Global Travelers are in the Pacific again. This time, they are on Guam, and it has been three years since they last went on a trans-Pacific expedition. This time, a few things have changed.
People have changed. Some people have retired; some others came on board. The location is different, it is Guam this time. Guam is a fully civilized American territory, compared to a variety of other islands visited by the Gulfstream’s field crew in the past. More on Guam later. But some things carry over from the last times you have read about the Travelers’ experiences in the Pacific.
The airplane is the same, more or less. The same $100M aircraft that you, the American taxpayers, have funded is in good working order and is working for you, even if you don’t know it. The crew traveling with it is maintaining it in top-notch condition – this is important when fundamental research is conducted. If we lose flight opportunities due to aircraft issues it means that some of your money is not spent in the most efficient way. And the Travelers themselves, as taxpayers, don’t like this any more than you would.
I guess I have gone off on a tangent. But it is for a reason: in the day and age when examples of government wastefulness are all over the TV and other media, the Travelers, in whatever small niche we occupy, try to use the funds we are trusted with in the manner that is most efficient. I recently had an interesting conversation with a stranger at the Roy’s restaurant in the Hilton Resort on Guam. In the conversation we had, she was very surprised to learn that there are actually people working for the US Government who actually will seek cheaper, but still quality, accommodations; that will try to negotiate for cheaper, but still good, services and who will try to do their job for less of taxpayers’ money if possible.
You are probably thinking, what a hypocrite. Hilton! Cost effective, right. An oxymoron. But wait, believe it or not, the Hilton was he hotel that agreed to house our 50+ people at the rates that were the cheapest and approved by the Government, while others wanted to charge us more, which is understandable since this is the season for the Chinese New Year. So don’t judge us too harshly. We tried our best and even got somewhere, and the Hilton came through.
I am being totally honest here. I personally know people who will run NASA projects this way, as well as NOAA and NSF ones. The only reason I am saying this is because my young acquaintance was surprised to hear this, and pleased as well. Believe it or not, there are people out there who treat taxpayers money much like their own. I am privileged to know some of them personally.
Uh, sorry about this diversion. I suppose at this point a picture is really worth a bunch of words? Well, here it is, and it shows the rainy January of 2014 on Guam…
The meteorologists supporting the Travelers this time are telling us that this crazy rain, with 9 inches if rain in January as opposed to the average 4, is the result of the MJO, the Madden-Julian Oscillation. We think we understand the reasons, and the process. But it is still unfathomable, why in the world wouldn’t it just stop raining?! Everything is waterlogged, the rivers on Guam are forming waterfalls, the roads are small rivers, the tourists look like… well, very wet tourists.
We have to be careful to be able to return to Guam after research flights. The pilots, experts that they are, so far were able to land every time, but the last flight they came out, saying they popped out of the solid rainshaft just seconds before they would have called a missed approach. It has been raining hard, and they have very little time to make decisions when landing. They have to be careful.
The research that the scientists are carrying out is going well. They are able to see the transport of chemicals from the ocean surface in the upper levels of the atmosphere that they wanted to see, and we are happy that the science part is working out. On occasion, it has been hard to keep dry to repair instruments that developed problems, like in this picture below:
So, the big minds understand it, and can rationalize it. Trained professionals can even fix sensitive electronics in these conditions.
It will finally stop raining, but for now we are working in the rain.