Born in the spring with the Forget-me-nots

Friday, March 30, 2012

Palau - field work

We are finally to that part of the trip I loved, the field work. I love field work! There is nothing about working outside until you feel like you are going to fall over from exhaustion. Our station is located on the largest island in Palau, it is named Babelthaup. I have heard it pronounced "bobble-dop" and yes, it made be giggle every time. Welcome to our site! The first element we went to is home to a Japanese fox hole. According to my boss, when the site was first installed it was swept for unexploded ordnance. I was still cautious when taking the following photos.
It may be a little hard to tell in this photo, but there are two entrances to the fox hole. The fox hole is in a "U" shape.

This is the closest entrance to the path...
and this is the entrance farthest from the path.
This is a photo of one of the sites. What you can see here is the "rosette" wind filter design. There are four of these rosettes for each element, and the signal is summed from all four, before it is recorded. This is the same set-up at our Indian Ocean site, but we have a different set up at the Hawaii station.
This is a carnivorous plant. I found this one growing near the solar panels. I have never, ever, EVER seen one of these growing in the wild. My travel mates were not phased by these cuties, but I was VERY excited!
I had to take a photo of the foliage. I remember when I was young, sitting in the Zoo-day-camp, I remember the unit on the tropical rain-forest. I remember thinking "Wow I will never go somewhere that cool!", here I am! It still gets me.
I call this one: getting shit done with what you have. This is the "post" for the GPS for one of the sites. Nothing like fixing the site with what you have.
Here is one last shot of a rosette.

Now that you have had a tour of the site, I have a story. I am going to have to back way up. Back when I started at the lab, before I had even been working a month, the senior engineer came to Palau to hook up our new generator. While he was there (in the rain I am sure he would like me to add), he was swarmed by bees who blew up one of the electrical components at one of the sites. Our poor Palau site then suffered through a power outage. Apparently according to word of mouth, the generator for the island (and country) caught fire because someone was out fishing. Palauans LOVE to go fishing. So, the generator caught fire and suddenly there is no power to the country or our station. I think that was in November. Our station was down for at least 3 months. Finally in February, the proper transformer was delivered to the community college, power came back on and so did the station. Our fearless engineer was there to turn the station back on. He said at that time, the bees had totally taken over that one element. There was honey in the vault. Now we come to my trip. One of our meetings was with our subcontractor who visits the site on a regular basis. We had asked them to "Take care of the bees" which they said they had done. Well, turns out the bees did not want to be evicted from their lovely home in our vault. They were STILL THERE! We attacked them with bleach water, but they still came back! We ended up having to pull all the electronics from that vault and just leave the element to the bees, for now...
EVIL bees!

Now due to the power outage, the AC in our data center had been off for months. Not only was it hot in there, but moist, and everything was starting to mold. While we were there (and out in the field at that) the new AC showed up! I was so happy to open the door to cool air, that I took a photo of the working AC unit.
Field work done, (check list I made gone through), we headed back south to town. On the way back the previous day, I had spotted a large pyramid. This time, I had the guys pull over so I could check it out. It turned out to be a WWII memorial (that was in need of some TLC).
There was a bench in front, with steps, and you can't see it (because it is over grown) but lines coming away towards me. It could be very nice if someone kept the grass down.
The inscription was in English and Japanese and says,
"Rest in peace!
For the souls of US and Japanese soldiers who lost their lives during the World War II in the southern islands in the West Pacific Ocean and also for the souls of Palau peoples involved in the war we say our prayers from the bottom of our heart

With out strong tenacity for the calm period of fifty years after the war and eternal peace we devote ourselves to repose of the souls
1995 Tokufukai " That is all for this post on the field work. Next time, our awesome dinner, and trying to get home!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Palau - work part 1: meetings

Field work in Palau. That may not conjure up images of meetings... but that is what we did. Re-connecting, networking, and just sitting down across the table from people. Palau is a small island nation, and face time, is how things get done. So, off we went all over the city to meet with various people, and get some balls that had been very stuck (and been starting to grow moss...) rolling again. We did take some time to stop and snap some photos though.
We stopped at this place and wandered around. I think it is the old Japanese headquarters from WWII.
you know me... I love abandoned buildings!
I took a lot of photos!
Here are just a few!
We took a short trip up to the site. This is a view of the repeater station from where the antennas are located at the data center! (It is that little white dot on the hill) That made sense right? We don't have line of sight to all of our elements so the data is shot to the repeater site and back to the data center. "Data Center" if fancy for "the computer". The computer then sends the data out through our satellite dish.
The community college where our computer is located, was gifted the containers the original equipment came in. They turned one into a nice out building!
There was an entomological collection next door! I took a bunch of photos for you know who! ;)
eewwww. Back to town!
A note on the geology of Palau. Those hills covered in trees, those are limestone. Palau is an old volcanic island, it sunk below the waves and corals took over, depositing large amounts of limestone. Millions of years passed and the whole complex was uplifted. The current terrain is the result of water eroding the limestone (karst) and the erosion of the exposed volcanic rocks.
I went for a walk over to the super fancy hotel, and this guy and the next were our front. I loved them!
Even though this hotel was super fancy, I like I liked the one we stayed at more!
This beautiful sitting area was out front by the lobby.
This turtle was in the little pond.
From the hotel I could see a cave across the way in the limestone hill. (Caves are common in karst topography)
There was no time for diving on this trip... :( So I found this aquarium tank and took a few photos. They will just have to hold me until next time!
There are giant clams in Palau!
there are also tons of soft corals!
I really can't wait to get in the water next time! Ok so this next fish, he is not alive.
TUNA! This was in the sushi restaurant in the hotel when we got back from our walk. I think he was going to make a lot of yummy sushi! Ok I think I am going to end this one too after the next set. First I wanted to show you the difference between high and low tide at the hotel. We have come to the conclusion that the enture area is slowly subsiding.
observe where the water level is
and that this ramp is underwater.

same area at low tide
see the difference? 

