Thursday, December 10, 2015


Ah, the life of the traveling scientist. What a crazy life it is.

A couple months ago, my dear friend, Stefanie, announced to me that she had been accepted to present her research at a conference in San Francisco. Stefanie lives in the Netherlands, so the trip to San Francisco was already a long one, crossing an ocean and a whole continent. Since she was already flying halfway around the world for the conference, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity and hop across the Pacific to see Hawaii while she was at it. (Yes, this is how we crazy people think.) She started looking into plane tickets and asked if I wanted to meet up while she was on my side of the world.

Um, yes.

Stefanie and I on Waikiki Beach.
I spent the last few days in Honolulu with Stefanie, and for the most part, we were proper tourists. We swam in the salty Pacific and dried out on the beach. We saw the Hawaii state capitol building, Iolani Palace, and Chinatown. We toured Pearl Harbor on the anniversary of its bombardment, then watched the annual Pearl Harbor Day parade through downtown Honolulu.

I did my best to be a traveler instead of a tourist by connecting with people who actually live in Honolulu. I know quite a few from past expeditions, so Stefanie and I spent an evening with UH Manoa affiliates I met on the Abyssline cruise earlier this year. It was really nice to catch up with these friends and hear what they've been doing since the cruise.

Ok, here's where the story takes a turn into real crazy-traveling-scientist territory. Before I left for Oahu, I of course had to tell my supervisor in Oregon that I would be gone for a few days. When I said I would be in Hawaii, he had an announcement of his own. Apparently, there's a pretty good archive of ROV and submersible videos from various dives in Hawaiian waters housed at UH Manoa. Some of the videos feature what can only be described as volcanic dropstones - stones that were blown off of volcanoes and landed on the deep seafloor. Imagine that - dropstones in the tropics!

View of the Pacific, facing south from Oahu. When I look at
the ocean surface now, all I can see are the various hard
substrata on the seafloor and the organisms that inhabit them. 
Craig put me in contact with the professor in charge of the archive and arranged for us to meet while I was in Honolulu. The professor was extremely helpful. He showed me his archive, held on everything from VHS and cassette tapes to multi-terabyte hard drives. He described for me what kinds of hard-bottom structures showed up in the videos, along with example photos of their fauna and an exact map of where they are. It turns out there's actually a lot more than stones out there - giant carbonate blocks, sunken coral reef terraces, shipwrecks, cars, and various junk discarded by the military - all in deep water just south of Oahu.

The archive is an excellent resource, but it might be a while before I have the chance to formulate a scientific question, mine the data that I need, and turn it into a project. Still, I'm grateful for the helpful professor, the available video, and the beauty of the island I got to experience.


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