Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Change of Plans

16 41N x 169 28W Having finished most of what we set out to accomplish at Johnston Atoll, we have decided to begin the transit to Howland and Baker. I must say, a break is a welcome change of pace. The weather the past two days has been blustery, wet, and dare I say ... cold. A strong east wind has been steady throughout the day and, deploying at the western end of the atoll each morning, has meant a daily pounding into the weather to get to our survey sites.

The last 2 days of diving have been interesting, but not the most spectacular. We have been surveying the central and southern portion of the open lagoon which, with the wind, has been pretty murky. Much of the area is dominated by sand and rubble with interweaving sections of dead coral reef covered with coralline algae and caulerpa, a green algae which looks like an inverted bunch of tiny green grapes. Our final dive was downright spooky. Visibility was between 5 and 10 meters and the area was all but devoid of animal life. We kept expecting something big to appear out of the gloom. Thankfully nothing did, but we were greeted by a school of 25-30 jacks as we neared the end of our survey. They trailed behind us for the last ten or so minutes, no doubt confused by our presence.

Howland and Baker Islands, situated just north of the equator, should be an interesting change. Both are strictly islands, without the classic atoll ring structure. As such, all of our diving will be on forereef and visibility and fish life should be excellent. The islands are both small and, while it took us 6 days to nearly cover Johnston Atoll, we are likely to make a complete trip around these islands in little more than a day for each.

The four days of transit will be a welcome chance to relax, sleep, and ready gear for the next leg of the mission. I have been feeling a cold coming on and it will be nice to hopefully get over most of it without having to dive in the mean time.