The Kwajalein Experience:
Observations of an Oceanographer
Jeffrey A. Nystuen
In late August and early September 1999 I had the opportunity to participate in a major scientific experiment centered at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the central Pacific Ocean. The title of the experiment was KWAJEX and its purpose was to monitor oceanic rainfall at the atmospheric mesoscale, that is on the scale of clouds up to the scale of whole storm systems. Oceanic rainfall is my principal scientific interest and so I was fully deployed, with my Acoustic Rain Gauges (ARGs) deployed on the two ocean buoys and on Legan Island, within the atoll. However, my immediate role was to operate a scatterometer on the research vessel the R/V Ronald H. Brown during the Leg #2 of KWAJEX. I would also be making observations of the ocean surface during rainfall to try to better understand the interaction of the ocean and the atmosphere at the air/sea interface. The scientific results will be presented in their usual manner, but of course not all that happens during a scientific endeavor is "scientific". It is still of interest and so here are my observations from an informal perspective.
The crew of the R/V Brown: We are all members of the crew. “This is not a passenger ship.” However, there are divisions of labor: the officers, the seamen, the engineers, the cooks, the doctor and the scientists.
There were four NOAA Corps officers: The Captain or Commanding Officer (CO), the Executive Officer (XO), the Field Operations Officer (Ops) and the Navigator. I knew the Navigator from my days at the NOAA laboratory in Miami. To try to learn from their experiences I quizzed them on weather observations whenever I visited the Bridge to make observations of my own. One of them is always on the Bridge running the ship. Of the Officers, the Field Operations Officer (Ops Officer) seemed most interested in the performance of the scientific instruments. We exchanged comments about how well they were working and how they might be better mounted. He often paged me to the Bridge as rain squalls approached the ship.
Other members of the crew included the Doctor, 5 engineers, 8-10 seamen, 3 stewards (cooks) and two technicians. The Doctor had a lot of spare time on his hands, which was good. I didn't interact with the engineers as their part of the ship was off limits to the scientists. Several of the seamen stood watch on the Bridge and so I quizzed them about their impressions of rain on the ocean when I was observing rain from the Bridge. The food was good. We were served 3 meals per day, with snacks available at all times. The two technicians were important. One was known as the Lead Electronic Tech (LET) and the other was the Survey Tech. The LET is responsible for the ship's electrical and computer systems. He was very helpful making sure that the scientific equipment had the correct power and support. He was also responsible for radio and e-mail communications to shore.
The Survey Tech was responsible for the "routine" scientific data being constantly collected by the ship. This includes a wide variety of scientific instruments, including anemometers, rain gauges, radiosondes, CTDs, etc. He is also the point man for "special" data requests by the scientists. I didn't realize that "special" data requests are handled BEFORE a cruise starts. Fortunately, my needs had been anticipated and he already had it done. Nevertheless, he didn't let me off the hook when I first approached him. I got this look, as if to say, "Who are you? Are you authorized to speak to me? Do you know that every scientists asks for "special" data requests? Do I look busy?" I pressed ahead since I did need a special data request. "I'm working with the scatterometer. We need some wind and rain data from the ship's system." "Where did you say you were from?" "The Applied Physics Lab at Univ of Washington" "Oh, why didn't you say so? Here's your data."
The Chief Scientist
The Survey Tech preparing for a CTD cast.
The Operations Officer
The Chief Scientist was a meteorology professor. Her interests were in mesoscale radar meteorology and she was chosen as Chief Scientist because of her interest in the principal radar on the R/V Brown. She had a side-experiment collecting methyl-blue imprints of raindrops during the rain events. These imprints should be useful measures of the drop size distribution in the rain.
The Radar Scientist was from the NASA TRMM Office. He helped to collect and archive the radar data. He was experienced with WEB site software and worked on the WEB site for the project during the cruise, producing a nice collection of images.
The Radar Tech was also from NASA. He was a technical engineer familiar with both the radar hardware and software. His expertise were needed when the principal radar was discovered to have suffered physical damage - because the software setup was incorrectly specified.
The Contractor was hired by a NOAA lab to monitor several of the ongoing science project. He complained that he was like a Maytag repairman - nothing to do - as most of "his" instruments were working. He was in charge of an air-sea flux measuring system and the vertical profiling radars.
The Grad Students (4 of them): These guys were in charge of routine weather observations. They had to launch weather balloons every 3 hours, plus monitor the principal radar on the ship. They were the only scientists with "regular" watch schedules. They also took rainwater and water vapors samples for an experiment studying oxygen isotopes in different parts of storms.
The Oceanographer: I'm a ringer, officially listed as "Radar Operator", but actually I'm an Acoustical Oceanographer and the only other Ph.D. on board. My "job" was to monitor the scatterometer, a downward-pointing radar. My real interest is the sound that rain makes underwater. I wanted to study and document the influence of rain on the water surface to better understand the effect of rain on the underwater sound field. The scatterometer is sensitive to the same physics and I'm hoping that working with it will also improve our understanding of the influence of rain upon the ocean surface.
Land-based Personnel of Interest:
The NASA Public Outreach Coordinator (POC) was working with the NASA TV crew to document the activities of KWAJEX. He was interested in my research on the sound of rain underwater and helped to set up an interview with the TV crew. He arranged a visit to Legan Island to film one of my Acoustic Rain Gauges (ARGs) in its "tub" next to other disdrometers. We also went snorkeling on Kwajalein together.
The Ground Sites Coordinator (GSC) was responsible for the ground instruments at various locations throughout the KWAJEX field experiment. This included remote island sites, such as Legan Island, where my ARG was located. This person changed from the time I arrived at KWAJEX before the R/V Brown left and after the R/V Brown returned. The notes that I left with the first GSC were not passed on to the second GSC. This meant that my ARG on Legan was "forgotten" until I returned from the cruise.
The Profiler PI from ERL NOAA (PPI) kindly volunteered to deploy my ARG next to his radar profiler on Legan Island. In order to do this, he had shipped his profiler inside a plastic crate, which could double as a "tub" of water. My ARG was placed in the tub. He downloaded some data from the ARG before I arrived. It worked!! His equipment was working well enough that he canceled a return trip which would have coincided with my arrival.
The Bridge: The Navigator with a Seaman standing watch
The Contractor downloading data from the
A Grad Student launching a radiosonde
The main computer lab on the R/V Brown
The departure and ending port for the ship was the Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR) US Army Base on Kwajalein Atoll, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in Micronesia. This is a long way out in the Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and New Guinea. A stopover in Hawaii is required. Most people desire stopovers in Hawaii, but my hobby is bird watching. Native Hawaiian flora and fauna have been devastated by habitat destruction, introduced diseases and pests, and birding is rather limited and so I'm not too interested in Hawaii. Proper exploration requires significant effort and since I wouldn't have the time, I wasn't expecting much. On the other hand, Hawaii is Hawaii, and I should try to look around. Thus, I decided on an early morning flight from the west coast. This would allow me most of a day to explore Honolulu. Of course, an early morning flight requires that one be packed BEFORE going to sleep. I like to pack light, but circumstances have conspired against me. There is a good chance that I can visit my instrument deployed on Legan Island. Thus, I need to take my laptop computer in order to download data, and to carry a spare battery pack and tools to service the instrument. These items are relatively heavy, expensive and, it turns out, unreliable. But I have to do it. About midnight, I decided that two suitcases and a dense carry-on were required. I finished packing about 1:30 am.