Ok now a bunch of photos from around the hotel.
The corner deck? That was my room the first day!
That is all for now!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Palau - Getting there.

This month, I went to our station in Palau for the first time. I posted a bunch of photos when I got back, but photos while they may be worth a thousand words, sometimes need some explanation. So please, allow me to walk you through my photos. Let me start with the location of Palau.
Palau is on the other side of the Pacific. I had never crossed the international date line before, and I was excited about "time traveling" across it! I took 3 flights: Kona - Honolulu, Honolulu - Guam, and Guam - Koror, Palau.

First leg of the trip, the Kona to Honolulu flight was uneventful. We had a few hours in Honolulu and our gate was all the way down at the end of the terminal. This part of HNL is very 70s. Upstairs above my gate, was a wonderland of space. I went up there with my coworker and we enjoyed being able to stretch, before the long flight to Guam.
Look at all that glorious space! I am a nervous traveler (although not as much as my graduate adviser) so I never like to leave my bags for more than a second, and I pack all my personal things for work trips in my carry ons. That means I have heavy bags I lug all over these airports, and it was nice to have space to put my bag down and walk around and still be in eye shot.
Look at that very 70s lamp! I think only three of the bulbs were actually working. We sat next to that window for a while and watched the plane roll up.
Our travel group included our lab director (The Boss) my co-worker (senior engineer), and myself, one of the new data analysts. I was very exited to be leaving Hawaii, and visit Palau. I had been hearing a lot about Palau having a very different cultural outlook then say, South America, and I was excited to experience this first hand. The guys at the lab told me Palau was a Matriarchal Tribal Society. I wasn't sure how true to the anthropological definitions that was, but I was excited to work somewhere not full of "Machismo." (it gets old)
I also hate long flights, so I was happy when it turned out that I got my own row! I got to stretch out and watch the movie (The Artist! I loved it!)
We were delayed getting to Guam due to a storm we had to go around. The connection in Guam is notoriously tight and having only 50 minutes between one plane landing and the other taking off, I figured we had missed it. When we landed "The Boss" ran to see if he could hold the plane, but as it turns out, that plane was delayed out of Japan. Instead of leaving at 7:50pm it was going to leave at 2:30am. So the airline bused us over to a hotel and told us to be in the lobby at midnight to catch a shuttle for our flight to Palau.
I approved of the temporary digs! 

In the middle of the night we loaded the flight to Palau, and arrived at 4am. By 5am we had hit the hotel, and within 5 minutes I was passed out! I got to the airport at 10am HST on Sunday in Kona, and I finally got to the Sea Passion (love that name) hotel at 5am Palau time Tuesday, which is 10am Monday in Hawaii. 24 hrs of travel. When I woke up I finally looked around my room. I had to move later in the day (we had trouble even getting rooms) but I was not going to miss the opportunity to take some photos of the amazing view!
I woke up to this amazing room.
and I loved the bathroom!
Those sinks it turns out were in all the rooms and they are the perfect size for washing off my snorkel gear, and underwater housing I brought for my new camera! Oh I should have mentioned that! I got an early birthday gift from my parents before the trip! A decent camera! After years of shooting an Nikon CoolPix (all hail the point and shoot!) I now own a high end point and shoot! I ended up going for the Cannon G12.
Look at the deck on this room!
This is the view. 
Over breakfast that first morning I asked about that construction. As it turns out that hotel was being built by the Chinese. Millions to build it I am told. Then that thing happened, where the US was sending former prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to far flung places? Yeah, Palau accepted the Chinese Uigurs (I think something like 17 of them) and China got mad. They pulled their workers out of Palau and stopped building the hotel. So the hotel remains empty and half built. (I didn't get a shot but people have been keeping their boats in the unfinished ground floor!)
This is the rest of the view. That down there is the hotel bar! The lagoon on the left has a downed Japanese Zero from WWII and I found it, but when I went back out to try and take a picture I couldn't find it!
This is the hotel beach and another view of that lagoon from the ground level.
Back up at the room I could see the bridge connecting the Island I was on with another one. I loved the room, and the hotel beds were amazingly comfortable. It was very difficult to get back up to meet at 9am to start work! The one odd thing about the hotel was that there were these strange things in the hallway, like gold painted whale bones.

I have no idea. They made me giggle every time I walked by. I think I am going to end this post. Sunday to Tuesday morning. Just trying to get to Palau. Next up is working in Palau! Meetings, meetings, meetings, and hiking.