Writings and Presentations
1998 Passage to Hawaii
After the excitement of the passage from Mexican waters to Hawai'i we took some R & R on the Big Island. I have to confess to a feeling of pride and accomplishment, particularly when asked by anyone where we had come from. It was that very special feeling that I have known only rarely in my life. The feeling of having accomplished something special and learned things about myself and my reality that made me stronger. I truly felt "different", tougher, more confidant and happy with myself. I hadn't felt that way in a great long time! It was as though a fresh breeze of space and time had blown out some very old cobwebs.
During our time in the port of Hilo, I twice went out in my kayak to see if I could draw in a whale or two. One of my fantasies was to "look into the eye of the whale" (as the window to the soul), and at kayak level that just might occur. I had been eye to eye with Humpbacks before, on the deck of Dariabar from a distance of maybe 4 feet, but I wanted to "really" be eye to eye.
I paddled out of the harbor entrance and into deep water. As I glided across a 4 ft wind swell I kept repeating the phrase, "I am here now, let us meet". I could hear their blows from various directions and the hard slap of their bodies as they breached nearby, but the swell hid them from view .
As the wind freshened and the swells got larger I started back in. One lone humpback began a parallel course with mine. For about 10 minutes we angled towards each other and then when he was only 25-30 yds away a fishing boat cut between us and he was gone. Above all else they hate the sound created by the cavitation of small outboard engines.
Returning to the harbor I was treated to the company of a rather large leather back sea turtle. I was able to get eyeball to eyeball with him and I saw such ancient wisdom that I felt I was in the presence of a shaman. Lord knows what he thought of me?
After a week in Hilo we set sail for Oahu and the port of Honolulu. We sailed out in late afternoon so we could catch the volcanic display of Kileau at night. I was woken for my watch and saw the fiery spirit of Pele as we rounded the south shore of Hawai'i. It was like a dream, how could I be so lucky as to be experiencing all these things and the voyage had only begun?
We continued to sail along the west coast of the Big Island working our way north to Kiholo Bay in preparation for crossing the infamous Alenuihaha Channel to Maui'i. Just a ways out of the Port of Hawaihie we dropped sail and deployed our hydrophone unit to see if we could detect some whale sound. What we got was the most elaborate symphony of cetacean vocalizations I had ever heard. Danny piped the sound through our speakers on deck and for the next half hour or so we were treated to a most wonderful performance. Not a whale or dolphin in sight, the ocean dead calm, oh my, oh my. To envision the ocean below and around us filled with invisible singers has remained with me as a signature of the marine world.
We crossed the channel that had twice destroyed the invasion army of Kamahamaha I at night with good wind but mild seas. Next day we sailed past Maui'i and Molikai'i, crossed the Kaiwi channel and got to our berth in Honolulu in time to attend a super bowl party at the Waikiki Yacht Club as guests of David Lyman, son of Admiral Lyman of WWII Pacific fame.
Our crew did itself justice in the general revelry as we were to some degree celebrities having made "the passage" in an El Nino' year with contrary weather.
After a week in Honolulu making connections with Cornell, Greenpeace and the Hawai'i maritime museum we were ready to sail to Kaui'i, our research destination. My wife Susan Pepperwood joined me in Honolulu a couple of days before departure and sailed with us at night across the Channel. She joined me on my midnight watch and got a first hand experience of night sailing in the Pacific.
Next morning we arrived at the harbor of Nawiliwili just outside of Lihue and tied up at what would be home port for the next 4 months. After a short vacation with Susan on Kaui'i the real work was about to begin as Cornell Universities people began to arrive with their very sophisticated electronic gear.
On Tuesday the 17th of February I returned to the boat after a delightful vacation with Susan on Kaua'i. The crew and the contingent from Cornell, along with their gear, were busy in preparation for our first session on station.
Our goal was to monitor the surface behavior and the vocalizations of the Humpback Whales to insure that there were no harmful effects from the experiment during the The Scripps Institute of Oceanography's global warming studies. There had been concern regarding the "big sound" and it's influence on the natural behavior of these most wonderful creatures.
We were to be on station directly over the big sound source off the north shore of Kaua'i by 7:00 AM every morning for 7-10 day periods. This was to last until the middle of May at which time the whales would begin their great migration to Alaskan waters and the experiment would be terminated.
Our equipment consisted of some of the most sophisticated listening devices available. This included a 20 hydrophone array that we would tow behind Dariabar, and a number of sona buoys (pop ups, not sound generating) that we would deploy at strategic locations around the sound source. The pop ups would be anchored to the bottom for periods of up to three weeks after which they would be retrieved and their recordings analyzed in relation to the times when the big sound was generated. At no time did we on Dariabar know when the source was operating so that no bias of observation would be possible.
