What can I say, it's the day we all feared - Cliff's returning to the states..... and everyone else on the team wonders .... "does he like us enough to leave all his cool gear behind?"
Cliff, Jon, and Tom will all be flying down to Kwaj around 2:30 pm this afternoon. As a result, we've scrubbed plans to dive today. Cliff's been with us for two weeks but if you look around the room that he shares with Jonathan, you'd swear that they had lived there for years. Cliff's gear alone takes up about 4 bags and that's not including all the rebreather gear that was shipped out separately. He's got SDI and TDI hats and t-shirts all over the place. Because we're all such nice guys we help lighten his load by accepting just about all the promotional gear he had brought. The one item that everyone coveted was Cliff's Draeger rebreather hat. It was the only one that he had brought and everyone wanted it even with a two week ring of sweat around the band. I guess that I had brown-nosed sufficiently because while I was working at the computer I felt it come down over my head from behind. It was as if I had been knighted "Tech-King". Cliff also gave me a really great TDI golf shirt. That one I received by default. I was the only one big enough on the team to wear it and I'm not talking about being tough or having attitude! Looking around Cliff's room convinces me that the majority of Cliff's day will be spent packing.
Jonathan will be flying to Kwaj to greet team member Christine Rooney, Jon's girlfriend, assistant diver, and Kwajalein battle researcher. She'll be arriving tomorrow afternoon on the same flight that will be taking Cliff to Guam and ultimately back home. The plan is that Tom, Jon, and Christine will stay tomorrow night on Kwajalein and catch an early flight back to Roi so we can get a full day of diving in.
Tom's joining Jon and Cliff so that he can make sure that Cliff and all his gear makes it on the plane. He'll also be there to ensure that any problems Christine may encounter trying to enter the base can be cleared up. It's important to remember that just to disembark the plane when it lands on Kwajalein requires military orders, even as a guest! Security is tight and the police aren't very lenient.
While packing, Cliff showed us his new, never before used video housing. I had never seen him use it and asked why he had never brought it diving. He explained that he had received it just before he left the states and that the camera for it was supposed to have been shipped to him on Kwajalein three weeks before. He had been checking with Tom's wife Heather who lives with Tom on Kwaj to see if it had arrived, but each time was disappointed that it hadn't. We each said nice things about the housing so as not to make him feel any worse. If I remember right it was Jonathan who said that it was better that it hadn't come - the housing probably would have flooded and ruined the camera anyways. Cliff had just about finished packing when Tom, who's accommodations are in another building arrived with some news for Cliff. He had spoken to Heather earlier that morning and the camera had just arrived. Everyone just about lost it and Cliff taught us some words that we had never heard used together before.
Meanwhile, Mark and I who will stay on Roi with no assignments begin to hatch our plan. Mark wants to dive some ship wrecks - he's tired of diving these tiny little plane wrecks. He learned to dive in Puget Sound and now dives the north Atlantic, I guess he's not comfortable diving something that you can see end-to-end. I, on the over hand, have had enough of diving anything metallic and I'm ready to dive some calcium carbonate structures - REEF! Mark and I agree to decide where we'll dive later (coin toss) and we continue with the plan. We call our friend Tim Gernold and ask if he'd take us out for a dive on Boogieman, his boat. Tim works nights at the power plant but said he'd be glad to take us out at noon after he's had a chance to get a few hours rest. He's nitrox certified but rarely gets the chance to dive enriched air so Mark and I agree to mix him up a nice 36% mix in the safety tanks. We won't need them for our dives and we can refill them with 50% before the rest of the team returns.
My friend Brian Greene from Kwajalein had received rebreather certification from Cliff while we were there. Brian's totally stoked about rebreather diving and before the team left Kwaj I had promised I would give him a call if there was an opportunity for him to use a rebreather to dive with us. Tim had given us the OK for an extra diver on Boogieman so it looked like this plan was coming together. I left a message for Brian that he could join us tomorrow if he was able to catch an early morning flight from Kwajalein to Roi. He called back a little later and said that would be no problem and I agreed to meet him at the airport with a bike he could use while on Roi. Everything's right on track! Now I really should confess my guilty scheming ways: Brian's a marine biology major and he likes diving reefs. I'm stacking the deck so that tomorrow morning when Mark, Brian, and I vote on where to dive, the reef divers will be the majority.
Thanks for everything!
"An Ode to Clifford"
There once was a man from New Hampshire
Who knew tech shit for damned sure
People were heard to exclaim
As he got on the plane
With Cliff gone, Kwaj won't be the same!