I arrived in Hawaii late Thursday morning. My ongoing flight was early Friday on Continental. I checked with them to confirm my reservations. They recommended early check in as they closed the flight, that is, released reserved seats, an hour before departure. I bought a round-trip ticket on a shuttle bus to my hotel, the Ilima Hotel, in Waikiki. By 1 PM I was ready to explore. I've always wanted to see the Bishop Museum. I asked how to use the public transit system and was given instructions. It was cheap and easy, but my maps were tourist maps and very poor. Fellow passengers noticed my intent study of the maps and the streets signs and offered help. It was easy.
The Bishop Museum met expectations. It is a "regional" museum specializing in Pacific cultures, especially Hawaii, but also for my destination in Micronesia. I was particularly interested to see the bird feather capes worn by Hawaiian royalty last century. These capes were woven from the feathers of now extinct or very rare birds. There was an excellent display on articles from various Pacific cultures, and there was a performance of Hula dancing. The principal dancer was a middle-aged woman who seemed Hawaiian, but her assistants looked more like, well Guatemalans. They were Guatemalans: two teenage sisters who were learning Hula dancing while living in Honolulu! After the museum, I did some birding, finding only "introduced" birds as expected. I returned to Waikiki and decided to look for a good fish restaurant. Waikiki is the tourist center of Honolulu, stuffed with hotels, shops and restaurants. Surely, a fish restaurant would be easy to find. Hah! I searched and searched. The "recommendations" in the tourist guides were not acceptable, mostly offering "Steak and Lobster" meals, probably Maine lobsters. One did proclaim a "Fish of the Day" entrée. I asked. The maitre-D' brightly offered "Salmon!" "But salmon don't live in Hawaiian waters," and I'm from Seattle where salmon do live. I walked out. Presently, I discovered Lewer's Fish Co. and they offered exactly what I desired: local fish, well prepared. I had an Opah, aka Moonfish. It was excellent.
Arrival in Kwajalein
Saturday: The flight left Honolulu on time. There was another man in the window seat; I had the aisle and was hoping for a little space, but a young Micronesian mother with a big baby (1-2 years old) appeared and took the middle seat between us. The baby would sit in her lap, and would probably spill (literally) over onto me. I spotted a free seat nearby, and moved as soon as we got airborne. We were served breakfast immediately after departure, and then not again, although there were two stops on the way to Kwajalein. The first stop was Johnstone Atoll. Nobody was allowed off the plane. This is where the US Army burns its chemical weapons. I was told that men with beards are not allowed on the island because their gas masks won’t fit tightly enough. Yiks! I’ll stay on board. Johnston Atoll is a bleak looking place. A few scrubby trees, Casuarina I think, a few palms, a big power plant, military housing, the runway ... I could see a few birds out the window: Pacific Golden Plover, a booby, a tropicbird?, a tern - maybe a Fairy Tern?
The second stop was Majuro, the capitol of the Marshall Islands. We only stayed about 30 minutes. Some people got off, and many got on. The plane was totally full for the flight to Kwajalein. I had to return to my original seat next to the mother and baby. But it is only about 45 minutes to Kwajalein. We arrived in the early afternoon. Kwajalein is an American Army Base. We were herded into a holding room and told to place our carry-on bags on some lines on the floor. A trained dog sniffed them. Next, there was a briefing for all passengers, and some were allowed to proceed thought the checkpoint. The rest of us got another briefing. We were issued an identification card, and they took a copy of our orders. You can’t just get off the plane in Kwajalein; you must have pre-approved authorization. Well, they let me through. The KWAJEX project office was supposed to meet us. There they were. Four of us had arrived on the flight. “Where did I expect to stay?” “Well, that is up to you.” “We’ll put you on the R/V Brown right away.” “Ok” “There will be a briefing for everybody at the Project Office, but first we will drop you off at the ship.” “What about my briefing?” “Oh, well maybe we’ll go over a few things on the way to the ship.”
We piled into a cargo van, with bench seats along the inside. I was disoriented geographically, which is unusual. There was an orientation package, but it included no map. There were a few rules about swimming, bicycling and picture taking. The most important rule was “Don’t walk on the runway.” Walking on the runway would get you deported immediately. We were supposed to be issued bicycles, but when I asked, I was told that those of us assigned to the R/V Brown would not get bicycles. Of course, while at sea we didn’t need bicycles, but the ship wasn’t scheduled to leave port until Tuesday. “Sorry, no bicycle” “Oh, well” One interesting bit of information was that the weekend was observed on Sunday and Monday, so most facilities will be closed tomorrow and the next day. Our ID cards would allow us to buy stuff at Macy’s West, the Ten-Ten convenience store, meals at the Cafe Pacific cafeteria (limited hours) and the Yokwe Yuk Club (the only restaurant - limited hours).
We arrived at the gate for Echo Pier. The R/V Brown was at the end of the pier. The pier doubles as the ferry terminal for Marshallese who work at Kwajalein Island, but live on another island. In fact, no Marshallese live on Kwajalein itself, and every evening they all leave the island for one of the other islands, mostly Eyebe Island. If I wanted to go to Eyebe, I would have to go through RMI Immigration and Customs. But I didn’t need to do so to visit Kwajalein, or to go onto the R/V Brown. However, passing through the gate for Echo Pier constituted leaving Kwajalein. I had to hand over my newly issued ID card. They would hold it until I returned. I walked down the pier with my bags. Fortunately, I had traveled relatively lightly and this wasn’t a big effort. When I got to the ship, nobody was around. I walked on board and searched for a ship’s officer. The Officer of the Day was the ship’s doctor. He wasn't expecting me and didn’t know anything about my arrival. He was polite. “Did I want to see the radar that I would be operating?” I’m not that much of a science nerd. I was more interested in a room, eating, relaxing a while, and then exploring a bit. An orientation of the ship would be nice. And where would I be berthing? But, I must not show dis-interest in science. “I see the radar up on the scaffolding. Am I allowed up there by myself?” There was no way that he was going to climb up there with me. “Well, maybe later.” I set my bags by the galley and waited. The galley was secured, that is, closed. A sign said: “Galley secured while in port. No lunch or dinner served on Saturday (today) and no meals Sunday (tomorrow). Breakfast and lunch on Monday, but no dinner. Resume regular meal hours on Tuesday” Hmmm. I guess that I should have brought some food with me. I had last eaten shortly after take-off in Honolulu.
