Monday, May 22, 2017

Arriving at Rarotonga

This morning on dawn watch, I left the lab to help set a sail and noticed a glowing light rise gently above the horizon, just off the starboard bow of the ship, in the northwest. I glanced at my watch, which read 04:15. The light was in the wrong direction and a bit early for sunrise, especially as we move into Southern Hemisphere autumn. It was land.

As the morning progressed, the lights and then silhouette of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, came into view. As we turned and sailed north to our port, Jonathan and Nick found a Lucifer squid in a net tow. We arrived in port, cleared customs, and were greeted with some new arrivals. Brian, straight off a red-eye from LAX is joining us (with his DNA lab-in-a-box) for the next few legs came aboard for introductions and a tour this morning. Soon after, we met Alice from Cook Islands Marine Services and Stella Marsters, our Cook Islands observer.

Each nation we pass through has the right to send an observer on board while we are in their waters and we are super excited to have Stella as our newest shipmate! She'll be joining us until we arrive at our next island stop, Palmerston, and we can't wait to sail with her! After our two nights in Rarotonga, it'll be back to sea with the lot of us.

Highlights from walking around shore today have included visits to grocery stores for postcards, chocolate, and ice cream, walks along the beach outside of town, pizza pit stops, and signs for Hinano beer, a throwback to our time in Tahiti. The Seamans is cleaned and polished and ready to welcome the public for an open house ship tomorrow afternoon. It's been a bit over a week since we last interacted with people off the ship and we're already throwing around "what if the aliens come while we're at sea" hypotheticals.

Plans for tomorrow are for a day packed with in-water data collection on the reefs! As our first inhabited island stop, it will make for a fascinating comparison with Maria, a relatively unvisited atoll. We've got snorkel gear ready to go, piles of temperature sensors, waterproof datasheets printed, and a small army of student-scientists ready to hit the waves and gaze intently at small areas for long periods of time.

The ship doesn't roll while in port and the lack of motion is just as disorienting as the introduction of it was when we first took to the seas. I constantly come close to falling over as I brace myself for the next swell. With watch schedules a bit lighter for the port call, we've found time for music and inter-watch mingling. It's clear from the high volume of postcards and letters being written that we miss our family and friends dearly. However, we have the opportunity and obligation to be part of the Bobby C. community for these five weeks and I know for my part it has been such a privilege so far to get to spend this time with everyone here.

The day before I left for sea, my mom (hi parents! I'm good, just have less hair!) wrote and asked me to greet the Southern Cross for her the first time I saw it. My first night out, with the glow of Tahiti constant on the horizon, I had to have it pointed out to me. Now that I know more stars, I follow Gacrux to Acrux (along the long axis of the Cross) to watch Corvus fly across the celestial sphere each night. In the antsy times between swim calls, I see a Manta ray in Scorpio.

The sun is sweet but the wind is sweeter,


-Marianne

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