby Dick. The survivors shied away from the possibly cannibalistic Marquesans, and ran for Chile, which they reached after almost three months, and survived ironically through cannibalizing their own shipmates. He returned to Nantucket, and was back out to sea within a month, commanding the Two Brothers. Reports describe him as catatonic when the new ship went up on the reef at French Frigate Shoals in February of 1823, undoubtedly stunned at the prospect of repeating his horrific ordeal. Thankfully, all hands were saved by the whaling ship Martha, tucked in the lee of La Peruse pinnacle, which had been travelling with the Two Brothers from Nantucket to the newly discovered Japan whaling grounds. http://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/maritime/twobrothers.html

No pelagic birds to film today; the conditions would be extremely difficult even if there were, given the rise and fall as the ship meets the northeast swells. Crew and scientist have disappeared into bunks and couches to watch movies (including a showing of DinoFish ;-), sleep, do a little work here and there, and of course eat. The gym does get used, although I had to hold on for most of a treadmill run, which alternated between a hill workout and a downhill sprint with each mighty roll of the ship

At this pace, we may get to Pearl Harbor by Thursday night or Friday morning, which may allow for one day of dive operations on Oahu, which would be a treat. You can track the ship here: http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/shiptracker.html

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