Location: Ahe Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
We arrived in Ahe early this morning, traveling through the cut that let us into the lagoon of the atoll opposite the outgoing tide. The atoll is made up of a ring of islands that look like large, long, palm-tree-lined sandbars, and aside from shallow cuts here and there, they surround us on all sides. We’re anchored on the southwest side of the lagoon where the water around us is South-Pacific-blue with occasional strips and stripes of brilliant cyan. Upon our arrival, Ben and Carolyn went into town to arrange for tomorrow’s visit to a pearl farm while the rest of Argo’s crew put the boat to bed and tidied up the deck and salon. After a lunch of fried rice by head chef Audrey we split up into three groups: rescue divers continued their training with Simon and Tina, the studious among us spent the afternoon on the boat catching up on work, and the rest went ashore to explore one of Ahe’s tiny islands.
Ahe’s main town, Tenukupara, is a small, sleepy collection of homes with a general store located at its center. In the store one can stand in a space the size of an elevator and point to a handful of items available for purchase: cold cans of coke, bags of pasta and rice, jars of jam. A walk to the windward side of the island reveals many little reefy areas to snorkel. Some of our shore party spent time paddling around in the still, shallow water of the lagoon while others headed out to see what snorkeling Ahe had to offer. Among today’s sightings were a black tip reef shark and stingrays the size of mantas.
Meanwhile, our rescue divers practiced rescuing an unresponsive diver from making contact & giving rescue breaths, to setting up oxygen & providing first aid once the diver was back on board. We split up the rescue roles so that everyone got the chance to be the accident manager, the person making the distress call via VHF and speaking over link call to a “doctor” (Tina), the primary rescuer, the assisting rescuer, the oxygen provider, the victim, and the gear handler. We’re gearing up (har har) for when rescue scenarios start in earnest in a few days’ time, honing skills so that simulated emergencies go off without a hitch no matter what curveballs are thrown in.
After dive training finished for the day, we rolled into swim time and shower time. Audrey and her chef team served a delicious dinner of jerk chicken on the bone with squash, creamed spinach and rice on the side. The sun set over the sandy islands of the atoll as we answered the squeeze question “what’s your favorite / least favorite sound on Argo?” Answers were many and varied and only went to show how well we’ve learned Argo over the past 83 days, and how much we appreciate even the little things about her — like the clicking of a winch, the snap of a dog sliding into place on a hatch, the hum of hydraulics, or the airy fizz made by our bow wake. As I type, our students are preparing for their final OCE quiz in the salon with Carolyn. The stars are coming out, the night is clear and beautiful — and I’m off to start grading today’s SLS submissions.