Monthly Archives: July 2013

Touching New Ground

Nebraska!

Nebraska!

Whenever I go to a new place, I usually have to touch it. And not the hard concrete of a sidewalk or road, but preferably the ground. Preferably with grass.

Strange, I know. When some of my friends and I went up to Nebraska for my first time in 2010, to set up for a storm chase the next day, I ran out of the car (at the first gas station we stopped at inside the state) towards the nearest grassy patch and took a photo of my hand, much to everyone’s amusement. 🙂

I don’t always remember to do it, but I seem to get more excited about the idea of new sights and adventures when I do.

Moreover, whenever I see the sea (at least before I lived on a tiny island surrounded by it for 2 years), I have to dip my feet in it. At least when it’s a new coast I’ve never been to before.

Waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola, Florida. Not the first time to the Gulf, but first time to the Florida Peninsula Gulf!

Waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola, Florida. Not the first time to the Gulf, but first time to the Florida Peninsula Gulf!

Just to show part of my ocean view from where I stood at Pensacola...in my opinion, not a bad place for an overnight stop!

Just to show part of my ocean view from where I stood at Pensacola…in my opinion, not a bad place for an overnight stop!

On my first day on Kwajalein, when one of my co-workers was showing me around, we stopped briefly at one of the beaches so he could show me the view. I asked if he minded if I ran out to the water for a minute. He didn’t, so I did. I ran out on Camp Hamilton beach and stuck my feet in the tropical Pacific for the first time. Oh the delights of the warm water!

I don’t have a photo of that first ecstatic moment, but I did photograph my first hours on Hawaii, the day before I got to Kwaj for the first time.

First time in Hawaii's waters, on the first time to Hawaii--at the very crowded Waikiki Beach

First time in Hawaii’s waters, on the first time to Hawaii–at the very crowded Waikiki Beach

You can bet I’ll be dipping my feet in the New Zealand waters (no matter how cold!) at the first decent beach I go to, and surely be touching the ground soon after I’m out of the airport, to be sure it feels the same as ground the world over. 🙂

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Categories: General Traveling | Leave a comment

Oregon Overnight, Fires, and Pyrocumulus

The Three Sisters, Oregon Cascade Mountains

The Three Sisters, Oregon Cascade Mountains

On Saturday my parents and I drove down to visit my grandparents in central Oregon, where my sister met up with us as well. We had to take a longer-than-normal way down, as a wildfire in south central Washington had forced the highway over Satus Pass to be shut down. Sadly the weather in the Northwest has been prime lately for fires, and we saw a fair amount of smoke around on the drive down and back.

It was a quick overnight trip to the ranch, but good to go down there in the midst of this larger whirlwind trip. Here are a few other photos I took there of the lovely views.

Mt Jefferson

Mt Jefferson

Black Butte (left) and Three Fingered Jack

Black Butte (left) and Three Fingered Jack

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Coming back, as we crested the last ridge before looking down into Kittitas Valley (where my parents live), we got a good look at the smoke from a new fire growing on the opposite ridge.

What I was most fascinated with was the towering pyrocumulus clouds.

Pyrocumulus cloud growing above a smoke column northeast of Ellensburg, Washington

Pyrocumulus cloud growing above a smoke column northeast of Ellensburg, Washington

The basic principle behind cloud formation is water vapor condensation onto tiny particles called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). These CCN could be sand, dust, salt, … or in this case ash.

A fire in effect seeds the atmosphere, and the hot air above the flames can generate rapid and robust convection (rising air) that results in a puffy-looking (cumulus) cloud if there is enough moisture in the air.

Such cumulus clouds that form as a result of fires and volcanoes are known as pyrocumulus, or even pyrocumulonimbus if they grow large enough to produce a heavy shower or thunderstorm.

While the phenomenon is not uncommon, I had rarely seen such a well-defined example. A visible satellite loop from yesterday shows a series of pyrocumulus forming over the fire’s hotspot, and then moving off to the east (due to upper-level winds) as others form over the fire.