After about 30 minutes, the Doctor reappeared with the Chief Scientist for the cruise. The Chief Scientist seemed distracted, but introduced herself, and then quickly led me to a stateroom in the forward part of the ship, one level down from the science labs. “Would this be ok?” “Sure” “I’ve got several things to do.” And she left. I examined the room. It is in the hold, below the main deck. The room is tapered, next to the outer hull I presume. There is a bunk bed, but I imagine that I will not have to share. There is a desk, but no window. It’s ok, unless the bow thruster is noisy, which it is supposed to be. There are no linens. I went to get my bags, on the 01 deck, two levels up. I headed back down. Oops! Where am I? I tried another set of steps, called “ladders” on a ship. Nope. I abandoned my bags to explore a bit. I found the main lab. The Chief Scientist was there, and so was the Science Coordinator for KWAJEX. A brief greeting, but they were busy and hurried off. So much for an orientation of the science projects on board. I finally found the ladders to the forward scientist berthing area. There is only one set of steps into this area. A death trap if I ever saw one. I retrieved my bags and unpacked. Returning to the 01 deck, I found the Doctor and asked about linens. Oh, the laundry and linens locker has been secured while in port. But, he can find a key. Do I know where to go? “NO” “Ok, I’ll show you where the laundry room is located.” We plunged down about 3-4 decks and got some linens. Again, only one set of steps leads to this corner of the ship. I wonder if I’ll find it again. One does one’s own laundry on this type of cruise ship. At least the machines aren’t coin operated.
This is a particularly confusing issue here. We are two hours west of Hawaii, but across the Date Line. Right now it is 4 pm LT (local time) and so it is 6 pm last night in Hawaii, 8 pm West Coast time last night, and so on. For data entry, we are using GMT, and are 12 hours ahead. Thus, it is 4 am GMT, but at least it is today. At 10 am LT, it is 2200 GMT (10 pm) yesterday, and so you have to write yesterday’s date in the log book. This also explains why Kwajalein observes the weekend on Sunday/Monday. It matches up with the North American weekend, with whom they do most of their business. As for me, I would like to ignore local time, and the date issue, but meals are served to local time, and so is my airplane ride out of here.
Kwajalein Atoll is a classic coral atoll, a ring of small islands surrounding a lagoon. The lagoon is supposed to be the largest in the world, stretching 75 miles northward. The maximum elevation of any of the islands is probably about 10 feet. Kwajalein Island is at the southern end of the atoll. It is 3 miles long by half a mile wide. Kwajalein Island is entirely occupied by the US Army, the Kwajalein Missile Range (USA-KMR). The next island to the north, Eyebe, is crowded with Marshallese who work day jobs on Kwajalein. Other islands are either military facilities or are sparsely inhabited or uninhabited. There are daily commuter flights to the outlying islands with military facilities. I have an instrument on one of these islands, Legan, but commuter flights to Legan are on Tuesday-Saturday. I won't be able to get to Legan to check on it as I've arrived on Saturday and the ship leaves port early on Tuesday morning.
Saturday afternoon: It is very hot and humid. Palm trees don't offer much shade. The ground is crushed coral - bright white, although there is grass. There is a residential neighborhood on the north end of the island, a downtown area in the middle, some sports fields just south of downtown, an airport, and then various military facilities on the south end with lots of radar domes and other odd-shaped buildings. I walked downtown. It was one block with a few stores: Macy's, Ten-Ten Convenience Store, Video Store, a Post Office. I bought a few postcards at the convenience store and some stamps at the Post Office. I am a bird watcher and I do have a bird book for the tropical Pacific Ocean. Remote islands don't offer much. The book says that there is only one type of land bird on Kwajalein - an introduced Tree Sparrow. What else? I spotted Pacific Golden Plovers - with speckled golden feathers, and some pure white terns - Fairy Terns. The Fairy Terns are a new bird for me. Very nice.
The lagoon side of the island is the harbor. There are a few big ships, with radar domes, some military landing ships and a yacht harbor. There are several yachts at anchor and many small boats are stored on shore. Scuba diving must be a major leisure activity here. There are many wrecks from World War II in the lagoon, and of course, coral reefs to explore as well. The ocean side of the island is off limits for swimming. There are big deep pools where the reef has been dredged for building material. There are sandpipers on the beach, winter migrants from Siberia and Alaska already here in late August! I spotted several different types: Wandering Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit. There were also terns: Fairy Terns and Brown Noddies, and several Pacific Reef Herons. This was more birds than I had expected to see, but still not very many for such a long trip to a far-away land.
Sunday: The rules for snorkeling require a buddy, and a personal floatation device (PFD). How does one snorkel with a PFD? One of the other scientists on the ship (the Contractor) had been hoping to fly on the NASA Research Aircraft this morning, but the flight was canceled. He was up for snorkeling at North Point. I immediately agreed and off we went, without PFDs!!! We got into the water undetected and swam north, almost to the next island, apparently well out of the swimming area, also undetected. The corals were fantastic. The one I liked the best was a large massive ochre-colored Lobe Coral which glittered like gold in the sunlight as the light filtered through the ripples on the sea surface. There were also many large black sea cucumbers and one giant knobby sea cucumber over four feet long! Of course, the fishes were brilliantly colored and of all sizes and shapes. My favorites were a big school of Trumpet Fish, each about 2 feet long, which swam along with us as we swam along the steep drop-off into the lagoon. A large (6 foot long) Black-tipped Reef Shark appeared 50 feet below us on the drop-off. I got the distinct feeling that we were in his environment, but we were ignored. A fantastic swim!! A Police Officer was waiting for us as we emerged: "Where are your PFDs?" Oops!
The ARMY base (south end of the island)
Looking across the lagoon
The Residential Area
The Ocean Side Beach
The ship's Mess was closed, but the KWAJEX project was advertising a picnic at Coral Sands Beach, on the south end of the island. I found the Project Office on the way and talked with the Project Coordinator and the Ground Sites Coordinator (GSC). There would be no way for me to get to Legan Island to service my Acoustic Rain Gauge (ARG) deployed there. An Electrical Engineer (EE) from Colorado State (CSU) would be arriving tomorrow and I could probably leave instructions with him. The picnic was catered by the only restaurant in town - the Yokwe Yuk Club - and was low key. I chatted with the GSC. The GSC had been in charge of ordering T-shirts for the project. I had ordered 2 T-shirts to proudly wear during the cruise, but the GSC informed me that only the orders for the first half of the alphabet had arrived. Regrettably, my name falls in the second half of the alphabet. I would have to pick up my T-shirts after the cruise.
I returned to the ship to wait out the HEAT and HUMIDITY of the day. At dusk, I ventured forth once again, stopping first at the Yokwe Yuk Club to verify meal hours - nothing else would be open. I walked along the ocean side of the island and then over to the harbor side to a glorious sunset which seemed to be in the wrong direction. Normally, I have a good sense of direction, but this small island has me disoriented. There was a plaque describing the battle for Kwajalein Island during World War II. This place was destroyed. Everything that is present, trees, buildings, etc., is since WWII. The Yokwe Yuk Club (Welcome in Marshallese) serves mostly imported American food. Fortunately, there was one "Pacific" dish - Mahi Mahi - which was excellent. I also ordered a Merlot, and was served Cabernet Sauvignon. I challenged the waiter who ignored my complaint.
My body doesn't know what time it is. When I got back to the ship, I started reviewing the scatterometer data that were collected during the first leg of the Kwajalein cruise. It had been operated in an unattended mode. The data look good and I made archives on CDs until nearly 3 in the morning.
