Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Seventy One

“At this time, weather is a go for launch,” the voice on the TV said. It was Bob and Doug’s Big Adventure, Part Two. 

You could also call it Elon Musk’s Big Idea. The announcers made a big deal of the fact that this would be the first time in almost a decade that astronauts launched into space from U.S. soil. What’s more, SpaceX, an Elon Musk company, would be the first company to send passengers into orbit on a privately-made spacecraft called Crew Dragon. 

But the big question of the day was would the launch go. This past Wednesday, weather scrubbed the first SpaceX attempt. Meanwhile, at T minus 30 minutes, my BFF, who lives on a boat less than five miles from the launch site was texting me that there had just been a lightning strike 11.5 miles away. She said any lightning within 10 miles would scrub the mission—for a second time.

But we had blast off. The mission went, and Tommye could see, hear, and feel the launch from the bow of her boat. Now, astronauts Bob and Doug are en route to the International Space Station, due to arrive after after 19 hours of flight time, or 10:29 AM EST tomorrow morning.

For a few minutes, the world (well, I) forgot about the hate spewing around our country. Human ingenuity really is amazing. Together, we can achieve miraculous things. Then, I went back to my laptop and read about white supremacist infiltrators from outside Minnesota who are being blamed by Minnesota government leaders for instigating civil unrest and looting. 

But it was Saturday, time for my weekly coastal wildlife survey, so I closed the laptop. And what a day it turned out to be. The morning was gray but the afternoon sunny with steady trade winds out of the northeast, so the warming summer temperatures weren’t too hot.

Laysan albatross chicks were banded two days ago. Today, I went out to double-check everyone survived the surprise of being picked up by humans and adorned with a band on each leg. One plastic band with a letter and three numbers—super easy to read with binoculars. And another aluminum band with a number like a social security number that gets recorded at the North American Bird Banding Lab in Laurel, Maryland. So, this year’s cohort of Laysan albatross are official.

All the chicks looked great. A couple weren’t super happy to see me, but most could have cared less that I was around. One lucky chick got a feeding from a parent. We’re weeks away (I’d say four to six) from fledging, and every meal is critical now. 

But that’s not all I witnessed. 

It’s now red-tailed tropicbird nesting season, and several chicks have recently hatched. Like this one. Basically, she’s a fluff ball with a beak. Plus, there are bunch more in the air, looking for love. Their courtship dance is aerial. 

A hole in the ground may not sound too exciting, but it is to me. It’s evidence of an active wedge-tailed shearwater burrow. And there are holes! Next month, eggs will get laid inside these around the coastlines. 

I walked to the beach for basking green sea turtles, but didn’t see any. Also, didn’t see PK1, the Hawaiian monk seal who was born on March 15th. She’s started to explore more of the coastline, much like the good people of Kauai. The two-week quarantine is still in effect for anyone arriving from off-island, be it another island, the mainland, or another country. There’s talk the inter-island quarantine will be lifted soon, maybe this week.

Now, I’m home–after passing a house with this lovely sign in their yard–and trying to stay away from social media and the news.

Hawaii added three more cases. We are now at 651 COVID-19 cases.

Be well.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne C. says:

    I wouldn’t have watched the lift-off this morning if it hadn’t been for howling, so thanks to both of you for that. It was thrilling! (And I *loved* watching the first stage land on that ship off the coast of Ireland. Science! Pinpoint accuracy! Just amazing.)


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Well, S alerted me to it on Wednesday–I had no idea then! And it was thrilling. That pin-point landing was amazing. Eric even slipped, “Whoa. It’s there” when it suddenly appeared.


  2. Tommye says:

    Another cool thing we get to see is the “catch boat.” I’ll send a pic next time I see it in port!


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Yes, please!


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