1-km visible satellite loop of Washington State, from 7am to 9pm local (PDT) on 28 July 2013. Counties are outlined in purple. Courtesy of the University of Washington - http://www.atmos.washington.edu/cgi-bin/list.cgi?vis1km.

1-km visible satellite loop of Washington State, from 7am to 9pm local (PDT) on 28 July 2013. Counties are outlined in purple. Courtesy of the University of Washington – http://www.atmos.washington.edu/cgi-bin/list.cgi?vis1km.

The fire in the northeast corner of Kittitas County (center of the state) is evident from the eastward-moving smoke plume. Later in the afternoon, about 3pm (2200 UTC), you can start to see the series of whitish knobs forming on top of the fire. These are the pyrocumulus. They really start to explode around 5 to 6pm (0000-0200 UTC).

As an aside you can also see the fire in south central Washington, although there are not so many pronounced pyrocumulus clouds on the smoke plume.

There may have been a little bit of rain falling from the cloud, but a radar loop yesterday showed a stationary spot of reflectivity that was in the location of the fire. Fires are not always visible on radar, but sometimes they are large enough for the ash particles to reflect the radar beam and appear to be stationary “rain” showers.

I didn’t save a loop, but here’s a single image showing the fire last night.

RadarScope image of the Pendleton, Oregon radar reflectivity. Blue circle shows my location, and the green blob to my northeast is the fire.

RadarScope image of the Pendleton, Oregon radar reflectivity. The blue circle shows my location, and the greenish blob to my northeast is the fire.

Ok, nerd moment over. For now. 🙂

Here’s hoping the firefighters get some better weather for fighting the fires, and everyone and their homes stay safe.

Categories: Oregon, United States, Washington, Weather | 4 Comments

Enjoying Paradise (at Mount Rainier)

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There are two main sites for accessing the base of Mount Rainier in western Washington State: Sunrise, on the northeastern side of the mountain, and Paradise, on the south. I once went to Sunrise about 15 years ago, and that was the last time I had been so close to Washington’s gentle giant.

Last Sunday, the 21st, my sister and I met up with our parents near Paradise, and had a wonderful day exploring viewpoints and short walks, the longest of which was an easy walk of less than a mile to a lovely waterfall. It would have been great to do more actual hiking as the weather was fantastic (hot actually) and the wildflowers were in full bloom, but I was recovering from a cold and wasn’t quite up to anything too strenuous just yet.

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Tatoosh Range, part of Mt Rainier National Park, at Paradise Inn

Tatoosh Range, part of Mt Rainier National Park, at Paradise Inn

After lunch outside the inn, we went on our little walk and saw a few butterflies and myriads of people amidst the beautiful scenery.

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Our destination was Myrtle Falls, a pretty little spot but only accessed from a steep and narrow staircase down from the main trail. The staircase ended on a small platform by the falls which soon became packed with other avid photographers, so we quickly took our shots and left to gaze at the mountain back on the trail.

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Even in the midst of a busy day at the park, it was wonderful to breath the fresh mountain air and drink in the views.

As we left the top of the Paradise road, we drove down and stopped at many of the viewpoints along the way.

Our second stop was the result of an impromptu, “what are they looking at down in the valley there? It must be an animal…it’s a bear!” from my sister. My sister and I had only ever seen a couple of bears in the wild, and they were young black bears running away from us while we were interning at a wildlife area in the north Washington Cascades about 10 years ago.

This big old shaggy black bear wandered slowly through the valley, eating some shrubs and grass and not bothered with anything. It was a long ways off (can’t wait to get the 70-200mm Canon lens and 2x extender soon), but still pretty cool for us.

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There were a lot of neat spots to stop at, so we took our time coming down the mountain, ooo-ing and aww-ing all the way.

