A heli ride, a buoy on the high seas, and the moons of Jupiter

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and spin some fantastic connection between those three, other than the fact that they all were part of my day yesterday.

It was a long day that started at about 06:30 when one of our onboard campaigners, a Kiwi named Karli, came and woke me up by asking, “How quickly can you be ready for a heli ride?”

“Very quickly!” was my response, naturally.

I jumped out of bed, threw my clothes on, ran up to the campaign office to get my camera, and was out on the heli deck 4 minutes later. I got video of take-off and landing, which I’ll edit up and get someone on shore to upload to Vimeo for me. But for now, you may content yourself with these shots:

Here I am looking super tough in my heli gear.

Our pilot, another Kiwi, named Donal.

Here’s the Esperanza looking very small and lonely way off in the distance. This was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on the heli ride: This ship has been my entire world for the past couple weeks, but it’s a fairly large ship so I don’t feel too cramped. Going up in the heli, though, gave me a sense of just how small the ship is compared to the vastness of the ocean.

Here’s the Espy looking a little less small and lonely as we approach to land.

The purpose of this heli operation (of course we refer to them as “heli ops,” cuz we’re that cool) was to look for this Japanese ship that is not licensed to fish in the waters of the Cook Islands, but was doing so anyway. We did not find that ship, unfortunately. But we did spot a little yellow buoy floating in the middle of the ocean.

So when we got back to the ship, we launched one of our Zodiacs, loaded it up with the diving gear, and went to have a look.

Here’s the buoy. Looks harmless enough, but this could be a marker for a fish aggregating device, a long-line, or some other really destructive fishing gear.

One of our divers, a Brazilian chap named Gabriel, about to go snorkeling to have a look at the buoy and what it’s attached to.

Turned out the buoy was just attached to a line about 15 – 20 meters long, not a FAD or long-line at all. We hauled it up onto the boat and brought it back to the Esperanza anyway, as it was essentially just a piece of trash floating in the ocean.

This trip was still totally worth it however, because I got to go snorkeling in the Pacific. It was amazing just how clear and blue the water was. Seriously, if a shark had come by, we would have seen it coming a mile away. It’s incredible. We were about 5 miles from the ship at this point, so we didn’t even have that obstructing our view whatsoever.

The rest of the day went by as normal — answering emails, editing photos and videos, etc. That night, however, we were lying in wait for that same Japanese fishing vessel, as we thought they might have come back under cover darkness, when they assumed we’d have given up and gone away. So there was a need to be extra vigilant, and I was asked to be on watch from 20:00 to 24:00. At first I thought it would be boring, but then I stepped out on to the bridge wings and looked up.

It was a very clear night, so clear you could see the Milky Way. So clear, in fact, that with the aid of our high-powered binoculars, I could actually see the moons of Jupiter. I wish I could have taken photos, but of course they never would have come out. Guess I’ll have to keep that view all to myself.

Never did see that Japanese ship, in the end. Still a hell of a day though.

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One Response to A heli ride, a buoy on the high seas, and the moons of Jupiter

  1. Binky says:

    Dang, sounds pretty amazing man. Take it all in.

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