Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Monday, 8 August 2005

My First Ship

I thought I might take a look for my first ship today, the Research Vessel Kila, the first RV I worked on. It holds many fond memories for me. But to get there I needed good sandals, so I picked up some new rubba slippa from a local shop. I'm not good at picking out rubba slippa. The proprietor assured me it was for men. They were not. Women's shoes, even rubba slippa, feel strange. And they hurt when you take long walks in them. No, that's not it. Although common in the Islands, that's a catamaran, not an RV. And it's a boat- it's less than 80'. I worked on a ship. It was 120'.

Unfortunately I'd heard that the ship had been mothballed in the harbor. So it was going to take some searching. Guy at Waikiki Aquarium had said he might be able to locate it for me, but he hadn't been able, so I was on my own, with no leads.

I took the bus as far out as it would go, and then walked. I walked past the first church on Oahu (although not the first in the Islands), and the Iolani Palace, the only palace in the United States.








There is an undercurrent here of a former nation, of a nation seized and forcibly incorporated into another. Legacies breath like ghosts everywhere. To rest I stopped in at a museum on my way to the harbor, with coral building rock from the original Russian fort (an unsuccessful enterprise) and cannon balls from one of the invading nations of the 19th century. Might have been America. And a strange bit of history, the original recording in the rocks of the arrival of the first white men in their winged ships, written down in the rocks.
Petroglyph of the arrival of White Men.
There were also a few marine items, like the early diving helmet. Oh, and a real humpback whale skeleton, my favorite of all the whales Megaptera novanglieae. I used to sing my little sister a song incorporating it's name when she was one, to try to encourage her scientifically. It was about the time I taught her her first words, "Jedidiah is king." (Okay, all she got was Jed, and it was her second word, but you got to admit, good effort on my part.)
Humpback rear feet










Of special interest were the bone remnants of the rear feet of the humpback whale, another piece of the copious evidence indicating terrestrial ungulate ancestry. (Unless you're a Literal Creationist, in which case it's a strange mutation that most whales possess whose purpose is unknown but who can fathom the mind of the great unnamed Intelligent Designer?)
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That was enough rest, so on to the harbor. Actually, I discovered, increasingly, it wasn't enough rest. The shoes pinched quite a bit. But it had been 20 years since I'd been there, and who knows when my next opportunity to see my ship would be.

I approached a harbor full of memories. In Blue-Water Marine Lab we also learned seamanship skills, and gave tours of Honolulu Harbor. There, on the right, was the triangular sign common to ports the world over, Red on the Right when Returning, keeping ships in the right lane. (The opposite, Green on the Left when Going, just doesn't sound as nice.) I passed the huge harbor cranes I used to talk about, and benevolent Matson containersMatson, the sole shipping company of Hawaii, from which it gets all it's produce. (That may have changed now; it was the case 20 years ago.) And Sand Island Sewage Treatment Plantthen, the fiest de resistance, Sand Island Sewage Treatment Plant. I don't know why it was so important. But we talked about it every time we did a harbor cruise, and it has a special place in my heart.

I was on a purposeful hunt. I wanted to get to the Coast Guard station, to find out if they knew anything. I should have really called, but you know, it's hard to call places when you're in a foreign land. Even if they speak the same language. And buses don't go Sand Island. So I walked. And walked. And walked to the end of Sand Island, many kilometers. Bear in mind the shoes are still female.
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Interesting thing happened on the way to the Coast Guard. Saw a guy in front of me, wearing strange pink clothing with a sweatshirt wrapped around his waist. As I got closer he took off the sweatshirt, and I realized he was actually not wearing pink clothing. But happy and free, he was making his way down the main road. This continued on for about 45 minutes, before I finally reached the Coast Guard and could mention it to authorities. In the meantime, email me and I can send you the pictures.
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The Coast Guard had never heard of RV Kila, but they suggested another place, near the entrance to Sand Island. So I walked back. I found the place, gained admittance, and looked around, till I could find someone working there. This place was dead. I finally found a guy who had worked that dock for a long time. He remembered RV Kila. But he thought they had demolished it- he wasn't sure. A rather ignominious ending to the day.
A day like this deserves a reward, so it's off to the movies that I rarely get to see in theatres in English in Morocco. Bonus: fun bathrooms in Bilingual Hawaii. Even a third bathroom for families.

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