Now the time had come to get all of the sediment home, which proved to be a tad tricky. First, we had to get the samples to Honolulu. As plastic crates are bulky and expensive, I ended up packing the individual samples into ten sandbags. What better to use than a container designed for sand?
The charter flights off the atoll are both few and far between and weight restricted. Luggage is limited, and they sometimes swap people around in the plane for takeoff and landing. Therefore, fitting 250lbs of sediment onto one flight was not going to happen. The pilot was even grumbling about putting 1-2 bags on the plane. In fact, the sediment was shipped off the island on three separate flights over the course of about two weeks! I was still on the island (having transitioned by that point to bug counting and tree measuring), so I was able to help orchestrate this operation. Fortunately, one of the donor trips did not bring much luggage, so I was able to fit the majority of the bags on that flight. Later, I certainly breathed a sigh of relief when I had accounted for all ten sandbags at the airfield in Honolulu.
The next step, of course, was shipping the sediment samples back to the mainland. For anyone who’s shipped anything large or heavy recently, you know that it can add up fast. To partially circumvent this cost, we shoved the samples into 11 large flat rate boxes and sent them on their merry way only $200 later. This sounds simple enough, but it involved a lot of (somewhat unnecessary) running around the city. However, after this ordeal, we still had several hours to kill in Waikiki before our flight home. As a side note, the abrupt transition of living on a tiny remote island with 20 other people to arriving in the bustling tourist town of Honolulu was quite overwhelming! Particularly because it was Halloween.
The next few days were spent anxiously checking the package tracking information. Would the samples arrive in one piece?