I got ready to take my equipment for servicing my ARG on Legan over to the Project Office by writing a long set of instructions for the EE from CSU, a person I have never met. I hope that he will be willing to service my instrument. Just as I was ready to leave, I was paged on the Ship's intercom. Who knows that I'm aboard? It was the Public Outreach Coordinator (POC) for NASA!! He was doing scout work for the NASA TV crew, who, in turn, are here to document KWAJEX. They would be looking for action shots of interesting projects and my acoustical rainfall experiments were high on their list. The ship would be having an open house from 1200-1630 and they wanted to interview me.
Well first I had to go to the Project Office. The POC had a bicycle and needed to go over there himself. Furthermore, he was interested in going snorkeling later in the afternoon and knew where to borrow a PFD so that we would be "legal". I borrowed a bicycle from the Radar Scientist and off we went. The GSC was at the Project Office and so I left my equipment and instructions with him. The EE from CSU would not be arriving until late in the day. The POC said that the NASA TV crew had been to Legan the previous Thursday and would be delighted to go back with the EE to get an "action shot" of him downloading data and changing the batteries. They could go on Tuesday - tomorrow. The ship would be leaving that day and so I can't go myself.
I rushed back to the ship to participate in the open house. I stood on the 03 deck and pointed out some of the scientific instruments deployed on the ship. This included various types of rain gauges - about 5-6 types - and various active radars - including the scatterometer that I would be operating. When the NASA TV crew arrived, I climbed to the scatterometer and gazed at it as it scanned up and down (an action shot). But the NASA TV crew was really interested in my acoustic experiments. I explained that I didn't have any of my ARGs on the Brown - ships are too noisy. They wanted an action shot anyway. I asked the Captain if he had any hydrophones on board. He offered the acoustic release transducer used for mooring releases. OK. The Electronic Tech and I got it out, and I lowered and raised it off the fantail several times. Real ARGs are lighter, and only go off the fantail as they are being deployed on mooring lines. The TV crew then interviewed me in the hot sun for several minutes. What fun!
Instead of dinner on the ship, the ship arranged to have a picnic catered at Eman Beach, just north of the pier. The Navigator and I took the beer over early. The ship is "dry", but this would be a special dinner - and it wasn't on the ship. The POC arrived to go snorkeling. He, I and one of the Sailors snorkeled for about an hour before dinner. We swam northward into the same area that I had snorkeled Sunday. The visibility was much lower, which surprised me. Of course the fishes and corals were great. The POC had a camera, and I hope he got some good pictures. One of the best finds was a huge conch shell.
After the picnic I stayed and chatted with a few of ship's crew (Navigator, Ops Officer, Radar Tech and a Sailor) until well after dark. There was lots of leftover food, drinks and beer. We would need to sneak the beer back past the gate at Echo Pier and back onto the Brown. No problem. I stayed up until 3 am writing data disks for scatterometer data from the previous cruise. We leave at 0900 tomorrow.
The R/V Brown
This is an impressive ship. It is 274 feet long, and has about 9 decks. The propulsion system consists of 3 thrusters, 2 in the stern and one in the bow, and no rudder. The propulsion control is automated and tied into the GPS (Global Positioning System) system by computer. The combined system is holding our position to within one thousandth of a minute of longitude and latitude. For those who are geographically challenged, that is about 5 feet. So if you throw a rock at 8 degrees, 27.900 minutes North, 167 degrees, 28.500 minutes East, you will hit the ship. But occasionally, the GPS jumps tens of meters off, and the engines surge to correct the apparent error. Alarm bells go off on the Bridge, and the Engineers curse the system as they scramble to throttle back the engines. The Navigator says that the system is not Y2K compliant, and that when they tested it, the whole system crashed. The ship is scheduled to be in dry dock on January 1, 2000.
Inside the ship, there are many corridors and ladders. It is a complicated maze, as not all sections of the ship are accessible from others. The main deck is labeled Deck 1. Below it are Decks 2 and 3. And above it are Decks 01, 02 and 03. The Bridge is on Deck 04. The ladders connecting the decks do not go to all decks, so you need to remember which ladders go where. The corridors have many doors, all of which are heavy steel, and swing shut with some force. The “weather” or outside hatches are all closed with impressive metal bars. The ship is very weather tight. In fact, the port holes are small and it is difficult to distinguish night from day while inside the ship. My lab is right above my stateroom. I was offered a stateroom on the 03 deck, next to the Captain’s Stateroom, but I declined. It was smaller than my present quarters and had no desk. Furthermore, I would have had to pack up and carry my stuff up 4 flights of steps (ladders).
For this experiment, the ship is covered with rain gauges. There are many types - which means none work well. Plus, there are several types of weather surveillance radars. A fancy C-band Doppler radar is the main instrument justifying the ship’s role in the experiment. But I’m more interested in three other radars. Two of them point straight up and scatter energy off of raindrops falling downward onto the ship. And my radar, the scatterometer, is mounted on a scaffolding on the bow, and points downward onto the ocean surface. We are measuring how the rain changes the backscattering cross section of the ocean surface, but we can also detect the raindrops that are falling downward between the radar and the surface of the ocean. I am excited to show that our radar is also measuring the rainfall directly. The rain gauges and upward looking radar will provide ancillary data to verify our results. The ship has many other instruments to monitor environmental conditions. The Survey Tech is in charge of monitoring all of these instruments and is quite busy.
My real desire to be on this ship is a chance to study the rainfall measurement instruments at sea, the gauges and the radars. And I also want to study the rain as it hits the ocean surface. My specialty is the sound generated underwater by the raindrop splashes. While the ship is too noisy to hang my hydrophone from the ship, I do have hydrophones (Acoustic Rain Gauges or ARGs) on the East and West Ocean Buoys. The West Buoy is about 10 miles west of our present location and the East Buoy is 30 miles east. I also have an ARG in a tub of water next to some rain gauges and another vertically pointing radar on one of the small islands that make up Kwajalein Atoll - Legan Island.
Life at Sea
We have been at sea for 5 days now. My body is adjusting to life on a research vessel. I haven’t been seasick, and I don’t expect to be, unless the seas become unexpectedly high. But the environment is slightly uncomfortable, and I haven’t been sleeping more than about 2-3 hours per day. The ship is big, and the walls are thick steel. There are portholes here and there, but you have to take an effort to look out to see if it is day or night. There is a constant noise, the hum of a generator, the hiss of air conditioning, and the slap of water in the ballast tanks - like a banging on the hull. Plus, my stateroom is in the forward hold next to the forward thruster. The forward thruster has a relatively pleasant sloshing sound, like a wave running up onto the beach, although there is a clank as it swivels to a position before forcing a jet of water in a particular direction. The only place to lie down is on my bunk. The air conditioning in the science lab is a bit chilly. I should have packed an extra long-sleeved shirt.
Meals happen too quickly: breakfast at 0700-0750, lunch at 1100-1200 and dinner at 1630-1730. The cooks prepare a lot of food - there are usually 5-6 entrees, plus salads and a dessert. The quality of the food has been good. I’ve been waiting for fresh fish, but nobody has been fishing, and we haven’t seen any fish anyway. We were served a fish caught during the previous Leg of this experiment - a Rainbow Runner. It was delicious. I gave the crew a jar of my Red Raspberry jam. It is mostly gone by now. Since exercise opportunities are limited, I have located the weight room and have taken up stationary bicycling and tried out a rowing machine. For entertainment each night, two movies are shown in the ship’s lounge. There is a large collection of video tapes to chose from, but for the past week the movies have been terrible. I haven’t attended. A few of us played cards, a game called Spades.
