Nancy Lewis, September 13, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 13, 2003

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Despite my intention to catch up some sleep,  I woke up for the stunning sunrise across  the bay.  Because of some dense tropical foliage obscuring my view from the lanai, it was not until I walked over to breakfast that I could see that the NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA had arrived and was anchored peacefully in the bay.  My colleague, Tom Nolan, a scientist from NASA,  had gone to meet the ship, so I took advantage of this opportunity to steal back to my bungalow and read.  I had brought with me a copy of Herman Melville’s Typee, which is the semi-biographical account of how he jumped ship on this very island of Nuku Hiva, and escaped over into the next valley to live for a period of time with the notorious Typee natives. I mused on his descriptions of tyrannical sea captains, and inhumane treatment aboard his ship, and dreamed myself of stealing over to Taipivai Valley to visit the very place of his mild imprisonment with the “fierce Typees”.

My reveries were soon broken by the arrival of the party from the ship, and soon I was sitting and conversing with Tetsuro Isono, the scientist from Japan who was on board for the first leg of the KA’s mission from Honolulu.  I also met Diane Bernstein, from the University of South Florida, who is working on calibrating an instrument designed to analyze CO2 dissolved in the water. It was great to meet these people and all of the other folks who make up the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA.

The day ended for all of us in a very special way.  After dinner, a local dance troupe came and entertained the party with traditional Marquesan dancing and drumming.  The young men and girls were decked out in hand made costumes of feathers, beads, and raffia, and they brought out huge homemade drums.  The performance was a spirited dance that had the bare, painted chests of the young men glistening with sweat.  The only complaint was that the dancing didn’t go on all night.  I thought again about Melville’s time that he spent here on Nuku Hiva.  His story helped to fuel the romantic ideas associated with the remote South Sea Islands.  I walked back to my bungalow with the scent of tiares wafting down the path, and the moonlight reflecting off the waters of the bay.

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