INDEX 2010: “Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region”

A Welcome to Remember!

by Jeremy Potter, Expedition Coordinator, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
June 23, 2010

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This summary video shows the arrival of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer for its first port call during its maiden voyage. On June 20, 2010, at approximately 0800, the ship gently pulled up to the dock at the Port of Bitung, Indonesia. Representatives from the Indonesian Agency of the Assessment and Application of Technology and NOAA waited in the rain to meet the ship. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download video (mp4, 39.6 MB).

The Governor of North Sulawesi and the Mayor of Bitung, Indonesia, really know a thing or two about hospitality. It’s been more than 48 hours since the ‘Welcoming Ceremony’ for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and onboard personnel ended, but we are still practically speechless.

Many of us have done a fair bit of traveling around the world. We’ve been fortunate enough to experience the generosity of strangers on numerous occasions. We also know to expect the unexpected. Yet, I don’t think anyone associated with INDEX-SATAL 2010 was at all prepared for what happened on Wednesday.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer’s gangway is lowered onto the dock in Bitung, Indonesia. This marked the first port of call during its maiden expedition in Indonesia.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer’s gangway is lowered onto the dock in Bitung, Indonesia. This marked the first port of call during its maiden expedition in Indonesia. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download image (jpg, 74 KB).

Commanding Officer Joe Pica, the Governor of North Sulawesi, US Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume, and the Mayor of Bitung await the beginning of the Welcoming Ceremony in the Port of Bitung.

Commanding Officer Joe Pica, the Governor of North Sulawesi, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Cameron Hume, and the Mayor of Bitung await the beginning of the Welcoming Ceremony in the Port of Bitung. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download image (jpg, 99 KB).

To really understand the evolution of events, we have to start back at 1200 on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. At that point, ship and mission personnel planned to provide one 'low-key' ship tour the following day for key U.S. Embassy-Jakarta personnel, the Governor of North Sulawesi, and the Mayor of Bitung. Less than one hour later, Embassy staff and ship personnel realized that our local Indonesian hosts had additional plans. We just didn't know what those plans were. We were simply told to be ready at about 1000 the next morning. But, be ready for what?

On the morning of June 23, the ship and crew were officially welcomed to North Sulawesi. Music played by a bamboo-instrument band was our cue to walk down the ship’s gangway and join our hosts. Traditional dancers leaped and swayed as we paraded past, while local dignitaries as well as U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume provided remarks. For the grand finale, local dancers pulled a number of the ship’s officers up on stage to show off a bit of fancy footwork.

 

 

That evening, more than a few of us sat down and reflected on what had transpired. The hospitality, generosity, and sincerity of our hosts were significant reminders that this expedition is about even more than the important information to be collected with the multibeam system, CTD, and remotely operated vehicle. It is about the impact that collected information has on the lives and livelihoods of the people that live here. As the Ambassador reminded all of us, it is also about making a significant connection between the people of two incredible countries.

The event served as more than just a great send-off. It was also an important reminder. Everyone has expended a huge amount of energy and effort to get us this far. Now it’s time for the real work to begin. It is time to deliver!

One of the traditional dancers in the Welcoming Ceremony poses in front of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.

One of the traditional dancers in the Welcoming Ceremony poses in front of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download image (jpg, 121 KB).