There isn’t too much to see out on deck. The ship’s officers know that I’m a bird watcher and once I got paged for a flock of birds. They also know that I’m a rain watcher and have called me to inform me that a rain squall was approaching. The rain squalls come quickly and are over quickly, as we are in the Trade Winds. I spent over an hour on the Bridge today studying a storm, taking pictures and watching the ocean surface. You can actually see the bubbles made by the raindrop splashes. These bubbles are the source of the sound that I detect acoustically. I saw the bubbles form lines on the ocean surface as the rainfall became heavy and realized that this was proof of mixing of the ocean surface by rain. I will argue that this explains how the rain “calms the seas”. This is a satisfying scientific observation.
As for birds, and other wildlife, I’m afraid that this part of the world is relatively sparse. We didn’t see any birds Tuesday, one Fairy Tern Wednesday, two Red-footed Boobies and a tern Thursday. On Friday we steamed over to Kwajalein to pick up the ship’s mail and saw some Brown Noddies, a few other terns and boobies. Today I saw another tern. We haven’t seen any marine mammals, turtles, sharks or other fish. There is one island, Lib, on the horizon. On the other hand, the sunsets have been spectacular, and sitting on the Fantail in the evening is pleasant. Today, we had a barbecue, with about 5 entrees, on the Fantail. The sun appeared after a day of cloudiness and rain.
This is a scientific cruise. The R/V Brown is a large ship and is one of the newest members of the American research fleet. It is owned and operated by NOAA, and has been heavily instrumented for routine and special environmental observations. The routine observations include weather radar, vertical soundings, wind observations, water vapor, humidity, ocean soundings, temperature and salinity measurements, etc. These are routinely logged into the ship’s computer network and special requests can be made for these data, BEFORE a cruise starts. Actually, the Chief Scientist for each cruise automatically gets a full copy. I was going to observe the system for a few days before making my request. This was the wrong move, as the automatic data collection jobs are started at the beginning of each cruise, not during the cruise. Oops.
This cruise is part of a much larger scientific effort. NASA launched an environmental research satellite last year - the Tropical Rain Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite - which has on board a vertically looking weather radar (the PR). The satellite is orbiting in low latitude, mapping the distribution of rainfall in the tropics. Surface validation of these radar data are essential to understand the data. In order to provide this validation, NASA sponsored several major field programs. At least one of these field programs needed to be based in an oceanic environment, as most of the world is covered by ocean. Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the western Pacific was the chosen location for this field experiment, known as KWAJEX. This is a rainy part of the world, within the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
NASA installed one of the newest weather radars at Kwajalein. However a single radar can only measure one dimensional winds (radially from the radar). In order to have 2-D winds, a second radar is needed. This radar is the C-Pol radar mounted on the top of the R/V Brown. Together these radars provide 2-D velocity and precipitation information - so called “Dual”-Doppler radar coverage. In order to provide this coverage, the R/V Brown must be located about 40 miles from the first radar, and so we are “fixed” in location about 40 miles southwest of Kwajalein Island at 8° 27.900N and 167° 28.500E. We are pointed into the wind and holding our position to within one thousandth of a minute, or about 5 feet.
KWAJEX is a mesoscale meteorology experiment. I’m the only oceanographer involved, and only because I study rainfall. This is a rainfall experiment. In addition to the two Doppler radars, there are three research aircraft and an extensive rain gauge and atmospheric sounding network. I am not involved with the aircraft research or the soundings, but I am very interested in the rain gauge technology as it includes my own instrumentation. The rain gauge network includes island sites, two buoys and the ship. All of the latest different types of rain sensors are involved, including my own underwater acoustic rain gauges (ARGs).
My principal effort for KWAJEX (the funding) are my two ARGs deployed on the East and West Buoys just south of Kwajalein. The ship is on location between these buoys. The West Buoy is about 10 miles from us, and the East Buoy is about 30 miles east. My ARGs are mounted about 20 meters underwater and are recording the sound produced by the rain. NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle is responsible for these buoys and have their latest suite of environmental instruments on each buoy. In fact, I’ve been trained to swap instruments for them if one of their sensors fails. Their sensors report data daily via satellite, so if one fails they will know. But so far, all of their instruments are working. We won’t know how mine have fared until the buoys are recovered after the experiment ends. Important surface sensors include two types of rain gauges, the RM Young collection-type gauge and an impact disdrometer. The RM Young gauge is newly designed for buoys (I’m a co-author of the first paper reporting data from these instruments) and the impact disdrometer has never been deployed at sea successfully, but we’re hopeful.
My other rain gauge is not quite deployed at sea. On Legan Island, within the Kwajalein Atoll, KWAJEX has a sounding site. Upward-looking S-band and L-band radars, called “profilers”, have been set up by the Profiler PI (PPI) from the NOAA lab in Boulder, CO. These profilers scatter energy off of the falling raindrops and can measure the vertical distribution of the raindrops as well as their vertical velocities. It can also detect the freezing level where liquid rain turns to ice and thus identify the general type of precipitation (convective or stratiform) and probably get the drop size distribution as well. The PPI agreed to use a large plastic container as his shipping crate, and he set it next to his profilers, filled it with water, and put one of my acoustic rain gauges into it. We already have some data from this “tub”, and the NASA TV crew has shot footage of it. Also on Legan are all of the other disdrometer (instruments that measure drop size distributions) technologies including the Joss-Waldvogel, the new impacts disdrometers that I worked with in Miami, and a new video disdrometer that I’ve never even seen. This is a fantastic collection of instruments that should allow me to decide how well the underwater sound technique will work (in a tub).
I don’t have an acoustic rain gauge with me on the ship. Ships are too noisy. So what am I doing on this ship? Well, I want to study the ocean surface during rain to get a better qualitative feel for how rainfall interacts with the ocean surface and the surface wave field, but that desire doesn’t get me funded to spend 3 weeks at sea. However another scientist at my lab in Seattle has been using a radar which scatters energy off of the ocean surface to try to measure wind speed and surface velocities. This instrument is known as a scatterometer and operates at the same frequency (Ku-band) as the Precipitation Radar (PR) on the TRMM satellite. Similar radars are also flown on other satellites to measure wind speed. This works because the wind changes the surface waves in a manner that can be detected by the radar return from the ocean surface. But there is a problem with the data. We don’t know how rainfall changes the ocean surface. KWAJEX, and the R/V Brown in particular, offer a perfect chance to study the effect of rain on microwave backscatter from the ocean surface. I volunteered to help, and before I knew it, I got scheduled to spend three weeks at sea monitoring the scatterometer.
The Ku band scatterometer from the Applied Physics Laboratory.
