Okeanos Explorerʻs Fast Rescue Boat returns to the ship with the four Monk Seal researchers safely onboard. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana. Download larger version (jpg, 180 KB).
Late last night, the Commanding Officer received a call from higher levels in the command: the ship needed to divert course from her current transit to Middle Bank and return to Pearl Harbor the following day, and instead transit west to Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, to rescue four scientists conducting research for NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. These researchers are located on one of several camps in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands in the vicinity of the predicted route of Tropical Storm Kilo, which was forecasted to turn into a hurricane. Tropical Storm Loke continues to develop to the west, coming in behind Kilo. These scientists were ordered to evacuate and, as the closest ship despite being a full day’s transit away, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was called to service. The final ROV dive of the cruise was cancelled last night, and the ship turned around and headed for Tern Island where it arrived today around 5:00 pm. One of the ship's Fast Rescue Boats was sent to shore to retrieve the four scientists and some of their gear. By 7:00 pm, everyone was safely on board and Okeanos Explorer was en route back to Pearl Harbor. We have another one to two days of transit and expect to pull into port in Pearl Harbor late Sunday night or Monday morning.