Monday, May 23, 2011

My Hawaiian research cruise

I announced on this blog in January that I was going on a research cruise around the Hawaiian islands at the beginning of February. One of the perks of being an oceanography grad student is that we are required to spend some time working at sea. I promised I would share photos from my cruise...and then got distracted. On our 10-day cruise, I took about 1000 photos. I went kind of crazy. The task of sorting through them all to find the best ones to share seemed overwhelming. So I put it off. But now that my classes are over and it's summer, I've finally put them online and will share some of my favorites with you.

The story behind this cruise: A labmate and I applied for a student cruise to gather data for our own research projects, and we were lucky enough to be granted some ship time on the Kilo Moana. The best part was that we were able to merge our ship time with that of a few other research groups, giving us more time on the ship (10 days instead of 5 or 6), more sites to see, and a good amount of downtime while the other groups did their research.

The Kilo Moana is a great ship. A twin-hull, 186'-long research vessel, it's very stable. Granted, I was playing it safe and taking "less drowsy" Dramamine most of the cruise, but I never felt sick. The ship also has a reputation among the research fleet as having really great food. I have to say, I was impressed. Ten days of all-you-can-eat, already prepared, delicious free food is a grad student's dream.

The cruise was amazing. I had about three days of pure pleasure cruising. I spent my free time taking lots of photos (obviously), looking for whales (we saw a few, though I missed the dolphins playing in the bow wake at one point), enjoying the ship's outstanding food, watching DVDs from the impressive collection in their TV room, playing a lot of Dominion (I brought it along and taught about eight people to play) and a game called The Resistance (a bit like Mafia), and even taking a couple martial arts workshops (one of the ship's crew is also an instructor of a certain type of kung fu).

It wasn't all fun and games, though. The least fun part of the cruise was that when we were working, I had the midnight to noon shift. Ugh. Waking up at midnight without a real breakfast was especially rough. The first time I had that shift, off of the Big Island, I somehow got it right and slept for a good amount of time the afternoon and evening before (I woke up for dinner--I didn't want to miss a single meal!) so that I felt fine through the whole shift. But every other time it just didn't work, and it kind of sucked. On the bright side, I did get to see both sunrise (because of my shift) and sunset (because it was right after dinner) every day. When I was working, I wasn't working very hard, but I'd have about 5 minutes of activity every 20 minutes or so, so it wasn't like I ever had a good chunk of time to get something else done, or to take a nap.

Our cruise left from the harbor in Honolulu, and our first destination was the underwater canyons off of Kaneohe on the east shore of O'ahu. Our cruise then went south between O'ahu and Moloka'i, then up through the Alenuihaha channel between Maui and the Big Island, around the Big Island and up through the channel again, then to the north shore of Moloka'i, back to Kaneohe, and counterclockwise around O'ahu to return to the harbor. To the right is a very rough approximation of our route. Color changes from red (start of cruise) to orange (end) to distinguish between earlier and later paths.

I've divided my photos from the cruise into five groups. They will be posted from Monday to Friday this week, one each day.
For Science!
Big Island
Sunrise vs. Sunset

If you missed them but are interested, here are some of the tweets I made while on the ship, giving (almost) real-time reports of my thoughts. A large portion of them are about food.
So far OK for seasickness. "Less drowsy" Dramamine it is. But tomorrow we zigzag through the Alenuihaha--a very windy channel. We'll see.

The food is amazing! Dinner was shrimp scampi, fettuccine alfredo, a great salad (with raspberries), and chocolate-covered strawberries. Mm.

Was less of a scientist today and more of an artist. My labmates put wave, current, temp sensors out while I took photos of them. Fun times!

Slightly disillusioned with how long stuff takes. I was on the deck from 1-8:30ish, and we put out 2 moorings. A lot of hurry up and wait.

We saw a whale! It was far away, and mostly what I saw was its spouting. But it's a good season to see humpbacks, so I'm hoping for more.

I should get more free time in the next week. I have reading, there's a big TV room with lots of DVDs, and I packed Dominion :)

2 Feb:

Overheard a conversation on another deck "blah blah blah ice cream sandwiches blah blah..." I made a bee line to the mess hall. Amazing.

Rockin' and rollin', but still feeling OK. Alenuihaha (haha!) channel didn't turn out so bad (though I don't want to speak too soon).

The sensor we just launched has an iridium beacon. I feel like I'm in Mass Effect.

4 Feb:

So much for my 3-day pleasure cruise. Midnight to noon shift tonight. Science is hard work! (Though much of the 12 hrs will be waiting...)

But on the bright side, we may be able to see lava from the boat tonight. Sweet.

Also: Our ship shoots a serious laser. We have to turn it off if an airplane flies by. Yeah we're pretty cool. I'll have pics to share soon.
Baked Alaska
5 Feb:

Midnight to noon shift. Basically pretending I'm on Buenos Aires time. Not very happy about it, but we can see lava glowing in the distance.

Midnight lava was cool but too far away for good pics. Long exposure just blurred everything because of the ship's movement.

Sunrise was beautiful, though. The coast of the island is gorgeous and unique: gentle green slopes splashed with the black of cooled lava.

7 Feb:

Holy frak, we have the most gorgeous view right now. Highest sea cliffs in the world on Molokai. Whales. Sunrise was beautiful.

9 Feb:


Sebastian Anthony said...

Boy, that's a lot of food-related tweets... :P

One of my favoritest views ever was of the rising dawn, from a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean -- when I was in the Faroe Islands, a couple of years ago. Words can't really describe the colours (I still tear when I recall the memory). Quite spectacular.

Eleni said...

I remember your Faroe Islands trip. There was one photo with a "pink grapefruit" sunrise. May not be the one you're talking about (it didn't look like the middle of the ocean), but it was beautiful.

Of my sunrise/sunset photos, I think the sunset that gave the photos of both "Round 2" (very pink) and "Round 5" (glowing orange river in the clouds) had the best colors. But the clouds in the sunrise that gave the photos in both Rounds 3 and 5 were my favorites.

Sebastian Anthony said...

Yeah -- I wasn't ACTUALLY in the middle of the ocean. But the Faroes are in the middle of the Atlantic... if you get my drift... :)

(Yes, the pink grapefruit ones -- there's a few. I only ever uploaded 2, I think.)

Of yours, the one with the title "Valley between the cliffs at sunset" is probably my favorite -- but both with the little mound island are lovely, too :)

Eleni said...

Right, right, gotcha.

Thanks :) Moloka'i was stunning. Maybe you'll make it out here some day and photograph it for yourself.

Sebastian Anthony said...

Yes, I am thinking the exact same thing :P

(Currently looking for a coastal house on the east or west coast that I can rent, incidentally. Hawaii's a bit too far away, alas.)

Eleni said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a cousin in London who has invited me out's so far away. Some day.

Any places in particular on each coast that you're looking?