Return to Tern

Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals, within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, houses a remote field station used by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA’s PIFSC. In December of 2012 Tern Island was devastated by a localized storm with extreme winds that literally blew the facilities on the island apart. No one stationed on the island was seriously injured during the event. However, the field station was rendered uninhabitable and all personnel were evacuated.

A view of the courtyard after the storm.  Photo provided by FWS blog.

A view of the courtyard after the storm. Photo provided by FWS blog.


Walls blown out of the common room.  Photo provided by FWS blog.

Walls blown out of the common room. Photo provided by FWS blog.

In March, 2013, a nine person team and supplies were assembled and transported aboard the M/V Kahana to Tern Island. Two members of the nine person team were PIFSC’s Jamie Barlow and Mark Sullivan. The other seven members were U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and volunteers. The goal of this “Return to Tern” was to assess, clean, organize, repair, and reestablish the field station within two weeks.

Team members offload from M/V Kahana and stage gear on Tern.

Team members offload from M/V Kahana and stage gear on Tern.

PIFSC’s two team members were given several lofty goals to achieve during the two weeks. Despite conditions, Jamie Barlow and Mark Sullivan accomplished the primary and a few ancillary goals set before them. Jamie restored three Boston Whalers to full operational status and got a back-up outboard motor functioning and safely stored for later use. Mark Sullivan inventoried, organized, and staged gear for the monk seal camp that will be established this July. Mark also carried out an extensive reorganization of PIFSC’s boat shed, office, necropsy room, and hazmat locker. Working together, Jamie and Mark plumbed barrels of potable water brought aboard the M/V Kahana into the field stations potable water system; sorted and safely stored all the gas on Tern Island; got the field station’s diesel generator functioning; tagged seven juvenile monk seals; and performed a survey of monk seals for the entire atoll. PIFSC’s also donated a 60hp Yamaha outboard and spare Yahama parts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service boat fleet. In the end, the nine member team collaborated and worked diligently to persevere and accomplish the overall objective of reestablishing the field station.

Mark Sullivan (left) and Jamie Barlow (right) repairing a Boston Whaler.

Mark Sullivan (left) and Jamie Barlow (right) repairing a Boston Whaler.

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