Bubble streaks at 02:40 on 9/7
Rain slicks on the ocean surface during heavy rain - 0240 on 9/7/99
A Daily Log
Thursday: A travel day. Up at 4:30 am after finishing packing at 1:30 am. Arrive in Hawaii in the late morning. After checking into the Ilima Hotel, I took the city bus to the Bishop Museum. This museum describes the cultural history of the Pacific, especially Hawaii, and I got to see the famous feather capes worn by Hawaiian royalty from a century ago. I searched Waikiki for a good fish dinner and found one at Lewer’s Street Fish Co. - an Opah.
Friday/Saturday: Up at 4:30 am to continue flying westward. I checked in early, but then was able to go bird watching at an outdoor garden on the airport concourse. There were several types of introduced birds. The flight to Kwajalein lasted seven hours with two stops, Johnstone Atoll and Majuro. We arrived at Kwajalein in the early afternoon Saturday to a military greeting - orders required and dogs sniffing our bags. The KWAJEX project office met us, and dropped me off at the ship. The ship’s crew is on liberty and nobody gives a hoot. I went for a walk on the island. It’s HOT and HUMID. The only land bird is the introduced European Tree Sparrow, which I found, plus a few shorebirds including Pacific Golden Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. Dinner at the Cafe Pacific cafeteria.
Sunday: Snorkeling with The Contractor at North Point is great: corals and fishes. The best sightings are a large massive coral, a huge school of trumpet fish, a 4-foot long sea cucumber and a large Black-tipped Reef Shark. I walked to the Kwajex project office and then to the beach where the KWAJEX picnic was happening (lunch). Nice talk with GSC from NASA. Walked back to the ship via the west side of the island. Dinner was at the Yokwe Yuk Club, a good mahi-mahi.
Monday: Met the NASA POC on the ship at 10 am. We bicycled over to the KWAJEX project office to drop off my supplies and instructions for replacing the batteries of my ARG on Legan. Another nice chat with the GSC. The ship was having an open house. I joined in, explaining the rain gauges and the scatterometer that I will be using. The NASA TV crew appeared and interviewed me. I borrowed a transducer from the ship to provide an “action shot” of me listening to the underwater sound of rainfall. They may actually do a segment on me! Dinner was a ship’s picnic at the beach. The POC, a Sailor and I went snorkeling before eating.
Tuesday: The ship left the dock at 9 am sharp, and proceeded out to sea. We stopped just offshore to do a radar calibration, but failed as the winds were too high. This exercise generated an "incident" with the FAA which we, the crew of the R/V Brown, were unaware of for several days. We arrived on station at 8° 27.900N, 167° 28.500E. There is one island in sight: Lib. No birds. The scientific crew finally got its “ship orientation”.
Lib Island was the only land visible from the station position.
Wednesday: We are holding position to within one thousandth of a minute, about 5 feet. A few brief showers. One Fairy Tern flew past. The ship held a Fire Drill and then an Abandon Ship Drill. The environment on board is slightly uncomfortable: constant noise and motion. Everything is made of steel and the portholes are small. Only one person is slightly seasick. I was introduced to the card game “Spades” in the evening. I can’t sleep and worked late into the night.
Thursday: Still adjusting to the environment. I’m sleeping about 2 hours a day, and I’m getting tired. The winds are stronger today, about 20 knots. The scatterometer is not quite working. It won’t point in the right direction. Two Red-footed Boobies flew past. I gave my jar of homemade jam to the Navigator, who put it in the Mess.
Friday: A quiet day, with lower winds and little rain. I’ve been writing up my scientific notes. I’ve located the exercise room, and tried the stationary bicycle and the rowing machine.
Saturday: Good sunset on the fantail. My body is finally adjusting to the environment and has decided to allow me to sleep. Good thing - I was getting tired.
Sunday: A good rain storm today. I took pictures from the Bridge. The data looks good. There are bubble streaks on the ocean surface during the rain. The rain cleared in time for a barbecue on the fantail.
Sunday evening barbecue on the fantail of the ship
Monday: Another good rain storm. I studied it from the Bridge. One Fairy Tern flew past. I replaced the power supply in the scatterometer. This didn’t solve the Reference Voltage problem. I watched a Clint Eastwood western, “Unforgiven”, in the evening. We haven’t moved in days, but today we rotated. The positioning system has the ship’s engine controls linked to the GPS positioning system. The Navigator says that it isn’t Y2K compliant and the system failed when they tested it. The ship is scheduled to be in dry dock on January 1st, 2000.
Tuesday: More rain. There was a Brown Booby at dusk. The scatterometer continues to perform with an unstable reference voltage. The data appear to be good. The look angle of the radar is not slipping - I can’t understand this problem. I've climbed the scaffolding to the radar several times to study the radar hardware. It looks fine. There was a Command Inspection of the ship today. Signs were posted two days ago. I decided to make my bed for it. I spent the day compiling ancillary information about the rainstorms that we’ve had during this leg of the cruise. The movie tonight was “Murder of Crows”, a good story.
At midnight I went out onto the fantail. The XO was fishing for squid. You could see them down in the water about 20-50 feet, occasionally darting to catch something, but mostly just hanging there. They were big: 8-10 inches long. The ship is dark at night - no outside white lights. White lights interfere with the night vision of the Watch on the Bridge.
The scatterometer scaffolding
Wednesday: No rain today. I exercised and did laundry. The scatterometer continues to work. The others did a calibration exercise for the C-band radar - raising a metallic sphere into the sky from a small boat 3 miles away. This time we had FAA approval.
Thursday: No rain. Seas are light. This was like a regular day at work: thinking about a proposal, working with some data, reviewing a paper, except for the Abandon Ship drill. We learned about the sea-water activated ship beacons. Notice of abandon ship is relayed by satellite within minutes, the location is available within hours, and hopefully rescue within days.
Friday: A huge storm lasted for over 6 hours. The initial event had winds up to 30 knots. The second downpour had a peak rainfall rate of nearly 300 mm/hr. I got soaked examining the conditions at the scatterometer - What’s really in the radar beam? Stratiform rain continued for hours, with a good signal in the data. I’m exhausted. Downloading data in the evening took hours - until 3 am. Ugh!
Saturday: I’m craving lying down, exhausted from yesterday. I hope that I’m not getting sick. There is only one place to lie down on the ship - one’s own bunk or “rack”. Your stateroom is also the only place where you can take off your shoes. The only dress code on board is no open-toed shoes outside of your stateroom. My legs and feet are tired. The Ops Officer noted that the deck is hard steel and the swaying works your legs and feet continually. When lying in your rack, it is fun to feel the sway of the ship press your body back and forth in the mattress.
No rain today. No birds. I worked on a proposal and some data programming. I napped after dinner, exhausted.
Sunday: The Michigan-Notre Dame football game was on the Armed Services radio network at 7:30 am LT, which is 3:30pm Saturday in Ann Arbor (live broadcast). I listened, and Michigan barely won 26-22. That was followed by a heavy downpour - more data! I’ve continued to work on computer programming - I can finally read the ancillary data from Leg #1. We tried to download data from one of the disdrometers using my laptop, but the laptop wouldn’t boot up while outside. It works perfectly in my stateroom. More squid off of the fantail tonight. Reportedly, Mahi-mahi were seen, but nobody caught any.
