Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Excursions on Palmyra

            While I’m jealous I didn’t get to be the one to yell “Land Ho,” I’m happy to be the one to share with you all about our first landfall and first excursions away from the ship.
            Last night, as we sat anchored in front of Cooper Island, bungalows and satellite dish in view, the antsy-ness was palpable. Walter wanted to run, Soda wanted to swim, and many others wanted their Wifi connection. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to a rainbow over Penguin Spit, a popular project and snorkel site, shining a good omen for the day. And a good day it was.
            For those studying island-based projects, progress was made. Zack, Laura, and Erin laid six coral transects, Jason secured his hydrophone and is currently recording acoustic soundscapes of the reef, and John saw eleven manta in one day – the number of rays he hoped to see for the entirety of his project. On the ship, Frido processed blood, Anja caught up on pteropod swirls, and others continued to stand watch to ensure safety and security of the vessel. As for me and a few others, ahead on project work, taking a break from project work, or pretending we didn’t have project work at all – we went ashore. 
            Being ashore was surreal. I took a dip in the swimming hole, admired crab on North Beach, and after much inner conflict about whether or not I wanted to stay off the grid (because really, it’s only been eleven days), I indulged myself in a few minutes of email catch up. First of all, the swimming hole is the image of paradise. The weather is warm, the water is clear, and palm trees are rampant. Then, there was North Beach – a place where every pretty seashell was inhabited by crab, the sand lively with crustacean traffic.
However, even a paradise in the middle of nowhere still feels the long reaching fingers of civilization thousands of miles away. Washed ashore, we found plastic bottles – the kind I’m sure many of us have enjoyed a cold drink from on a hot summer day or served soda out of at birthday parties and barbecues. Thankfully though, the disruption in landscape was minimal. We only found and properly stowed six or so bottles, letting the sand caress our toes all the while.
           Not many people get to experience the beauty of Palmyra Atoll, but I hope that my blog and those written by others in the following days adequately share with you the splendor surrounding us as well as the importance of Palmyra’s presence. Once a naval base during World War II, transformed into a wildlife refuge since, Palmyra may be the closest example of a pristine coral reef ecosystem left on the planet. I’m excited to be here. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will snorkel for the first time and I will see my first coral reef. Beacons of climate change, I’m excited to finally see the subject matter I’ve learned about in many a lecture. Wish me luck.

Penguin Spit awaits,
-Christina Morrisett

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