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Reflection Lakes

Reflection Lakes

I was particularly interested in the reflection lakes, and trying for shots of Rainier’s reflection as the wind was very light. Sadly the lakes were not quite calm enough for good reflections, but it still was a pleasant stop that involved me being able to finally touch my first snow in about 2.5 years!

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At the end of our drive, I moved all my stuff (and myself) to my parents’ car, so my sister could go home and I could go stay with my parents to visit with them (and start the process of sorting and repacking boxes in storage) for a couple weeks.

For more photos of the day trip, please check out my Mount Rainier Flickr set.

Mt Rainier and avalanche chutes

Mt Rainier and avalanche chutes

Looking down towards the Cowlitz River, through the lovely thick forests near Mt Rainier (Mt Adams is faintly visible in the background)

Looking down towards the Cowlitz River, through the lovely thick forests near Mt Rainier (snow-capped Mt Adams is faintly visible in the background)

Categories: United States, Washington | Leave a comment

Packing, Visiting/Sleeping, and More Packing

Countdown

Less than NINE days left until I fly off for the long awaited move to New Zealand!! Single digits now, another big countdown.

On Sunday this week my sister and I met up with our parents at Mount Rainier, and the day was stunning. I just drunk in all the thick forests, snow-covered mountains, and meadows abloom with wildflowers. We went on a short walk of about a mile to a waterfall, but didn’t do too much as I was still feeling a little sick (got a sore throat as soon as I stepped foot on US soil, that developed into a bit of a cold but am pretty much back to normal now).

We did stop at a lot of viewpoints and even saw a big old black bear down in a valley! I intended to go through my photos the day after, but have kept busy this week and hope to get to them this weekend so I can share. It was a great time in the mountains, but at the end my sister went home and I left with my parents, to visit with them and get ready for the movers.

That’s what this week has mostly been taken up with; busy, busy, busy preparing for New Zealand. I’ve just about finished going through all my old boxes in storage here from when I moved to Kwajalein, and we finally got the moving date scheduled today, for a week after I leave. I’m sad it couldn’t be any sooner in spite of our hurry to get the estimates once my Kwaj pack out arrived, but happy my parents will be able to take care of it on this end.

I also had time recently for a nice walk around my old alma mater, Central Washington University, where I got my BA in Geography 7 (!) years ago. The day after my graduation ceremony, I hopped in my new car and drove to Oklahoma, as I was that excited to go start my new life there as a meteorology grad student. Ah, the memories. Two of my best friends growing up came to see me, and we enjoyed checking out old haunts and seeing how things had changed around campus.

Now for more visiting and the final last little bit of prep. Got a couple more books about New Zealand that make me even more excited, though I hope this last week with family goes slowly and wonderfully. My Dad says I should just go there instead of reading so much about it…I told him I think I just will. 🙂

Categories: New Zealand, Ramblings, United States, Washington | Leave a comment

More (Ocean) Is Always Better

Me and my sister, at Ecola State Park, with Cannon Beach below us

Me and my sister, at Ecola State Park, with Cannon Beach below us

What do people who have been living on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean do when they go on vacation? Go to the beach, of course!

This morning my sister and I (or rather I) laid low as I was nursing a bit of a cold, but then in the afternoon we decided to take the short trip to the coast to see some favorite spots on the north Oregon coast, as well as to finish up the shopping I had started yesterday for cold weather New Zealand clothes.

It was a beautiful blue sky day, and about as pleasant as it gets there on the coast. I was only a bit chilly at times, thanks to my thinned tropical blood, as you can guess from the differences in what my sister and I were wearing. I was also not quite brave enough this time to wade in the water, as many accustomed to the colder waters were doing, especially when I was not quite feeling 100%.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park

One of the places we stopped at was new to me, Fort Stevens State Park. Caitlin had been there before with some friends, but had not seen the shipwreck as exposed as it was today.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park

The Peter Iredale was a barque that ran aground while sailing from Mexico to Portland, Oregon late in 1906. Everyone on board survived, but the ship was badly damaged and eventually the remains were left alone.