Monday: A rainbow at 0800, but the ship environment is wearing on me. One week to go. I examined the ship board rain gauges today. I don’t see how the collection-type gauges can detect light blowing drizzle. But are the optical gauges reporting the correct rainfall rates? I watched the stars from the Bridge in the evening.
Tuesday: A few brief rain showers today. Mostly the rain cells seem to sense our presence and just miss. Seven Red-footed Boobies flew past. The scatterometer continues to function. The fantail was fun this evening. There is a spot light on the fantail frame which allows one to look down into the water. There were several big sharks cruising around (6-8 feet long). The squid were biting, and one of the crew caught several. The stern thrusters occasionally kick on, stirring the water surface, which then glitters from the reflected spot light, making it difficult to see down into the water.
Deck 02 port side rain gauges (Hasse, Optical andCapacitance)
Wednesday: I got up a bit late today. My routine has become: climb out of my rack, dress, climb the ladder to the main deck, walk into my lab, glance at the oscilloscope to see if the radar is still working, tap the computer screen to see what data are being collected, amble into the main lab to check the main radar, climb the ladder to the Mess and grab a bite to eat. Today when I tapped the computer, the display indicated HEAVY RAIN. I rushed outside to watch, photograph and record data. Water was sloshing everywhere. The decks all have 2-3 inch flanges around them and there are only a couple of small drains on the edges of the decks, which empty onto the next deck below. Thus, there are lots of pools of water sloshing back and forth, and lots of splashing near the drains. In short, it is very easy to get very wet.
Rain continued on and off today - I was paged to the Bridge about 4 times. The rain at noon was intense: one of the optical rain gauges read 400 mm/hr, an almost impossibly high number and the highest I’ve ever seen. The other rain gauges don't agree. I worked on a proposal draft and sent it off with the evening e-mail. Tonight there are Blue Runners off of the fantail. A crew member caught one, but then let it go! The fish was a sleek-looking model with a torpedo-shaped body, a small mouth and a deeply forked yellow tail.
Thursday: I worked on some data analysis. The scatterometer is very sensitive to the wind angle in the radar beam relative to the ship's bow. There are sharks and blue runners off of the fantail tonight. The squid have vanished.
The C-pol radar dome.
The big news of the day is that the C-pol radar has serious physical damage to the antenna. The Radar Tech and the Contractor were inspecting the radar for maintenance. The Contractor had never been in a radar dome before and asked to look at the front surface of the antenna. He noticed what appeared to be cracks in the welds on the antenna braces. The Radar Tech said that he had never seen such physical damage to an antenna. The Captain was notified, and TRMM Ops was called. Photos were taken and e-mailed directly to NASA. Should we shut down the main radar? The Radar Tech pulled out the mechanical drawings and the circuit diagrams. It seems that the physical damage was caused by having the radar antenna overshoot its angle controls and slam into the pedestal holding it. The Radar Tech says that there are four fail-safe controls that should prevent this from happening, but apparently all have failed.
Friday: I wrote a scientific review in the morning. I had been saving it for this trip, figuring that I would get a lot of writing done. I’m not very satisfied with my progress, but I have accomplished a bit. This afternoon I prepared a data archive summary for the scatterometer. A large flock of Black Noddies, with a few Fairy Terns were flying near the ship today. There were sharks and fish actually jumping out of the water. Nobody is fishing off of the fantail. The winds are light and there aren’t many rain cells in the vicinity today, although a water spout was seen from the Bridge. It had dissipated before I got to the Bridge with my camera.
The good news of the day is that the Radar Tech has fixed the radar! Or more correctly, he has discovered the problem, and it shouldn’t get worse. It was clear to him that the radar antenna was overshooting its lower angle limit and slamming into the pedestal holding it. This was not supposed to be possible, but the physical clearance was only 2 degrees, and this is apparently not enough. However, the antenna motion is really controlled by software. Within the software, the user sets the lower angle limit for the antenna, and there is also a fail-safe limit that the software “always” obeys. These were set correctly, but clearly weren’t working. Finally, there is a physical mechanism to stop the antenna as it tries to sweep past a certain angle.
The Radar Tech and the Captain climbed into the raydome to check the physical mechanism. Sure enough, there was some corrosion and a contact needed cleaning. But why wasn’t the software working? More sleuthing needed. The software is very fancy, with great graphics and many pull-down menus. After all, it costs nearly $70,000. Well, one of the menus is labeled “Site Misc” and under that is "other" and under that is “antenna controls” and under that is an item stating “Enforce antenna angle limits”. The setting read “NO”. The software limits were being ignored!! Searching the ship’s radar log indicated that this setting had been in place since the radar was installed on the ship nearly a year ago. The Radar Tech has earned his pay, with overtime and per diem, for this cruise.
Saturday: Lost badly at Scrabble tonight. The Chief Steward is very good. I'll have to find a different game to play. Three mahi-mahi were circling the ship tonight, along with many Blue Runners and sharks. The Mahi-mahi are especially good to eat and the fishermen on board immediately went after the fish. One of the Engineers caught a Mahi. We will eat it tomorrow. The XO hooked two sharks - undesirable - they were cut free. A large flock of birds were feeding near the ship for the first time: Black Noddies and Fairy Terns. The noddies fly near the surface while the terns fly higher and occasionally dip quickly to the surface.
Sunday: Up at dawn. Everybody is packing up. It’s contagious, even though the scatterometer will stay operating until Hawaii. The close down time is 6 pm. Barbecue on the Fantail again. We ate the Mahi - a bit tough. There was a beautiful double rainbow at 6 pm - the end time for data collection for the cruise. I think that we've collected a lot of good data. Many birds, fish and sharks are circled around us. The Radar Tech secured the antenna and we headed for Kwajalein Lagoon, where we dropped anchor. Schools of small fish are swirling like clouds off of the fantail. There are three sizes. Archiving data after dark. Packing.
Monday: The ship moved over to the pier at 0900, arriving exactly on schedule. We quickly unloaded, and then stood on the pier for about an hour. The Kwajex Project Office had sent a van for our luggage. I went over to the Project Office to learn about my ARG on Legan. Nobody knew anything about it, until one guy casually mentioned that it had been reported "missing." What?? I didn't learn its fate until after I returned to Seattle. After checking in for my flight, I spent several hours on the beach watching birds and relaxing.
Monday (again): The plane arrived in Hawaii at 3 am. I rented a car and drove to the northeast part of Oahu to doze on the beach and watch the sun rise. I spent the day bird watching and saw 22 species of birds. My connecting flight left Honolulu at 9 pm, arriving in Seattle early on Tuesday morning.
The ship arrived at the Echo Pier at 0900 Monday, right on schedule. Normally there are several days for the scientific crews to change, but only one day had been scheduled this time. We were asked and were ready to have ourselves and our equipment off-loaded within an hour. A new scientific crew, with heavy parkas, were waiting to board the ship. Their destination is Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Two of us, myself and the Radar Scientist, were scheduled to leave Kwajalein today, although the Project Coordinator (PC) didn't have my name listed. He appeared with a van and drove us to the Project Office.
