It turns out that the University of Hawaii owns an island for their marine research faculty, and it is the same one that was shown during the opening of the TV show Gilligan's Island. Back in the first half of the 20th century Coconut Island was a lush vacation site for an oil tycoon and his famous friends from politics and show business (perhaps the two social circles had as much in common back then as they do now). It is believed that Jackie Kennedy sought refuge there while mourning the loss of her husband. Now the island is home to some of the most amazing marine scientists, and you have to be on an official tour or be personally invited to see the place.
Earlier this week we were the guests of honor at a dinner party with the families of some of the UH faculty from the marine lab. Our host, Rob Toonen, went to UC Davis with us and scored his Hawaii position straight out of grad school. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The pupus (appetizers) were an assortment of local poke (pronounced "poke-eh": it is raw fish, mainly ahi tuna, in a variety of sauces). The kids explored a tree house in Rob's yard, and amused themselves with all of the toys in the playroom. The adults had a relaxing meal together, drank beer and tequila, and talked a lot about turtles, research expeditions, and parenthood (there are more similarities between those topics than you may initially guess). At the end of the night it was decided by the group that our clan could not possibly leave Oahu without a trip to Coconut Island. We agreed.
We made the visit this Friday. Benji was a big fan of the boat shuttle, and Tag and I enjoyed imagining what it must be like to have this ride as part of your daily commute. Also, it seems like we'd all be more productive if our workplaces had a bar-b-que platform overlooking a lagoon swimming area. And a beach. And some coral reefs to look at from observation paths. Besides these nice perks, the island has many areas designated for running experiments in fresh ocean water-- including some dolphin and shark enclosures. The docks have a number of research vessels, and there is a dorm for visiting faculty. The large Marine Corps base is just across the bay, so you also have some impressive fly-overs.
|Boat ride with our tour guide, "Uncle Brian"|