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2010 Papahanaumokuakea explorations
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Mission Blog: May 12, 2009

By Aulani Hall, Scientific Support

Launching small boat.

Small Boat Kaku crew launch to Tern Island. (Photo: NOAA NMSP)

There was a reflection of green in the clouds directly above the water as we neared Tern Island, and lively nesting seabirds.

As the Administrative/Fiscal Assistant with NOAA Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument since June 2007, I found myself starting my day waking up on the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai in transit to French Frigate Shoals. From assisting the monument staff to providing scientific support on a 25-day research expedition to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; I felt so privileged and humbled to actually go into the place I help to manage.

My first launch off the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai was to Tern Island, in small boat R/V Kaku operated by coxswain Sarah A. T. Harris. I was accompanied by biologists Megan Donahue, and Scott Godwin. After departing from the Hi`ialakai, Donahue, and I smiled in absolute joy to have finally gotten a taste of monument waters for the very first time.

Launching small boat.

Aulani Hall returns from Trig Island. (Photo: NOAA NMSP)

While near the southwestern portion of Tern Island, biologists Donahue and Godwin collected samples of Balanus and other barnacle species, worms, and snails. I snorkeled and spotted a Hawaiian Monk Seal and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. After both biologists gathered their samples and gathered their GPS points of the area surveyed, we headed for Trig Island. Godwin spotted a gray reef shark, while alongside Donahue and I also saw large colonies of coral.

Launching small boat.

Small Boat Kaku crew prepare for departure from NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai. (Photo: NOAA NMSP)

My typical day normally starts behind a desk, but today, I found myself launching to Tern Island in a small boat off the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai, snorkeling in monument waters, and spotting a Hawaiian Monk Seal for the very first time. The experience was awe-inspiring, childlike, and sacred. Entering Monument waters was an overwhelming feeling of enthusiasm that I cannot put into words.

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