After about two and one-half hours, the trio approached the center buoy at Papeete harbor. The Blue Hole entered through the main channel and headed for the University Marine Lab. After arriving at the marine lab dock next to the marine lab’s oceanographic vessel named Research, Jennifer shouted, “Ahoy, Skipper Marvin!”
“Ahoy, Jennifer!” Zidi shouted.
“Where is your husband?” Jennifer asked.
“He is in the marine lab meeting with Lacy on a new joint project with Shinji Matsubara. Can I give you a hand?”
“Roger that, Zidi! Can you please toss me the bow lines?”
“Roger that!” Zidi threw the starboard bow line to Jennifer, who was on the deck. That was followed by the port bow line. Marty gave the engine very little gas but gradually he maneuvered the Blue Hole into the middle of the slip using the twin diesel engines. Jennifer placed the lines on the bow cleats then went aft to collect the stern line from the pilings using the boat hook.
From the deck, Jennifer contacted her friend and estate manager Jules Durand using her cell phone. “Bonjour, Jules.”
“Bonjour, Jennifer!” Jules replied with enthusiasm.
“I will send you an email to explain we need a $350,000 grant to study the reef at Mehetia, volcanically active island sixty-eight miles east of Tahiti.”
Jules said, “I will set that up immediately.”
“By the way, we will use the Blue Hole to come and go as well as to collect data, as the island has no place for the amphibian to land. Mehetia is very close to Tahiti and is uninhabited.” She watched Marty finish securing the yacht for their visit to port and caught his eye. “Marty and I want to do some exploration with the Blue Hole in August and need permission from the government and the owner of Mehetia to conduct this research. Can you help with the permission?”
“Yes, of course,” Jules replied.
Marty and Jennifer went into the marine lab with Jenny wearing her Muslim outfit of traditional scarf and veil using her cover Muslim name Al adur al Karimah. Lacy got out of her meeting just as Jennifer and Marty arrived.
“Lacy, hello,” Jennifer said, “I want to introduce you to Al adur al Karimah.”
“How are you, Ms. al Karimah?” Lacy asked in French.
Jenny froze a bit then answered in Arabic. Lacy froze, as she did not know Arabic.
Jennifer said, “She speaks a little English, so try that.”
Lacy switched from French to English and said, “I am pleased to meet you, Ms. al Karimah.”
“I am most pleased to make your acquaintance, Dr. Lacy Wu,” Al Adur said while offering her hand.
Lacy shook her hand and smiled.
“Please call me Al Adur, Dr. Wu,” Ms. al Karimah requested.
“Okay, and please call me Lacy,” Lacy said. “Jennifer and Marty and I are old friends.”
Lacy turned to Jennifer. “What research are you planning next?”
“I am still working on a better understanding of ciguatera poisoning and why it is higher in French Polynesia. I am working on a vaccine for ciguatera poisoning for my PhD dissertation. What are you working on?”
Lacy perked up, excited to tell Jennifer and her former mentor Marty about the newly funded project. “The marine lab is working on a very interesting project with anthropology and archeology in the Bering Strait looking in shallow coastal areas for artifacts from the earliest migration of humans about twelve thousand to fifteen thousand years ago. Shinji Matsubara is the PI on the project with five million dollars in funds from Japan and another two million from the USA. This exciting new project is one of the largest we have ever done. We also have a reef project to evaluate sustainable reef fishing in the Society Islands and Tuamotus. We have an aquaculture project to determine the viability of growing cold-water fish by bring up cold water from the deep and putting it in into tanks and ponds. We have a project to measure the effects of climate change on reef systems, too.”
Skipper Marvin walked into the room while Lacy was speaking, and he shook hands with Marty and Jennifer.
He added, “We have a project to study the neural aging in sea hares, as they are a good model for studying the aging process.”
Lacy continued. “One of the most exciting new projects is being conducted in cooperation with the University of Hawaii Manoa campus. This project will study deep water corals such as the one in the picture on the wall behind me.”
Lacy pointed to a full color image on the wall of an orange, fan-shaped coral.
Al Adur said, “That does not look like the coral I see on television when they show coral reefs.”
“The corals you see associated with reef systems are in shallower waters,” explained Lacy. “Many of these gorgeously beautiful deep-sea corals can be found as deep as one mile under the sea. There are diverse invertebrate communities and fish associated with these deep-water corals. They add habitat complexity to an otherwise flat sea bottom in many areas of the ocean. These forests of coral provide many hiding places for other small animals. Frequently sea stars and sea urchins are found eating the corals in these deep forests. There is much more unknown than known about these corals, so we have a project to broaden our knowledge of them.”
Jennifer shared, “I’ve learned about several big discoveries of many new species of deep water corals near Norway, Alaska, and many other places recently.”
“The NOAA and the University of Hawaii found twelve new species last year,” Lacy noted.
Jennifer loved seeing Lacy so animated, talking about her passion for marine life. She truly had blossomed after taking on her new career at the marine lab.
“Where are the biggest coral forests?” Al Adur asked.
“One of the largest deep-coral complexes known is located off Norway in the Arctic Circle,” Lacy told them. “Some think this is a strange place to find a reef but deep-water corals like cold water. This forest of deep-water coral is called Røst Reef. The reef is at a depth of between three hundred and four hundred meters. Røst Reef was found by accident during a routine survey in May 2002. It is about forty kilometers long by three kilometers wide.”
Jennifer asked, “Do you have a submersible to study those species?”
Marvin answered, “No, but we have a fantastic remotely operated robot as a part of the research vessel.”
“That will do the job!”
Lacy turned to her former professor and occasional lover. “Marty, you have been very quiet today.”
“Yes, I’ve been reading Jennifer’s novel on the Blue Hole and it has mesmerized me,” he replied. “So, I’ve been trying to figure out what the hidden message is.”
“You may have to read it a couple of times,” Lacy said with a big smile. “I think she is talking about humanity in the far future. Warning us to be very careful with genetic engineering.”
Promptly, Marty stood up and hit the right palm of his hand to his forehead. “Yes, I’ll look for that.”
Many hidden messages clouded the day. Jennifer wished she could tell Lacy the truth about who Al Adur was, so they could be at ease around her. She hadn’t had an opportunity to cuddle with Lacy since returning to this time and missed her sweet noises and cute delicate curves. Marvin’s presence was an added barrier to their interaction.
“Ms. al Karimah, do you have any other questions?” Lacy asked.
“I would like to see your research vessel if that is convenient?”
“Of course. Skipper Marvin, can you show our guests our research vessel?”
“Yes, I will be happy to,” replied Skipper Marvin.
He waved for them to walk ahead of him back toward the docks.
After an hour tour on the research vessel, Jennifer gave Marvin and Zidi four large lobsters and Lacy was given the other three lobsters. Jennifer and Al Adur thanked Marvin and Lacy for the tour; they headed for the parking lot with Marty following close behind. Jennifer had a rented car in the marine lab parking lot and it had a parking ticket on the window. She had not placed the sticker on the dashboard of the rented car as required so she would have to pay the price for her forgetfulness. Marty also had a sticker, but he had not yet rented a car.
Jennifer drove slowly to Hotel Tiare as she was deep in thought about her trip to visit her parents and her colleagues from the thirtieth century.