Day 2: We get a rare opportunity to visit a nearby uninhabited island (Gielap) where hundreds of sea turtles come ashore at night to nest and lay eggs. During the day, we snorkel on the coral reef there, watch zillions of hermit crabs scuttling underfoot, dine on a beach-cooked meal of coconut crab, fresh-caught fish, and breadfruit, and watch a gorgeous sunset while waiting quietly for the turtles to come ashore. About an hour after dark, Junior escorts us a green turtle that has begun to lay eggs in a sand pit it dug under a tree. The ride home is surreal. Three boats speeding invisibly across a dark sea. Stars glittering above against a jet black sky, bioluminscent plankton glittering like blue-green glowing embers in the spray kicked up by the boat.
Day 3: Josh and Steve spent the day working on the Ulithi ROV, while James took our Catalina ROV to the island of Asor to check out some of the shallow reefs and the old military wrecks there. Lawrence, one of our Ulithian boat drivers starts operating the ROV and masters it quickly!
Day 4: This day is a special treat and a great honor. We have been invited to the island of Mogmog, home of the high chief. Mogmog is the most traditional of all the Ulithi Islands. The ecologists will be meeting with the chief and villagers to share results from their research the previous year. We will be introducing the new research we’ll be doing for them with our ROV. Unfortunately, our Ulithi ROV isn’t ready yet, so we bring one of our smaller C-DEBI ROVs to pass around for “show and tell.” Junior is visibly nervous about this visit. Western culture and traditional Ulithian culture are different. He wants us to make a good impression. The three of us get dressed in “thus,” the traditional garmet worn by men. A thu is a piece of long cloth wrapped between the legs and around the waist to form something resembling a hybrid between a skirt and a loincloth. It has to be tied and tightened just right, or it can fall off. Junior warned: “Don’t let your thu fall off, especially in front of the chief…that would be bad!”