For newcomers, I’m writing from the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette, on a mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to remove marine debris from the shallow-water habitats and shorelines of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. We’ve been pulled away from that mission to evacuate seven souls from a low island that’s within the tropical storm watch area.
All the personnel from Laysan Island are now on board. They’re probably a little freaked out at being swooped in upon and having their lifestyles and season’s work disrupted. These folks live in tents (NOAA) and Quonset huts (FWS), with few first-world amenities. They’re probably happy to have left the flies behind (although a few flew out to greet the ship while the small boats were picking up the scientists and their gear) and get the delicious food we have served to us every four hours or so, but the comparatively cramped quarters on the ship are a big change from living mostly outdoors for months on end.
The pickup was a surgical strike; four small boats deployed with minimal personnel or equipment, each made one quick trip to Laysan, and all personnel and equipment were on board and stowed (the equipment, not so much the personnel) in the space of about 90 minutes. If anyone was expecting drama, she was disappointed. Before 5pm we were back en route to where we’d come from.
An announcement just came over the ship’s PA system advising all hands to secure personal equipment in anticipation of high seas overnight. Is it wrong to be kind of excited? We’ll be well out of the cone of hurricane watch but will still be within tropical storm watch territory. It’s kind of fun to hang on when walking down the passageways, get pitched around in your bunk, see how well you’ve secured everything, listen for the door slams of the unwary, and even attempt to run on the treadmill (up a steep hill for a couple paces followed by a steep downhill; repeat). My roomie Sarah and I still need to secure the infant fish and the TV, which shows the fantail, the ship’s instruments, three channels of movies being played down in the movie room, and Fox News and is, not surprisingly, seldom on anyway. Bet you wish you were here!