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Bow of the Peter Iredale wreck. It was also a fine day for flying kites!

We later drove further south to Ecola State Park, a great lookout point over one of our family’s favorite vacation spots, Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock and the Needles, from Ecola State Park

Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock and the Needles in the distance, from Ecola State Park

We also had fine viewing conditions from the park out to one of my favorite lighthouses, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, fondly known as “Terrible Tilly”. I got a book about this light over 10 years ago and was fascinated by its story.

Terrible Tilly

Terrible Tilly

Tilly was built in the late 1800s, on a tiny rock (yes, much smaller than Kwaj…only about an acre, if that!) just over a mile out to sea, and about 20 miles south of the mouth of the Columbia River that separates the states of Oregon and Washington.

After many years of being the most expensive lighthouse to maintain, through many ferocious Pacific storms, Tilly was retired in the 1950s and the private owners converted it to a columbarium (storage for urns with cremated remains). The only way to reach the lighthouse is by helicopter, and sadly it is not open to the public.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, from Ecola State Park

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, from Ecola State Park

It was wonderful to spend even a brief time looking out over the terrific Pacific, especially as I had just come from an island some 5,000 miles southwest of where I stood, and would soon be traveling to another Pacific destination some 7,500 miles or so away.

For the first time, though, I was at least initially more taken by views of the forests and mountains, as it’s been so long since seeing good ones of both. My sister teased me that the trees around Ecola State Park that I took a couple photos of before finishing my ocean shots were probably not used to being photographed by most tourists.

Average trees on average hills in Ecola State Park, with Tilly at my back...but still just happy to see coniferous forests and elevation!

Average trees on average hills in Ecola State Park, with Tilly at my back…but still just happy to see forests and elevation!

We’ll probably go check out more forests and/or mountains in the next day or two, but I am glad we were able to see one of my favorite and most frequented spots on the coast. 🙂

For the whole album, including a few more photos from the coast, check out this Flickr set.

Categories: Oregon, United States | 2 Comments

I’m Baaaaack!!!

My sis and me, tired, hungry, and a bit bedraggled, but overjoyed to see each other at the airport!

My sis and me, tired, hungry, and a bit bedraggled, but overjoyed to see each other at the airport!

Over 5,000 miles later…I made it!!

Emotions overwhelmed me again as I walked outside to the airplane steps at the Kwajalein airport a couple of days ago. Leaving behind people and places that had meant so much to me (even to the United plane sitting beside my ATI plane, I waved at both sides to a good friend who had just arrived back from vacation), I tried to both soak in the last moments and shut out the feelings of sadness.

Just as I got to the steps it started to sprinkle, and I said aloud, “a fitting farewell for Kwaj” (to which one of the airport workers said “yep!”). The sun then came back out though, for a fine last view of the island. As we taxied down the runway, I saw one of the weather station techs outside getting the 00Z balloon ready to launch, and he waved at my plane, not even knowing if I could see him. I managed to get a window seat on the DC8, so I did see him though, and that made me both happy and sad again.

When the plane turned around and kicked it into high gear, I couldn’t help the tears streaming down. I cried until I could no longer see the island (which was a bit longer than you might think, as I craned my neck back for so long it hurt), and then settled back with a sigh to watch the rest of the islands of Kwajalein Atoll disappear into the blue of the sea and the sky.

The flight to Hickam (air force base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu) was uneventful and seemed to go by fairly quickly. At the baggage claim I said a quick goodbye to a couple of Kwaj friends and shared a taxi to the Ala Moana Hotel.

Part of the view from my 9th floor balcony

Part of the view from my 9th floor balcony

This time even with three large bags (quite hard for me to deal with, but doable) and a backpack, I somehow managed to make it up the elevator and to my room on the first try (might have something to do with someone else inserting their key card and then me pushing my button after his).

