Mission Blog: August 8 & 9, 2009 Setting Sail and Getting Wet
By Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeologist
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
On March 8, 2009 a unique team of 17 scientists set sail from Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii in the NOAA vessel Hi'ialakai for an expedition to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM).
Kelly Gleason, Kyle Ryan and Tim Crumley recover the Hi'ialakai's ROV after a site reconnaissance mission for tomorrow's technical dive. (Photo: Ray Boland) Click on thumbnails for a larger image.
The team includes archaeologists, ecologists, photographers, UNESCO representatives among others who all plan to spend the next 30 days conducting research in these remote atolls. While the blog entries for the next several weeks will reflect the thoughts, discoveries and experiences of the scientists on board the ship, an expedition can't get
Brian Bowen gets ready to grab the hook as HI-2 is recovered by the Hi'ialakai. (Photo: Ray Boland)
started without all of the necessary gear prep, drills and orientation. The last two days on the ship have been a whirlwind of preparation before our arrival at Nihoa this afternoon. Both Saturday and part of today included safety drills, dive gear checkout, and familiarization with the small boats that we will conduct daily dive and shore based operations out of. Even for those of us who have spent time on the Hi'ialakai before, these drills are an important way that we make sure we stay safe and proficient while working in a really remote and sometimes dangerous place. All of the scientists on board, regardless of their mission on this expedition must participate in the drills and briefings.
One of the ways that I am participating in this cruise is to participate in the technical dive operations. Technical diving (at depths of 200-250 feet using mixed gases) will facilitate a mission to survey for invasive algae species and deep reef surveys for fish and coral.
Tech dive team leader Ray Boland sets up his dive gear for technical dive operations at Nihoa. (Photo: Greg McFall)
While prior technical diving activities have taken place in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, this is the first technical dive expedition to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on the Hi'ialakai. We are lucky to have such a great platform for this type of diving. In addition to the experience of the crew, there is a dive chamber on board, which adds a critical element of safety. Before our first dive as a tech team tomorrow, we spent the day assembling and preparing our gear and the proper breathing gases. To make sure the dives run as efficiently as possible, we are conducting ROV operations in the evening to ground truth (confirm the bottom type) our potential dive sites. This will help make sure that we perform our surveys in the habitat we are looking for. At depths of 200 feet and above, it is important that we find the right spot to dive before we waste precious time and gas at a site that won't yield the information that we are looking for.
Surfacing after a dive a Nihoa. (Photo: Greg McFall)
All operations were a success today, a good sign for the days ahead. After a busy two days getting ready to start our work, the team is ready for a full day of operations at Nihoa tomorrow morning.