Land ho! The final countdown

It has been a full month since we left our homes to convene in San Diego in preparation for our voyage on the R/V Kilo Moana. A month ago, I vividly recall first looking at the ship, thinking ‘Wow, I have to spend a month on that thing? What have I done?’ A month ago, we had so much time. There was time to work on my own research. There was time to get to know new people and make new friends. There was time to play card games, and read, and write, and think, and just watch the rolling waves on sea, constantly changing but ever the same. There was plenty to do, but there were also just so many tomorrows!

Well, now there is but one more tomorrow. On a ship, it is poor form to count your chickens before they hatch, but we are scheduled to arrive in port tomorrow morning, Monday 7 May, at 0700 Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time. As the weeks have turned to days, and now to mere hours, we have found ourselves almost continuously busy. We have barely any Pacific ORCA work left to do on the ship; our sole remaining responsibility is to process the multibeam data we collected, which gives sonar images of the seafloor topography. But we have been occupied by a Quoits tournament (like a game of horseshoes, but with rings of rope), which wraps up this morning. And, perhaps more acutely, we all are comparing how much of our own work we’ve gotten done versus how much we wanted to finish on the ship. I can tell you that none of us have done more than we wanted, and some still have high hopes for the coming few hours.

We’re also intensely aware that before long, our lives will contain no flying fish or dolphins, no unlimited free ice cream, and no time to gaze mesmerized at the serene blue of the ocean, the brilliant colors of the sunrise and sunset, and the uncountable stars strewn across the night sky. Before long, all of us will scatter to our own countries and institutions. Before long, our lives will return to normal, and our time on the R/V Kilo Moana will perhaps seem not quite real. The tremendous amount that we have learned over the last month, however, will stick with us for years to come.

Mauna Loa has appeared, nestled in with the clouds on the horizon. We have begun receiving text messages. The time is so short, it is almost palpable. Choosing between the unfinished work and soaking in the last gasp of ship life, I think we have almost unanimously chosen the latter.

— William Hawley, on behalf of the PacificORCA team


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