The other part of the view from my balcony

The other part of the view from my balcony

After settling in a bit, I walked over to the mall across the street for dinner. Every time I leave Kwaj I feel a bit overwhelmed at first by the traffic and “civilization”. One of the first sights to greet my eye was a trolley full of Asians with the driver leading in a hearty rendition of “YMCA” (maybe having something to do with the tour group just having passed the Y. They all looked so happy I couldn’t help smiling and waving back.

I got a good night of sleep and was up at a decent hour for breakfast before taking a shuttle to the airport.

Open breezeway at HNL

Open breezeway at HNL

I had a direct flight to Portland that was only a few minutes longer than my flight the previous day to Hickam, but somehow it felt an hour or so longer (perhaps having something to do with it being a crowded commercial flight instead of 15 people on a private carrier being treated nearly like first class).

Approaching PDX (Columbia River on the left, Mount Hood on the right)

Approaching PDX (Columbia River on the left, Mount Hood on the right)

My first glimpse of land was dramatic; coming out of the clouds, I saw forests of dark green Oregon conifers, and I thought I’d rarely seen a more beautiful sight. Barring the dying Black Hills of South Dakota (forests turned to brown and orange thanks to the pine beetles) that I saw a couple months ago while storm chasing, I hadn’t seen evergreen forests in two years.

I saw pasturelands next, against the beautiful backdrop of the Cascade Mountains, with Jefferson and Hood being most prominent.

Next came cities and the Willamette River, running down to the Mighty Columbia, with my home state of Washington on the other side. I also then saw Mount Adams and St Helens.

At this point the journey ended almost as emotional as it had begun. After two years, my reunion with the Pacific Northwest was a wonderful one, and I laughed and shed a few more tears of joy and yet still sadness for the life I had left behind on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.

My sister and I were then happily reunited at the Portland airport, and after we got my bags and went to dinner, we made it safely back to her home in Kelso (southwest Washington).

May the next 2.5 weeks of visiting family and friends, sightseeing, and shopping and preparing for my New Zealand adventure go slowly and fantastically!

Categories: Hawaii, Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands, Oregon, United States, Washington | Leave a comment

Off to Civilization

It took me two years to earn it (or rather to find that a passport stamp existed for Kwaj), but earn it I did! Until we meet again!

It took me two years to earn it (or rather to find that a passport stamp existed for Kwaj), but earn it I did! Until we meet again!

Said my final goodbyes this morning, and now sitting in the Kwaj terminal waiting to board the direct flight to Honolulu before long. It’s about a 5 hour flight, and I got my window seat!

While I have mixed feelings about leaving, after being sentimental last night I am back in the mindset of being ready to move forward. I can’t wait to see my family again, and hope the next three weeks will go slowly and be very enjoyable…as THREE WEEKS FROM TODAY, I WILL BE IN NEW ZEALAND!!!!

Categories: Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands | 1 Comment

Memories Past

The final goodbye

The final goodbye

Tomorrow morning I fly out of Kwajalein, leaving my home of the past two years.

This evening I biked and walked around the entire island for the last time, and I was overwhelmed much more than I thought I would be by memories of my life here. At almost every sight at least one memory came to mind, reminding me of mostly good times, often bringing tears to my eyes.

Last night my neighbors and friends threw me a going away party, with Dungeness crab and ham as the main entrees. I was overcome by everyone’s kindness and the amount of people who were there (granted, it was excellent food!). It hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m leaving for good, but it is starting to.

In the midst of my excitement for my next adventure in New Zealand, it is very bittersweet to be moving from Kwaj, and I think I will miss it more than I think.

As I look out on the same view I have had every morning (photo), I still feel so blessed with having had this wonderful opportunity and taking it. What a beautiful place. Maybe I’ll come visit again someday.

My last evening here now I will spend again with friends and acquaintances in the courtyard. Then it’s up early for my flight. So long, Kwajalein! I trust my next adventure will be all that I hope for and more.

