Archive for June, 2007

How i wound up in Hawaii for a month

June 30th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

One of my tasks at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is to support field operations for oceanographic research. It is one of my favorite assignments, because I get to travel all over the world and get plenty of free time in between or after my duties are complete. These assignments typically occur once or twice a year, and are part of giant undertakings involving millions of dollars and hundreds of people working for years to conduct a field test that may take several weeks.

This year, my base of operations is in Hawaii. My official duties are interspersed with days of “rest” which means that I get to do whatever I want when I’m not working. I also have used personal vacation time tacked on to the end of this trip to get the most out of my employer-sponsored travel. By the time this is over, I will have been gone for 32 days.

The trip was preceeded by frantic preparations. When you’re going to be gone for a month, there are a lot of things to take care of. It is almost like quitting a job and taking a new one, as miscellaneous assignments have to be brought to a close in order to make time for the massive field trip. Of course, all of the equipment that will be used in the field must be prepared, plans made, and communications with multiple institutions cemented. Add to this the personal arrangements that need to be made when you’ll be gone for a month, and things get complicated. Of course, the reward is to spend a month in Hawaii, doing interesting work and traveling.

My work consists of conducting oceanographic surveys from US navy P-3 aircraft. The surveys characterize the environment under the water, reporting temperature at various depths and other factors critical to understanding the way that sound travels through the marine environment. In order to collect this data, the aircraft flies over large areas of ocean, dropping grids of probes which report conditions to the airplane by radio. This is often done in concert with other research vessels, such as surface ships.

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Arriving on Oahu

June 29th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

Hawaii is useful to a country that wishes to project its military power over the globe. For this reason, the Hawaiian islands are full of military bases, particularly Oahu. Oahu contains Pearl Harbor, although I didn’t work there – I need to work from the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay, which is home to a detachment of the US Navy’s P-3 aircraft.

K-bay P-3 flight line

The town of Kaneohe is backed by the staggeringly beautiful Ko’olau range, which is a knife-sharp ridge of volcanic origin (as is everything in Hawaii).

I am lodged in Honolulu, right on Waikiki beach. I got a pretty nice place in the Hilton Prince Kuhio, on the 29th floor. Waikiki is beautiful, but very crowded.  The Waikiki area has lots of options for eating and other services that visitors need. There are other beaches to choose from, although they are less convenient. The state of Hawaii has done a good job of containing tourism and development. On each island, there are zones that are developed, and zones that are less so or not at all. On many islands, the roads are intentionally inefficient in order to discourage crowds.  Waikiki is the main area of oahu that was set aside for tourists and their trappings.

waikiki hotel view

Oahu is not the largest of the islands but it’s still pretty big. It takes about 1.5 or 2 hours to drive across it. I’ve been here before, doing exactly the same kind of work, and that helps me in understanding the place.

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Kaua’i – my first destination

June 28th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

My first responsibility was to install some equipment at the Koke’e Air Force radar station on the island of Kau’ai. The station is at the north-west corner of the island, within Koke’e state park. I love being outside and so this assignment is right up my alley. If I was going to Kaua’i on my own dime, this is exactly the place I would go first – Right in the region of the Waimea canyon and Koke’e park. Not only have I ended up there, I was my job to go! I didn’t have much time there, but did have a free day and an afternoon, and will return with Holly in only a few weeks.

Work put me up in the Hyatt regency Kaua’i in Poi’pu, which is no shabby place. Here’s the view from the front porch:

View from the Po'ipu Hyatt

Sometimes when things get planned at the last minute, they have to put me in a nicer place than usual because that is the only thing available at such short notice. Hey – someone had to do it… I won’t complain. The Hyatt is an up-scale hotel with marble bathrooms and multiple services. They have a beautiful courtyard/atrium complete with large parrots.

Bird at the Po'ipu Hyatt

After my work was done, I spent the reminder of the day hiking on the Pihea trail. This trail starts at the Pu’u O Kila overlook and continues along a ridge overlooking the Kalalau valley on the Na Pali coast. Here is the seaward view:

Pihea trail, overlooking the Kalalau valley

Looking the other direction, towards the interior, you see the Alaka’i swamp and mount Wai’ale’ale:

Alaka'i swamp

I had a magical experience on this trail. An Erckel’s francolin made a very close approach, and gave me a good performance of its vocalizations, which are soft clucks, chirps, squabbles and squeals.

Japanese quail

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Preparing to leave for Hawaii

June 20th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

Well, it’s only 5 days away, and the trip isn’t completely planned yet! I am in my typical pre-trip frenzy of preparation. I have too damned many hobbies that require equipment.

The big island, Oahu and Kaui are my destinations.

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