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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/journals/Day of Departure/

NOWRAMP 2002
Departure (9/8/02)

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Day of Departure
by Carlos Eyles

Prior to our leaving, at ten in the morning ten Hawaiians honor us with an Awa ceremony. Ten Hawaiian men dressed in traditional cloting give us their blessing for the expedition. All hands participated and in the still air of morning we wait while they prepare a sacred ground for the ceremony on the spacious Coast Guard lawn. As the ceremony begins a stiff breeze comes up, blowing to the northwest, the compass heading of our destination. Despite boat whistles, cruise ship horns, thundering jets taking off and landing, and deafening whines of helicopters that drowned out some of the dialogue the moment did not break. Our small group prevailed over the best civilization could offer, much as these small islands we are about to explore prevailed for millennium. Perhaps that is all we intend to do on this mission; prevail, to sustain the beauty, wilderness and cultural integrity of the Hawaiian people and their land and surrounding seas for generations to come.

After years of planning, months of preparations, meetings, emails galore, endless phone calls and a collective will of iron, the expedition, finally, mercifully is underway. The Rapture, its brass props cutting clean Hawaiian water on a northwest heading, steams out of Honolulu harbor and into the open waters of the Pacific. We are bound for the farther reaches of the northwestern Hawaiian chain some twelve hundred miles of it scattered along that self-same heading . This expedition was mounted under the auspices of NOAA's National Ocean Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. On board the Rapture some fifty souls bringing a breadth of disciplines to seek out and determine what, exactly, lies beneath and within these pristine islands to the northwest, so removed from the civilized world as to be nearly forgotten. The single unifying thread that links these varied and diverse groups on board is their deep and abiding passion for the sea and a determination to find a way to care for and sustain these pristine waters for generations to come. There is excitement in the air, a relief almost that we are underway. To assemble such an expedition is Heruclean, and though an enormous amount of work awaits each assembled team, there is anticipation, for now, the real work, the work of passion is at hand.

I stand at the railing and watch the island of Oahu float above the shadowed sea and think of Capt. Cook and the others that followed this way and stumbled upon paradise and the shambles that have been made of it since. And now, again, we seek out paradise, not to exploit it but to cradle it lovingly in our arms, and though these collective arms are, in a way encumbered with the debris of past destruction of our ancestors, they come with the clear understanding of the past and the understanding that we are running out of time and thus the opportunities to nurture and hold dear what little is left of the legacy bequeathed to us; the soul of the planet and thus ourselves; the natural world.

The island of Oahu shrinks away, the most urban island in a chain that has been, to a large degree, reconfigured by man to suit his interests. Ahead lies the extended chain of those same islands, an undersea mountain ridge whose tips bear the names of the unfamiliar; Nihoa, Necker, Garden Pinnacles, French Frigate Shoals, Laysan, Pearl and Hermes, Maro, Midway, and Kure. All configured and occupied by the hand of nature in its grand majesty created through fire, molded by water and air. The primary elements knew how to do the job right. These islands, adorned by sea birds instead of airplanes, turtles instead of tourists, monk seals instead of automobiles, await us by way of a geographical time warp. I am humbled by the sheer idea of stepping back into time and into this relatively unknown stretch of sea that has been held intact by the protective hands of the remote and undesired. There is mystery in the unknown, a magic that awaits the seeker, a crystal hidden in every rock, life discovered within a flowered piece of coral, multitudes that once inhabited the world finding in these last outposts a refuge to live and procreate undisturbed as they once did. To witness such events is to hold dear one's own place in the scheme of things and attempt to restring the connective spirit that binds us all to our home, the planet Earth.

There is the distinct feeling that this mission is one of greater importance than we ourselves can fully fathom. As such every effort and all skills that can be mustered and brought to bear on this project will be done so with a dedication and a determination to bring about the protection of these islands for future generations.


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Carlols Eyles, contract writer.
Carlos Eyles

 


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