Categories: Kwajalein, Living Abroad, Marshall Islands | 3 Comments

Fishing, Catching, and Dolphins

Tony and Leck reeling in an Aku

Tony and Leck reeling in an Aku

My Dad always says there’s a reason fishing is called fishing instead of catching. While not a stranger to freshwater lake fishing, my first time deep sea fishing was, well, a fishing trip and not a catching trip.

In years past, Kwaj fishermen tell me the fish used to be plentiful here, and they would almost never come back disappointed. More recently, an increase in the number of commercial fishing vessels licensed to operate in the Marshall Islands (e.g., Japanese, Chinese, American) has led to a decrease in success for the locals.

To some extent the fishing in the Marshall Islands depends on the time of year. Not that we really get seasons here, but some fish migrate to (or come from) other parts of the world that do.

After living on Kwajalein for almost two years, a few of the regular fishermen invited me out on a boat to finally go fishing one morning in early April.

It was towards the end of Mahi Mahi season, so they told me, but we still thought we might catch one or two and probably some tuna and/or Ono (aka Wahoo). Two of these guys had been boasting for a while that they went out fishing almost every weekend for the last two years (when they got here), and ALWAYS caught at least one fish. One of them had even recently acquired a giant cooler that was perhaps twice the size of the coolers available to rent at the small boat marina, and got me a small pair of gloves to borrow so that I could pull in one of the hand lines.

The regular setup these guys have is two large poles and two hand lines, one on each side of the stern of the B-boat (the 22-foot twin-engine powerboats available for rent on Kwaj).

We set out trawling up the west reef of the atoll, anywhere from about a half-mile away from the islands to a mile or two out in the ocean (the rental boat limit is 3 miles oceanside). As you can probably guess from the build up, we tried our best and occasionally changed lures, but ultimately came away skunked. I didn’t feel too bad as it was still a nice morning out, but the guys felt terrible (“first time!”) and dreaded the “walk of shame” up the dock with an empty cooler and no fish to clean.

Once back at the marina, we were slightly consoled by the fact that the most any of the other boats caught was three. Sadly we couldn’t even say we got a hit on a line but the fish got away.

Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, Kwajalein Atoll

Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, Kwajalein Atoll

The next weekend, I had to go with them again and hopefully actually catch something.

As soon as we went outside SAR Pass (the nearest ocean pass, on Kwaj’s west side), we came across a huge pod of spinner dolphins!!

I was thrilled to the core, and kneeled down at the bow of the boat to try to get close up shots (sadly with just my cheap point-and-shoot as I didn’t risk my DSLR). I had seen dolphins once or twice before from the shore, but they were always a ways off. The spinner dolphins we have here like to jump out of the water and spin around their long axis, which can make quite the show if there are a few showing off.

I had heard people say that the dolphins seem to love powerboats, and swim right alongside the boat, but I had never witnessed this until that day. Surrounded by an estimated 150 or so dolphins, I knew the day was going to be a good one. The water was literally THICK with them, and they liked to get right up under us and so close that I was a bit afraid for them, but they were fearless. That right there made the trip for me.

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Not long after the dolphins disappeared, rather as suddenly as they appeared, we got a hit on one of the hand lines, and to our delight brought in a Mahi Mahi.

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Excited to have the monkey off our back, we were in high spirits but still had to wait a while before our next bite.

This time we brought in an Aku (Hawaiian name for a Skipjack Tuna) on one of the poles. Akus are quite feisty, and as soon as one of the guys tossed it in the cooler, it started rapidly vibrating and making quite the racket, especially with all that space.

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After trawling around for a while and changing lures again, we suddenly got a hit from a marlin!! One of the guys started to reel in the pole, but it was just playing with us and got away. After another minute, it hit a handline. Our boat driver even saw it crest the water, so we knew for sure it was a marlin.

