Today was a special day for navigators and (other) admirers of the celestial sky. After dark one could observe two planets come into conjunction. During out night watches we have been observing Mars and Saturn approach each other over the last weeks. On the 27th of August there is another conjunction coming up for three planets: Venus, Mercury and Jupiter. Please keep a close eye on the Western horizon during Civil Twilight.
We sailed into the Penrhyn lagoon on Tuesday afternoon, half a day ahead of our schedule because of a favorable ocean current. Soon after we arrived at the small wharf the officials of Customs, Quarantine and Health came on board to give us Clearance. After these protocols were fulfilled we left the harbor to make space to the ‘Lady Moana’ from Rarotonga. She was in a hurry to transfer thousands of gallons of diesel oil to the shore station. Lately Penrhyn has had the ‘honor’ of receiving fishing vessels and three patrol boats of different origin that use the facilities on Penrhyn to bunker fuel. The locals are reluctant with all this traffic because of the noise of generators on board, running day and night. The Kwai is one of the few ships that run on batteries during the night.
On Wednesday we started to receive customers for picking up their consigned cargo and after the ‘Lady Moana’ had left for Rarotonga we could start with off loading our cargo. It was a sweltering hot day, and at three in the afternoon the ‘Scaramouche’-tent was set up to create shade for our customers of the ‘Kwai Store’.
I was sent ashore to fix the truck of our agent Alex. Soon I had it started and went out for a test drive with Alex’s son Steward. On the landing strip of ‘Penrhyn airport’ we gained speed and the engine started smoking heavily. I turned the engine off to investigate and soon found out that the rusty exhaust pipe had fallen off. I didn’t succeed in re-starting the vehicle, so there we were, stuck on the landing strip, far away from the nearest houses. Luckily the plane was only planned for the next day. Steward started walking back to civilization while I crept under the truck to find problems in four different systems. By the end of the evening we had the vehicle fixed.
While working on shore I ran into our friend Michael White, a Turtle Scientist who lives and works on Penrhyn Island. As you can see on one of the posted pictures, with his long gray hair and ditto beard, Michael is a conspicuous person on an island of Polynesian people. Every time we meet he has a different story to tell involving sea turtles. This time he spoke of the bridge between his findings and the extinction of dinosaurs.
(I hope I am quoting you correctly dear Michael, but this is what I understood): The gender of turtle hatch-lings is determined by the temperature of the turtle nest. A few degrees too high and you will end up with only females, and visa versa. As turtles are closely related to dinosaurs, this could be the reason for the end of the dinosaur race. After the Yucatan meteor blackened the sky, some 65 million years ago, the temperature on earth must have dropped, leaving a new generation of only male or female dinosaurs. I wonder why the turtles escaped this ending? Is it because they burrow their eggs? Or is it just coincidence that, of all the dinosaur species, only the sharks, crocodiles and turtles survived!