May 27, 2007. Palmyra Atoll. We have come to our final stop before returning to Honolulu: Palmyra Atoll. It is evident from the modernity of the facilities that we are again in a U.S. territory, the rural Kiribati behind us. A reporter from Stanford came to interview students about our experiences and projects, but words cannot fully record our journeys, neither can his sophisticated video camera. A person would have to see that deep blue ocean, wave to smiling people of Kiribati, see their faces as they smiled back, the children playing frisbee with us on the beach, learn from their simple lives that keep cohesion and happiness, reflect against the ocean waves extending into oblivion. These things, times, places that a camera cannot capture, will live in our minds forever.
I have a slight fisherman's tale to tell, if I may boast just this once. I was doing an hourly bird observation, and the fishing rod began to scream behind me, the monstrous fish almost fully spooling the line as it dove into the depths. It was an epic 45-minute battle to land the fish, involving Tuna-Queen Barb, Adam the scientist, Captain Phil, and myself, taking two gaffs to raise the 90-pound yellowfin tuna to deck, which Barb quickly dissected with relish, coercing me to take a bite of the still beating heart. Dolphins at the bow interrupted us, splashing next to our ship, accompanying the most beautiful sunset -- a perfect end to a magnificent evening.
Our entrance into the Palmyra lagoon was utterly spectacular as boobies and other birds accompanied our ship. The howling wind from a passing squall died, and soon the buzz, the drone, the shriek of thousands of nesting terns became audible as we saw the dark cloud rising into the sky and swooping down into the jungle, more birds than you have ever seen, their soothing noise continuing well into the night, all I need to lull me to sleep in tropical paradise. - Johnny Bartz, S@S student