Sadly the marlin never did take a good bite, so we lost it, but it sure gave us some excitement for a few minutes. We even saw its bill frayed the end of the hand line, which was interesting.

We finally had to head back to the marina as our boat’s rental time was up. While the guys might have been a little disappointed we didn’t have much more luck than just the two fish, after the previous week we were glad to have at least caught something for dinner.

Hanging onto a couple of heavy fish (especially the mahi, on the right), thinking "don't drop, don't drop, don't drop them!"

Hanging onto a couple of heavy fish (especially the mahi, on the right), thinking “don’t drop, don’t drop, don’t drop them!”

I had another wonderful day, from the dolphins, to the fish we caught, to the excitement of the marlin, to another fine day with friends, and a most delicious grilled fish dinner outside on a lovely tropical evening!

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Nurse Sharks at the marina, devouring discarded bits of the fish

Nurse Sharks at the marina, devouring discarded bits of the fish

For a few more photos of the fishing adventure, see my Kwajalein Atoll Fishing Flickr set.

Categories: Adventure Sports, Fishing, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands | 2 Comments

Bigej, A Kwaj Getaway

Bigej Island

Bigej Island

Another of Kwajalein Atoll’s fine islands is Bigej, a popular little getaway for Kwaj residents.

I had only been at Kwaj for just over a month when a new friend of mine at the time invited a bunch of people out on a couple of B-boats (Kwaj’s 22-foot Boston whaling twin-engine rental powerboats) to go up to Bigej for the day.

Bigej (pronounced BEE-gee) is an island partway up the east reef of the atoll (not quite halfway), and as far northeast as you are allowed to go in the B-boat rental area. It takes about 30-45 minutes to get from Kwaj to Bigej on full speed in the twin engine boats. Driving on the lagoon side of Bigej Pass is always fun, as there is a large, often rough ocean pass in the reef between Bigej and the next island south, the northern end of a long chain of islands connected by a causeway all the way to Ebeye. We anchor on the protected lagoon side, but as you pass by that pass, you’ve got to be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Bigej beaches

Bigej beaches

Bigej is a pleasant, jungley island, and just what you might think of for a deserted tropical island. There are a few Marshallese who have homes there, though, so we are supposed to get permission from the RMI office on Kwajalein a few days in advance if we want to step foot on the beautiful beaches. They are quite friendly people, and sometimes bring us bags of beautiful cowry shells they have collected.

Most of the time people go up to Bigej to go snorkeling and enjoy the more luscious corals and peaceful atmosphere. I have made it up there a few times, both on powerboats and once on a sailboat, and it’s always a lot of fun.

Over-under photo attempt, while snorkeling at Bigej

Over-under photo attempt, while snorkeling at Bigej

My first time sailing (for more on that adventure, see my Kwaj blog post from the time), we went only as far as Gugeegue (pronounced about how you might expect), a couple islands south of Bigej, as the winds were not very strong and it was already promising to be a long day.

Sailing on the Down East Trader

Sailing on the Down East Trader

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Despite the slow voyage, it was quite exciting for my first trip, and once we arrived, I went snorkeling for the first time with sharks. I was a bit nervous at first, but my excitement quickly overcame any fears I had, until I realized they were much more scared of us than we were of them.

Whitetip Reef Shark

Whitetip Reef Shark

Another time I went sailing on the Panacea, one of the largest sailboats here. We went up to Bigej for a fine day of snorkeling and tacos. One of the wonderful things about going sailing here is that because they are privately owned boats (most of them anyway), we can stay out all day, instead of having to return in 4.5 hours as we do with the rental B-boats. More people tend to own sailboats than powerboats, but all but one of the rentals are powerboats.

For a few more photos of my relaxing sailing and snorkeling trips, check out my little Flickr set from sailing, Bigej, and Gugeegue. Some of the underwater photos from my Kwajalein Atoll scuba and snorkel Flickr set are also from Bigej.

Categories: Adventure Sports, Boating, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands | Leave a comment

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