Hawaii Teacher on Board
Bird Watching

By Naidah Gamurot

Oct. 19, 1998. Today was rather uneventful. The forward camera on ARGO went out overnight, so it's been onboard all day. In the afternoon we took a wax core sample from the ocean floor. There were very few particles of rock or sediment on the cores.

We did do a little more traveling than we had the past couple of days. This morning we were far out to sea, with no land in sight. Tonight we're in close enough to see the Big Island.

Throughout history, lots of people have traveled the seas and were able to tell when they were getting close to land. How do you think they did that?

Well, one way was if there were birds nearby. They knew the birds must have a home on land within flying range. Another way is to look for clouds that can form above islands. If the island is high enough, it will force air masses upward. As the mass climbs, it cools, and clouds form. So, even if you can't see the island from the sea, you might be able to see the clouds accumulating over it. The Big Island presents a unique twist to that method. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa extend far above the usual 3,000 foot cloud base common for Hawaii. (Both volcanoes have elevations higher than 13,600 feet.). On some days, you would actually see the tops of the volcanoes before you would see an accumulation of clouds.

Here's one that works well for us on the ship. The prevailing winds in Hawaii are the northeast trades. The Puna Ridge runs to the northeast. This means that the trades blow from the outermost portion of the Puna Ridge towards land. And, since swells move in with the prevailing winds, by following the swells, we can determine in which direction the island can be found. Today we were steaming into the swells. Were we moving toward the Big Island or away?