After a long day of travel, it always takes a few hours for the reality of the new time and space that you occupy to sink in. I woke up at 5:40 am and for a moment it felt like maybe the sun was disoriented and got up too early and too close to Woods Hole by accident.
We awoke in Papeete -- not our final destination, but a truly wonderful place to find ourselves in. We walked to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast (shoutout to Coffee Shop Tahiti) and enjoyed homemade yogurt and fruit, omelets, and smoothies before making our way to the ferry terminal. Along the way, we stopped to make a very important introduction between our students and the Robert C. Seamans! The students had a chance to see their future home away from land and to explore Papeete a bit before we boarded our ferry to Mo’orea.
The 30-minute ferry ride began with heavy rain and dense cloud cover, but just minutes after leaving the dock, the sky opened up and the island of Mo’orea seeming leapt onto on horizon. Once in Mo’orea, our group of 22 people and (approximately) 322 duffel bags piled into a flotilla of rental cars and pick-up trucks and we made our way to Gump Station, a University of California field station whose mission is “to promote research, education, and public service in tropical biocomplexity and sustainable development”. We will be staying here for nine days conducting snorkel surveys and collecting and processing water samples from various coral reef sites around Mo’orea.
Val and her lovely team at Gump have gone above and beyond to welcome us to Mo’orea. We arrived to find a delicious lunch of poisson cru, fried rice, and grapefruit waiting for us, as well as a trio of adorable pups who all sport Cal Berkley collars. After lunch we all got settled into our bungalows and headed out to Ta'ahiamanu beach to have a dip and stress test our levels of sunburn sensitivity (disclaimer: all participants were instructed to apply sunscreen but, as a friendly taxi driver pointed out to us, we are all very vulnerable to the sun after six weeks of Massachusetts winter).
After dinner we took a moment to appreciate the sunset hues painted across Cook Bay’s striking peaks, textured clouds, and glassy sea surface. Day 2 of travel was a lot sweatier than Day 1 (with the exception of the bad case of “TSA Sweats” that affected about 23% of our group when navigating Logan Airport at 6:20 am…that was also a sweaty time), but we are all feeling incredibly grateful to have arrived here in Mo’orea and have the next eight days to learn and explore.