Saturday, June 2, 2007


May 31, 2007. Aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans -- There is nothing more luxurious than a clean, dry shirt--something absent from my life this past week. We have finally left the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, which makes Palmyra such a damp place, allowing us to finally dry our clothes. I have never been to a place so wet, so tropical, so beautiful, with scuttling hermit crabs, scurrying rats, and miraculous reefs--a technicolor painting of the underwater world beyond the scope of imagination.

Perhaps many places used to look like Palmyra before human interaction, with numerous sea turtles, inquisitive black-tipped sharks, and graceful manta rays, several of which Barb Block tagged. Speaking of sharks, I tracked a black tip for six hours. The constant ping of the satellite tag reminded me of songs, playing in my head, a reminiscence of civilization that I left at home, under my bed. I asked about the diet of the black tips, and learned that in addition to reef fish, these sharks eat fallen booby chicks and rats! Supposedly being eaten by a shark is a 'good way to go' for a fallen chick, since the alternate fate would entail coconut crabs picking out their eyes. It's a tough life for a fallen booby chick.

Along with the damp weather, we bid adieu to Rob Dunbar, who is staying on Palmyra for coral research. Now Barb is the mother of us all, the queen bee of our Pacific colony. I should mention that the ship itself feels like home. Each day, returning from a scientific mission or a shore expedition, we receive comfort by grabbing a snack in the saloon before curling into our bunks, no matter how stifling, and regardless of the number of damp clothing articles we are trying to dry. We are truly a shipboard family, about to begin our homeward journey, preparing to grasp every last moment as we again traverse the vast Pacific. - Johnny Bartz, Stanford@SEA student

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