Micronesia: Day 14 – Sakau, Seagrasses and Sunsets

Water just outside the barrier reef surrounding Pohnpei, Micronesia – 7/5/13

Friday, July 5, 2013

8:34 P.M.

Good evening everybody. Well, for all my readers in Seattle, I should say “good before-sunbreak everyone.” Anyway, it’s Friday evening here, and I had a spectacular end to a spectacular week.

First off, let me upload some pictures from the 4th of July U.S. Embassy party that I mentioned in my other blog. It was pretty awesome… I kept in line with my “attentionitarian” habits and sneaked a hot dog in when nobody was paying close attention. To my credit, I did this because there weren’t any veggie dogs, and I was consoled by the fact that another, older woman on the trip who is a much more noble vegetarian than I also had a hot dog. There was a cutout of president Obama, so I got to meet a carbon copy of our commander-in-chief.

A whole bunch of cool stuff was going on. Some young Pohnpeian kids sung “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and topped it off with synchronized marching, a young Pohnpeian woman sung the U.S. National Anthem, and some other miscellaneous people had some remarks. There were some Mormons who, instead of trying to convert everybody to Mormonism (I used to be unbiased towards Mormons, but now I harbor ill will towards them as a group for a few individuals who won’t stop pestering me in Red Square. I know it’s wrong, but it’s how I feel.), said something like “God Bless America,” although slightly more elaborate.

There were also these adorable little girls doing some general Polynesian dances, and they were followed by some older girls that looked to be around my age or slightly older. I don’t think the dances they did were endemic to Pohnpei; they looked similar to dances I had seen at Luaus in Hawaii.

Adorable

Adorable 2.0

Of course, no Independence Day would be complete without an Uncle Sam, so we had one of those, too.

I want YOU… to eat more hot dogs.

We even met a kid named Charles, which is awesome because there were already two Charles’ in our group (Charlie Heller and myself). He was a Pohnpei native and kind of awkward, but he was really nice. 

The three stooges

Of course, no 4th of July could be celebrated without a glass of chocolate milk. The brand was “Sakau” and it tasted horrible… the Micronesians need to work on their chocolate milk. Rumor has it that the chocolate milk acts as a depressant and has been used in Pohnpei and other Pacific Islands in spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years, but it didn’t affect me at all besides make me cringe. For those of you wondering, drinking this brand of chocolate milk is perfectly legal and normal… it just tastes bad. One bottle was 5 bucks. I didn’t like it, but hey, you can’t get it in the States.

Another thing that was really cool on our Independence Day was a rain shower I saw back at the hotel. The rain shower itself wasn’t particularly heavy, but there was a ton of muddy outflow into the estuary from a pipe near the hotel, indicating that it was probably raining extremely heavily not far away. These tropical rainstorms can be very localized.

Now, onto the stuff we did today. We went to some location… the name escapes me right now, but it was on the northern coast of Pohnpei… and we walked out in the water to take some data about seagrasses. More specifically, we looked for the percent coverage of seagrass in various locations and approximated percentages for the amount of seagrass in our area that belonged to each genus that was known to exist on Pohnpei: Thalassia, Enhalus, and Cymodocea. We generally found that Thalassia was most common, followed by Enhalus and Cymodocea.

Out in the “field.”

Rite-ing in the Rain with the pen and notepad of the same name. I used the snorkel to get a closer look at the genera of seagrass.

One of the Pohnpeian interns for the Conservation Society of Pohnpei that joined us on the trip holding a sea cucumber.

Doing work with the iconic Sokeh’s rock in the background.

At one point, we found a really cool cowrie. I immediately recognized the shell… I’d seen plenty of these shells selling in gift shops before, but I had never seen the actual animal. The cowrie is an amazing creature… and it tickles when it maneuvers around on your hand. Definitely the coolest organism I’ve seen on this trip. 

A really pretty cowrie we found.

We found a stray mangrove all the way out in the seagrass plain. I didn’t take a good look at it, but if I had to guess, I would say it was a Rhyzophera simply because there were a lot of other Rhyzophera  in the vicinity and I feel like the Rhyzophera propagules would be well-situated to successfully start growing in this type of environment. 

We were also fortunate enough to see a decently-sized plane land at the Kolonia International Airport. It’s easy to forget that Micronesia is just a couple plane flights away; it really feels like a completely different world here.

Yesterday, I was told that a homestay was completely out of the question, but apparently the UW administration flip-flopped this morning and said that a homestay was perfectly ok. However, plans had already been made, so I didn’t end up participating in a homestay. I currently have my room to myself (it is 11:26 P.M. right now) because both my roommates (in fact, everybody else in the class) are at their respective homestays. They will get back Sunday afternoon.

Our boat left before the others had began their homestays. Bon voyage!

I was bummed that I was missing out on these homestays, but I’ve already had a pretty decent exposure to Micronesian culture and I’m very grateful for that. Since I had some extra time, my mom and I went on a sunset boat cruise that the owner of the hotel we are staying in sponsored. We went to just outside the barrier reef surrounding Pohnpei, anchored up, and socialized, swam, and watched the sunset.

I always thought that Pohnpei looked like a tropical version of Clayoquot Sound, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a sound located on the western coast of Vancouver Island by Tofino. The greenery, the sharp topography coming all the way to the shore… there are just so many similarities between these two places. I hope I can go up to Tofino later this year. Long story short… the boat ride out to our destination was absolutely stunning.

On the way out to the reef

 

Waves breaking on the barrier reef. I can only imagine what the surfing must be like here in the winter, when the big swells from distant storms roll through.

One thing that was interesting to note was the indirectly observed lack of wind shear throughout the air column. It was rather breezy on the water, but the convective cumulus clouds that were forming were shooting straight up, showing that the winds throughout the air column were homogenous and very little net torque was being applied on the cloud. This is pretty common with tropical showers and is the reason why they die out quickly… the downdraft (rain) is in the same place as the updraft and the downdraft eventually cuts off the influx of new air into the cloud.

Since this was not a university-sanctioned activity, I was finally able to freely swim without a lifejacket (under close supervision, of course). 

I love diving

Lots of other people were swimming, and there was this absolutely adorable little girl. There’s absolutely adorable kids all over this island… on my second or third day here, we were driving down a dirt road when we saw some kids, including a stark-naked boy no older than 5, standing by the side of the road. That’s something you don’t usually see in Washington.

The sunset was gorgeous. I was hoping to catch a “green flash,” but there were clouds obscuring the final setting of the sun below the horizon. It was still a beautiful sunset though. I have seen a green flash before when I was out tuna fishing at Westport, and it was a most peculiar (and beautiful) sight. Check out my blog post on green flashes here.

Note my tan lines. Applying several coats of SPF 50 is apparently still incomparable to wearing an article of clothing.

One more cute kid to finish off the blog. Plus, he is wearing the exact same lifejacket that I wore when I was a kid.

Hopefully I can catch a monster fish tomorrow! Fingers crossed.
Good night,
Charlie
Finished: 11:53 P.M.
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One thought on “Micronesia: Day 14 – Sakau, Seagrasses and Sunsets

  1. Great post, Charlie. I am happy and proud that you are making lemonade with the tail end of your trip. Good luck fishing-pump and reel! Love, Dad

    Like

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