Day 7 – Lazy Sunday

January 21, 2012

 

Following a morning thwarted by rain and a football game interspersed with Navy commercials, we biked down to the airport runway and parked at the entrance to the closed beach. We were beach sweeping!

It was a different beach clean up than I had ever done before. Instead of wrappers and plastic bags everywhere, we found huge plastic floats from fishing vessels, spacers (from fishing line), weird Japanese floats that do not look like they would connect to anything and so much fishing line.

One piece (and I use piece loosely) was particularly stubborn. It was about two inches thick in diameter and I could not even tell you how long. Curled around itself and pilled under a solid foot of sand it took three of us struggling with all our might to pull it out – and this was after our strongest male had given up, the girls moved in and got the job done! We then had to cut it apart before moving it off the beach.

Bottle caps littered the shoreline and little pieces of indistinguishable plastic were commonplace. It was hard work but felt so great afterwards!

While waiting for the tractors to take the bags of garbage to their proper recycling places I sat amongst the albatross. They tend to run away at first but if you sit long enough they become curious and move over to check you out.

Taking the long route back to the barracks we spotted the endangered Short-tailed Albatross! There is one nesting pair on Eastern Island (the eastern island in the atoll) that successfully fledged a chick last year and are back again this year. This big guy (he’s huge compared to the other albatross and that’s saying something) is a newbie to the island and is struggling to mate with the other birds, none of which are his species. It will be exciting to see if he gets a mate in the next years!

Biking on we spotted two Black-footed albatross chicks! The parents are still sitting on the chicks – funnily enough because it looks like they are squishing the babies! – primarily to continue to keep them warm. The chicks are a soft white next to their parents’ rich black feathers and they have a tiny black beak. They were adorable!

We wandered our way back to the barracks, stopping to search for the Barndt’s goose – lost on its way from Alaska! – and changed into our swim suits to jump in before dinner.

On the way to the beach we spotted one of the first Laysan albatross chicks! These chicks are soft grey with dark beaks; again, they look out of place next to their bright white parents.

I ended up not swimming – it was way too cold and I chickened out – but sat and watched the waves roll in with another girl that decided to not freeze in the water. Sitting there, I noticed these small balloon-like oblong things blowing across the beach. I wondered what they were but thought nothing of it until I felt a sharp stab at my ankle. I looked down to see the jellyfish’s tendrils latched on and pulled them off. My first jellyfish sting! (Only when you’re a marine scientist are you excited about getting stung)

It was either a Portuguese Man’o’War or a blue bottle. Either way, I’m fine!

Now off to schmooze with the VIPs!

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