"Are you sure about this?" he asked of our UH liaison, Kalama Nakafusa.
She nodded: "We double-checked with the National Linnaean Society. The diary was authentic. And the navigational math pretty sound."
He shook his head, still somewhat dubious: "If there was truly an island there, someone would have claimed discovery of it long before this. Especially, with all the satellites we have in orbit, these days!"
"Maybe it occupies an area similar to the Bermuda Triangle," Shawna ventured: "Filled with all sorts of geomagnetic anomalies."
"All I know for certain," Corbett replied: "...is that we're going there at the height of subequatorial hurricane season. That means we'll have to come in from the north. Assuming your island is there, at all!"
That was on Monday, February 9, 1981. The next day was Fat Tuesday. "Mardi Gras," in French! So, between seven o'clock and ten o'clock, that Tuesday night, we had a big blow-out. Not only to celebrate the end of all our preparations (which the matching funds from Interchem had allowed us to complete two months ahead of our originally projected schedule). But, also, to let everyone on the expedition get acquainted with each other. That was how I learned that Kalama's first name was Hawaiian for "flaming torch." It seems that her father was a Hawaiian Nisei who'd been "interned" at Ellis Island, in New York City, during World War II. So, it had been quite ironic for him to have a good view of the Statue of Liberty from his barracks window!
Yet, while it would've been quite understandable if he had been, he never let that experience make him bitter. In fact, he eventually went on to obtain a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University, And, he even married a girl from Manhattan's Chinatown!
On Ash Wednesday, we weighed anchor and headed out on the first high tide.
We headed west-by-northwest for the first four days. Then, on the morning of the fifth day, we headed due south, towards the Marshall Islands. At supper, that same night, Captain Corbett and Professor Stewart let the rest of the expedition members know where we were headed. And let me tell you; the ensuing chorus of "ooh's" and "ah's" and "say what's" was all-but-deafening!
Professor Stewart assured everyone who had questions (along the same initially skeptical lines as the skipper) that they were not on one big wild goose chase.
"The island is there. Something you will see for yourselves in another day-and-a-half."
"But, for right now?" added Corbett: "I think we should all turn in for the night. Except for those of you among the crew who have the graveyard shift. I want you all to keep a close eye on the weather tonight! We've been exceptionally lucky, these past few days. That might change, though, the closer we get to the equator."
I willingly took his advice. Because, quite frankly, I was beat. I don't even think I remained awake for five minutes, after I crawled into bed! But, one thing was for certain.
It was not a dreamless sleep.