May 20

It's Thursday morning here and the sun is shining again. Cloud cover is still about 50%, though not right on top of us, you can see them all around us. They look like the light puffy kind which don't threaten rain. Last night it rained again, on and off, most of the night so we had to keep the hatches closed and it was very warm.

The wind remains very calm which is nice and peaceful. We did several more dives since I last wrote in the journal. Yesterday wasn't so great, though I think partly we are just getting bored with this site. The coral is very nice and very alive, but its just got a sameness to it all along the reef. Tons of fish, especially parrot fish and a lot of the humphead parrots which are square headed like a bull mahi-mahi. The current was weird yesterday. When we put in we felt no current at all, but we started heading SE as we normally do since that is the direction the current usually comes from (the idea is to swim into the current for the first part of the dive to make getting back to the boat easier). After ten or so minutes we found that there was actually a light current flowing with us, the opposite direction to which it normally flows. So we turned around so as not to get to far down current from the boat (which would require us to fight back into it on the way back). So we ended up covering the same ground twice.

Then there was the poor visibility. This is not to say the viz was bad, but bad compared to how it has been on previous days. People who dive in other places with less water clarity will be shocked to hear this, but it was only about 75-100ft (horizontal) visibility compared to 150ft+ as it has been on previous days. The water here is incredibly clear. One possibility is that the coral was blooming. We did notice one specific type of coral (which I am hard pressed to describe) that had polyps visible all over it which we have not noticed before. According to the "Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide" (by Allen and Steene, a fabulous book with great color photos) it was a Sinularia coral which is a soft coral family containing about 20 different looking corals.

Meanwhile, the dive we had the day before yesterday was fabulous, and not just because if the better viz. We also saw 7 sharks on that dive, three within the first 4 minutes of the dive. Usually each one was alone, but we did see 2 at one time at one point in the dive. One in particular we followed along the reef for a good ten minutes before he passed from our sight. All of these were either white tip or black tip reef sharks and were very small, between 2 and 3 ft in length.

Also on Tuesday we had drinks over at "Windswept" and viewed a video they borrowed about nuclear bomb testing. This is a big topic here as the Marshall Islands was one of the places the US tested atomic weapons between 1947 and 1965. The video, which had been taped from The Learning Channel was called "Trinity and Beyond". Trinity was the code name for the very first atomic bomb test which was carried out near Los Alamos in the New Mexico desert. After the end of WWII (and the detonation of the 2nd and 3rd atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan) the 4th and 5th atomic bombs ever detonated were exploded at Bikini Atoll here in the Marshall Islands. Dozens of other atomic weapons were detonated here in the Marshalls after that as well. Mostly at Bikini but also on Enewetak Atoll which lies to the West of Bikini.

Since then the US has been paying reparations to the Marshallese people to compensate them for the damage done to the people of those islands (who were forcibly resettled on other islands in the country) and for the damage done to the Marshallese people living on other islands who were irradiated by nuclear fallout (especially the people of Rongelap Atoll who are due East of Bikini and who were blanketed by nuclear fallout to a severe degree). Many people claim that all of the Marshallese people have been affected by the radiation from the bomb tests and a doctor we know who works for one of the US funded medical service organizations says that cancer rates are several times higher here then in other parts of the world even among people who come from islands/atolls several hundred miles from Bikini and Enewetak.

The video was interesting, though it did not contain as much information as we had expected on the actual results of the tests on the people affected, either here in the Marshalls or other places where US nuke tests were carried out (i.e. Nevada - one of the biggest bomb test sites after the Marshalls was only 60 miles North of Las Vegas, however, this site was used almost exclusively for underground testing). It was more of a catalog of nuclear tests and consisted mostly of (very cool) photos of bombs going off.

William Shatner was the narrator (Capt. Kirk from "Star Trek") and Jonah recognized his voice as we have lately been watching the ST movies which we recently bought. He loves them of course. If anyone wants to get us a gift, BTW, DVDs are the best thing to get us. We want to get some of the original ST series DVDs next for Jonah to watch. I am curious how he will react to them having seen the (more modern effects and elaborate sets of the) full length movies.