I wanted to find out what had happened to my ARG on Legan Island. During the cruise, many of the ground-based KWAJEX personnel had changed. The new PC and the new GSC knew nothing about my instrument. I searched the office for signs of my notes, the old batteries and data disks. Nothing. One of the scientists in the office then said that he had just visited Legan and a worker there had asked about the tub. "Where had the instrument that had been in it gone?" WHAT!!!! My instrument had disappeared!!!! But Legan is a secure island. One needs permission to visit. How could my instrument disappear? The same fellow said that he would be going out to Legan tomorrow. I told him to please look for my ARG and, if he found it, to bring it back to the office and then send it back to Seattle.
Meanwhile, I searched the office again for the notes that I had left with the previous GSC. I found them. Somebody had scribbled something in the margins. I found the data disks. Empty. The spare battery pack was not present. I asked about the EE for whom I had left instructions. "Oh yes. He had only been here one day. The second day he had had to leave suddenly because of a tooth abscess." What had happened? There was nothing more to be learned at the project office.
Check in for the 5:50 pm flight was at 1:30 pm. Don't be late. We were delivered to the airport about 12:45 and stood in the hot sun waiting for the check-in line to open. The NASA POC appeared. He was on his way home on the same flight. I asked him if he knew anything. He said that the day the ship left (with me on board), the NASA TV crew and the EE had gone to Legan to film an "action" shot of the EE working on the ARG. As far as he knew, everything was ok. [When I got home, I called the EE. Indeed, he had gone out to Legan that day. The batteries on the ARG had died and so he couldn't download the data from the ARG onto the disks that I had provided. He had opened the case and started to replace the batteries with the battery pack that I had carried to Kwajalein with me. Unfortunately, the new battery pack didn't show a voltage. He didn't have time to figure out what was wrong with the new battery pack and so he had closed the instrument case and placed it inside another container, figuring that he would fix the problem on his next visit. That visit never occurred as the next day he was sent home with the tooth problem. Nobody had followed up on my ARG.]
After check-in there were several hours to kill. I wanted to buy some souvenirs from the Marshall Islands, even though I hadn't visited any indigenous islands. There is a cultural museum near the airport, but the hours are 4-6 pm on Friday. I remembered seeing a gift shop in the airport waiting lounge. It had just closed, which I thought was a bit odd as the only flight of the day was later in the afternoon. However, the clerk was still counting money and agreed to let me shop. I bought several fine baskets and stuffed them into my carry-on. I then headed for the beach and sat and watched birds for a couple of hours. Nothing new appeared, but it was quite relaxing to sit under the palm trees away from the ship environment for the first time in weeks. I decided to visit the snack bar before boarding the airplane as I wasn't sure if there would be food service on board or not.
The plane was stuffed full. We made the same two stops on the way to Honolulu, Majuro and Johnstone Atoll. We arrived in Honolulu at 3 am. My ongoing flight was at 8 pm. The hotels wanted a minimum of two nights' charges. HAH!! Think again! I checked with the car rental agencies - only Budget Car Rental was open. They offered a Lincoln Continental luxury car. I don't think so. My self image would be tarnished, even if nobody saw me. They also had a Ford Explorer for $69 for the day. Ok.
I drove to the north shore of Oahu in the dark, over 30 miles. This island is a hundred times larger than Kwajalein! The tourist maps are poor, but there is only one road along the NE side of Oahu. I found a beach and waited for dawn, dozing a bit now and then. At sunrise, I spotted some sandpipers - Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstone, Golden Plovers. A Frigatebird flew overhead. I drove slowly along the northeastern coast highway of Oahu, stopping often and finally reaching Kualoa County Park. Camping is free!! This would be cheap way to spend time in Hawaii. The birds were excellent: Common Waxbill, Red-crested Cardinal, Red-vented Bulbul, Spotted Dove, White-eyed Shama, Java Sparrow, etc. I even spotted a couple of Red Mongooses. (All of these are introduced species.) On the way back I stopped at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge - next to the sewage treatment plant! Excellent birding for "native" waterbirds: Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Duck, Common Moorhen. I actually saw 22 types of birds this day! Lunch was a Wahoo at Ani's Restaurant - very good.
I did do some "regular" tourist activities as well. I also bought a pineapple from a fruit stand and ate it at a beach. Finally, I stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation store and bought some pineapple preserves and postcards. I turned in the car early, ate dinner at the airport and boarded the red-eye to Seattle. For a change, the plane wasn't stuffed full!!
Sunset from the fantail of the R/V Brown
The Captain (CAPT Roger Parsons)
The Executive Officer (LCDR Fred Rossman)
The Ops Officer (LT Alan Hilton)
The Navigator (LT Mark Boland)
The Doctor (LCDR Dan Aronsen)
The Lead Electronic Tech (Larry Loewen)
The Survey Tech (Jon Shannahoff)
The Stewards (Lito, Karen ...
The Sailors (Nadra, Mike, Herb, ...
The Engineers (...
The Chief Scientist (Colleen Leary)
The Radar Scientist (Dave Wolff)
The Radar Tech (Neil Dunnemann)
The Contractor (Jeff Otten)
The Grad Students (4 of them) (Gordon, Roberto, Dave, Matt)
The Oceanographer (me) (Jeff Nystuen)
Land-based Personnel of Interest:
The NASA Public Outreach Coordinator (POC) (Alan Nelson)
The KWAJEX Field Scientist
The Science Coordinator (Sandy Yuter)
The Ground Sites Coordinator (GSC) (George Huffmann)
The KWAJEX Coordinator (Steve Hipskind)
The TRMM Office Director (Otto Thiele)
The EE from CSU (John Hubbert)
The Profiler PI from ERL NOAA (PPI) (Chris Williams)
Magnificent Frigatebird - Oahu
Red-footed Booby - Kwajalein, R/V Brown
Brown Booby - Kwajalein, R/V Brown
Pacific Reef Heron - Kwajalein
Cattle Egret - Oahu
Black-crowned Night-heron - Oahu
Hawaiian Duck - Oahu
Hawaiian Coot - Oahu
Common Moorhen - Oahu
Ring-necked Pheasant - Oahu
Pacific Golden Plover - Kwajalein, Johnstone Atoll, Oahu
Ruddy Turnstone - Kwajalein, Oahu
Whimbrel - Kwajalein
Bar-tailed Godwit - Kwajalein
Wandering Tattler - Kwajalein
Sanderling - Oahu
Common Fairy Tern - Kwajalein, R/V Brown
Brown Noddy - Kwajalein, R/V Brown
Black Noddy - Kwajalein, R/V Brown
Barred Dove - Oahu
Spotted Dove - Oahu
Common Myna - Oahu
White-rumped Shama - Oahu
Red-vented Bulbul - Oahu
Japanese White-eye - Oahu
Red-crested Cardinal - Oahu
Common Waxbill - Oahu
House Finch - Oahu
Java Sparrow - Oahu
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Kwajalein
Galapagos Shark - R/V Brown
Mahi-mahi - R/V Brown
Blue Runner - R/V Brown
Squid - R/V Brown
Black-tipped Reef Shark - Kwajalein
various corals - Kwajalein
various reef fishes - Kwajalein
Red Mongoose - Oahu