The Cornell contingent consisted of the project chief, Dr. Adam Frankel, and 3 to 4 graduate assistants for surface observation. I have never worked with a more capable, cooperative and down right fun bunch as these young people.
We left Nawiliwili harbor at 7:00 PM that evening in order to be on station the next morning. My first watch in some time was pleasant except that I had already lost my sea legs and I was a bit woozy for the first few days. We hove to over the station at night and I was treated to very calm conditions on my watch and was able to simply lie on deck and appreciate the starry silence. Carl Yung's concept of the sea being the window to the subconscious was strongly reinforced during these periods of solitude, broken only by intermittent and always stimulating conversations with my watchmate Jack Frost. The roll of the boat, the smell of fresh sea air, endless stars and the occasional sounds of marine creatures was truly ethereal.
On Saturday the 21st the weather freshened and our work became unproductive so we sailed around the west side of the island and headed back to Nawiliwili. This allowed us a view of the entire Napali Coast from about 2 miles out and in moderate seas with the coast looking like something out of a fantasy. Incredibly beautiful, but lots of rolling. When we rounded the south end of the island we picked up the wind again and some squall activity so my watch at midnight was demanding. Nevertheless, Jack and I had a deep philosophical discussion which passed the time well.
We stayed in port for the next 7 days waiting for the sona buoys to arrive and catching up on ships maintenance. During these lulls I found myself having the most vivid and extraordinary dreams. I was even gifted with two "lucid dreams"(which I had not had for some time). I, like the rest of the crew, also read voraciously, easily finishing 10 books during this part of the voyage.
At this point in the voyage I began to accept that the reality of this experience was to be quite different than my original fantasies. My intention to find spiritual communion with the whales, and myself was taking a very different path than I had imagined. Simply wanting to be a "good" sailor, or wanting to convey to the whales my soul intent was not enough to make it happen. Yes....I was going to have to work for it...imagine that! In my journal the night before (Feb 28th) our second trip on station I wrote, "the wheels of greater understanding are clearly in motion".
The second trip had many difficulties. The weather was excellent but the "sophisticated equipment" did not perform well so there was lots of pretty frantic activity for a few days; including a run back to port, loss of a pop up, repair of the array, but everyone kept it together and we still got in some real quality observation. Returned to Nawiliwili on the 7th of March feeling good in all ways.
During the break until the next trip out I discovered the amenities of the Marriot Hotel just a block from our berth. Presenting myself as a member of the elite clientele there I partook of their swimming pool and beach. Gaudy and very tourist oriented but a great place to hang out when not on duty.
On the full moon night of the 12th of March my watchmate Jack treated me to a moonlight performance on his pan flute. It was just the two of us on board and while I was enjoying the moonrise he had climbed to the top of the main mast and began to play. I cannot describe the beauty of the moment, only to say that it will remain as one of the purest moments of contentment I have ever known!
We went out again on the evening of the 14th and arrived on station at the end of my watch. Dr. Chris Clark, the director of Cornell's bioacoustics lab and world's expert in cetacean vocalization, joined us on the 19th to help in retrieving all the pop ups we put out on the last trip. We got most of them but lost one. This trip out turned out to be even more eventful then the previous one, requiring another quick run back to Nawiliwili, loss of our RIB (rigid inflatable boat) in the surf in Hanalei and returning to station in a near gale. It was however some of the most exciting time I had at the helm. Surfing 20 foot swells was an experience! At one point I lost my concentration and the wheel spun out of my grip. I fell backwards and it could have been real ugly but I was fortunate enough to grab a spoke and it pulled me back upright. When we finally returned to port everyone was truly exhausted but the work had been done.
I took two days off to meander around the island, even rented a car. For some reason I just could not get picked up hitch hiking. No one else had that problem, really made me wonder? It was great to be completely on my own and I took advantage of the time. Even caught a movie in town.
After one more very short, but incredibly intense sail out to station (primarily deploying sona buoys for a long term vocalization record) we again returned to port for a long R & R. This concluded the major portion of our work with Cornell so I took a long leave of absence to come home and revitalize my "other" reality.
Upon my returning in early June we retrieved the pop ups and sailed to Honolulu where I was to meet a group of students from Mendocino College for a 10 day course in Whale and Dolphin Ecology. And that's another story.
Writings on the Subject of Education