Day 3- Transit to Moku Manamana
Today we reach Moku Manamana. Or, Necker Island. The sun has risen but the seas are still dark. I just walked outside and deck is wet; there is rain to the southeast, behind us. We’ll drop off a small crew to walk where they can, doing land surveys for monk seals. We’ll pick them back up in the late afternoon and then head to French Frigate Shoals.
According to my natural history book, Moku Manamana means “branching, or pinnacled islands” in Hawaiian. It is what remains of an island once the size of O’ahu. There are thirty-three religious sites on the island, with stone images reminiscent of sculptures from other parts of Polynesia. Moku Manumanu seems to be an archaeological link to other parts of the Pacific, presenting evidence of a common cultural ancestor.
In order to work in the monument (Papahānaumokuākea) one has to attend a cultural briefing. We were visited by someone from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs when we were still on land. Most folks in the room had already been up to the monument, so he was most interested in talking story. Hearing what others’ experiences had been. He was the most reverent about Moku Manamana though, and envied our chance to visit.
We are still an hour away and Moku Manamana is a bit more than a speck on the horizon. I’ll be out on the bow soon though, with my camera.
. . .
I’m used to sailing on cetacean surveys, which is a whole different sort of game. On a cetacean survey we’re typically following line transects and the science party is on a rotating schedule of standing on the flying bridge and using high-power (30x) binoculars to scan for cetaceans (i.e. big eyes). There are also usually small boat operations to assist in photo id and collecting biopsy samples (and sometimes tagging). The wet lab is used to process biopsy samples and the dry lab is full of computers and camera equipment.
Alternatively, this monk seal drop-off cruise is mainly a transfer of people and gear. All of the atolls exist within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and are under quarantine restriction. All clothing worn on these islands must be either new, or previously worn only on that island. Everyone going onto quarantined islands has their designated clothes packed in big Ziploc bags, in a largish bucket, in the walk-in freezer. All clothing going onto the islands must be frozen to kill whatever might lurk there. Also because of quarantine, buckets or other hard sided containers are the storage items of choice.
And so the dry lab and the wet lab are full of buckets. The 02 deck (two levels above the main deck) has pallets and pallets of water. These folks will be on island for 2-3 months depending on timing of drop-off and pick-up. And there are at least 7 boats in various states of suspension on the back deck.