After our shakedown dive yesterday off Lehua Rock, today we are making our way towards our first dive site within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at French Frigate Shoals. This year, because our cruise is a bit shorter than usual, we’re bypassing Nihoa and Moku-manamana on the way up the chain. This means we have a full day aboard the Hi’ialakai without any diving or other activities. Although it’s tempting to sit back, relax, read a book, or watch a movie (the ship has an awesome collection, including recent releases), all of the scientists aboard the ship spend the say scurrying around, preparing equipment, and making sure we’re all set for the research dives to come over the next three weeks.

Richard Pyle's Workbench on Hi'ialakaiRichard Pyle | Bishop Museum

An assortment of dive computers, camera gear, and other items in various stages of preparation.

I have several missions on this cruise, besides the usual “dive deep and look for interesting fish” (which is what I do every year). One is to evaluate some exciting new rebreather technology. Brian Greene and I are both test divers for Poseidon Diving Systems, and we each have their latest toys: the M28 dive computer, the “CPOD“, and best of all, the new Solid-State oxygen Sensor. Divers around the world are eager to get their hands on these exciting new diving technologies, and Brian and I can’t help but feel a little bit smug that we actually get to use them! It may not sound like much to most people, but to rebreather nerds such as ourselves, it doesn’t get any better!

Besides our new rebreather toys, I also am tasked with figuring out how to use a new camera toy as well. We have on loan from the NOAA Monument program a Hero360 system, which is a set of six GoPro cameras arranged in a specific orientation such that they capture videos in all directions simultaneously. There are many examples of what this new kind of omni-directional video imagery can do (espcially on a modern cell phone), and our job is to get 360-degree footage of what it’s like to decompress among the sharks. Of course, we’d love to take the camera with us to capture the experience of one of our dives to 330 feet (100 m), but the underwater housing we currently have doesn’t go that deep. In any case, the main impetus for using this camera system is to use it in part of an upcoming exhibit at Bishop Museum that will feature the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

And, after a long day of organizing our gear, I couldn’t help but relax a bit and watch a movie (in this case, the ship was showing Deadpool — very cool!)