Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The second largest island in the Northern Marianas, Tinian is about 12 miles long and 5 miles wide with a top elevation of only 690, making it the least mountainous of all the northern islands. The windward (eastern) side of the island, which we surveyed the day before yesterday, is sheer, with 30-60 foot cliffs plunging to the turquoise water below. Tinian?s fertile soil was of great advantage to the nearly 18,000 Japanese who settled here, leveling the forests and turning the island into a patchwork of sugar cane fields. The level terrain was also ideal for airfields during the second world war which gave rise to Tinian?s notoriety as the take-off site for the B29s that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Our diving here yielded fewer big fish than on the offshore banks, but I did see my first three lionfish in the wild. Tucker up under a small ledge, they appeared to be taking a mid-day nap. Appropriate, I suppose for these nocturnal aquatic bouquets. Most of the windward underwater world was composed of huge boulders on an otherwise unremarkable algal hardbottom community. The windward cliffs continue to drop below the ocean?s surface to a depth of about 60 feet before leveling off. One result is that, in order to keep to our 50-70 foot tow limit, we were often towing less than 100 feet from shore. It is kind of neat to be flying over the ocean floor 60 feet below the surface while being able to look up and to the left to see the underside of the waves crashing against the shore.