Leaving familiarity behind, or so what I thought, was difficult. The forest mist engulfing the native plants and birds, though it does have its invasive and non-native species, it was home. Upon our arrival on Johnston Island, after a three day boat ride on the Kahana, I was pleased to finally see for myself that there were so many familiar things. Greeted with plumeria and hibiscus leis, it was official; we (1 leader and 4 volunteers) were the next Crazy Ant Strike Team (CAST), no turning back!
I found myself taking a liking to the Ironwood trees as they are some of the taller trees in great density, creating their own non-native forest of relaxing howling sounds as the wind blows on by. As I explore the nooks and crannies of the island, I find more and more plants that bring me comfort like the Naio, Hala, Hau, ‘Uhaloa, Pōhinahina, ‘Ilima, Naupaka, Pōhuehue and the list goes on. I picked up the Atoll Research Bulletin No. 192 – The Natural History of Johnston Atoll, Central Pacific Ocean by A. Binion Amerson, Jr., and Philip C. Shelton. They have a section of the vegetation found and recorded on Johnston Island throughout the years. In 1859 only two plants were recorded being on island! Today, we have a whole lot and with that I am going to contribute to that list unofficially to the best of my abilities.
Thinking back, during one of my last days of working in the forest, my mentor asked what I would miss most. I replied, “The birds”! I thought I would never find another love like the forest birds, but have found that my love expands to sea- and shorebirds, even cattle egrets (a nuisance back in Hawaii). Working around and with these sea- and shorebirds, I have started learning their languages. I sometimes sit and have conversations with the birds to no avail of understanding what message is being conveyed. I hope I’m telling them good things and not mistakenly swearing, yelling or warning them of danger. Are they saying I’m the danger? I swear though, some of my calls must either be close to spot on, or just curiously bizarre but some species of birds actually come closer to check out “what’s making that sound”? They amaze me every time.
Living here has been nothing short of a great time. Glamping (Glamorous camping as some people would call it) makes it easy. We have our own 8 person tent, with a platform to put our queen sized air-mattress on with a folding table as a desk and chair. Even roll-out carpets! We have a propane refrigerator and stove, two chest freezers, and solar power for lights and electronics. It’s almost like any other home in Hawaii, odds and ends here and there for more “in case” which is good because we don’t have the same luxury as back home – stores to buy supplies. Our food consists of cans, bags, dried, boxes, frozen, and some fresh – we just had watermelon last night, picked fresh from the garden! Those things were easy to get used to. Plumbing on the other hand was a bit trickier for me except for drinking water. Rain caught in a catchment tank and then filtered twice – easy enough. For other plumbing necessities – we have water cooler like dispensers for washing dishes and things and collecting the “slop” underneath in buckets to then be taken to a special shark chute area for dumping, composting toilets for #2 only, using some kind of plunger thing to wash clothes, and the ocean as our bath tub! I quickly fell in love with bathing, and getting used to not flushing things down a drain. Switching between people almost every other day to rid of the slop and refill water jugs with ocean water, everything has just become, routine or automatic. It’s what we do, it’s how we live now.
Enjoying every last bit of this simple island living with amazing flora and fauna is what we strive for every day – aside of our actual purpose of being here: eradicate the invasive Yellow Crazy Ants (YCA or Anoplolepis gracilipes). For all the in between times though, we’ll continue to marvel in beautiful sunrises, sunsets, stars, wildlife, and each other’s company.
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