Sunday, May 27, 2012

Enjoying the high life on Christmas Island: a haircut and clubbing

by Diane Thompson (U. Arizona)

Our next goal was to finish drilling the large fossil coral heads we had found strewn across town.  On our last drilling escapade around town, we had discovered just how tiring and inefficient the hand water pump for the drill was.  But flushing the drill hole out with water as we proceeded was particularly essential for drilling the old fossil material on land.  Hussein and Liz devised a clever way around this problem using an extra one of Jess’s large funnels and good old gravity (see photo).  Worked like a charm and saved us a lot of time and energy. 

Now that we could drill more efficiently at our home base, where we have an unlimited supply of water from the lagoon, Liz and I set off to collect the large fossil corals from around town.  Preparing for my first attempt at driving stick, I decided it would be a good idea to bring the radio.  Apparently Anami thought something was fishy, and asked me if I was ok to drive.  I guess she caught on to the slight hesitation in my voice, because she took me for a test drive around the “block”.  Guess I passed, despite initial difficulty with the terrible power steering (there may have been a moment where I was headed for a tree).  Anami sent us on our way with the radio and a reminder to “stay left!”

I was actually very pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the driving went, even in old rusty, and we made it around town with no issues.  And Liz and I were able to muscle the large, heavy colonies into the truck.  But it took longer than expected because we passed some of the corals we were looking for and went too far. I’m not surprised since it took nearly all the concentration I had just to change gears, drive on the wrong side, watch for the many speed bumps, and avoid random people and animals in the road! 

By the time we got back, Jess and Hussein had installed one of Jess’s loggers on the weather station and we drilled like crazy for the rest of the day, getting 20 cores from fossil corals!  Of course, not all of them were great, as some fossil corals are too degraded to get a good core out of.

After showing Hussein the ropes, I handed the drill over to him for the last core.  My back was killing me from leaning over all day, so I was very thankful for his eagerness to learn.  I returned to the job of helping to brace the core barrel until it was making a groove in the surface.  But as Hussein started drilling, somehow my hair got wrapped up in the drill!  Luckily Hussein stopped quick enough that it wasn’t pulled from my scalp, but it was still quite uncomfortable.  How the heck did that happen—I’ve done this countless times with no problem?  I blame the trade winds (we were out drilling on the jetty) and my terrible wispy hairs that stick out of my head in humid weather (aka my “wings”).  Liz quickly fetched the scissors and amputated one of my wings, freeing me from the drill.

After my new haircut, we decided it was best to call it a day!  At dinner Anami told us that she was going to bring us clubbing tonight, but we all thought she was joking and referring to the club right here at Dive Kiribati (i.e., Hussein playing music off his phone and using his flashlight as a strobe).  But no, she brought us to THE exclusive club on Christmas Island.

We arrived to find the club virtually empty, with only two people dancing.  Yet within seconds of arriving, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder and realized I was already being asked to dance.  Thankfully, unlike clubs in the states, dancing is actually modest here.  Well, at least until he got in my personal space to tell me the history of Christmas Island.  I couldn’t understand a word except “Christmas”.  I need another drink... 

We headed back to the parking lot to mix up some rum and cokes (yup, drinking in the parking lot—classy!).  A pig came to join us, but was quickly chased of by Liz (I guess running after pigs classifies as entertainment in South Georgia?).  We went in to brave the club scene a couple more times, but spent much of the night in the parking lot enjoying the rum and the incredible stars.  Being this close to the equator you get to see the constellations of both hemispheres, so the star gazing is incredible (not to mention minimal light pollution!).  Another productive day and fun night on the island!

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