Thursday, December 20, 2012
The crew from the research station at Tern Island on French Frigate Shoals, which was severely damaged by a storm Dec. 9, has been successfully evacuated, and at this writing they are pounding through rough seas on their way back to Honolulu.
A message from the rescue vessel Kahana at 8 a.m. Dec. 20 said: “We are 154 miles from Honolulu. Weather very ugly. Wind east 35-40, swells east-northeast 10-12 feet.”
The crew at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service station on Tern, four men and a woman, was not injured when a 5 a.m. weather event smashed into the island. Initial reports suggested a downburst within a low-pressure system caused destructive winds that tore away walls and windows, and caused significant damage to the island’s minimal infrastructure.
Our previous post on the situation reported that the system “sounded like an oncoming freight train. It blew out walls and windows in the main barracks, destroyed the boat shed, impacted seabird populations, and caused other damage still not tallied. The team members were not injured, and they have food and water.”
Ann Bell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service incident commander, reported by email that the team was evacuated nine days later by the supply vessel M/V Kahana, which was diverted from where it had been working at Johnston Atoll.
Bell reported the evacuation went quickly. There is no proper harbor at Tern, so it is likely the team was brought off the island on small boats while the Kahana waited offshore.
“Safely evacuated quickly off-island in very stiff 30 knot winds midday on Tuesday, Dec. 18th. Very tired bodies and personal gear safely on board currently headed slowly to Oahu due to weather conditions,” Bell wrote.
She said the Kahana was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu late tonight or early tomorrow. More details should be available when the crew is debriefed.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2012