MAGIC Test Run to Hawaii


From the foredeck of the Horizon Spirit cargo ship, Mike Reynolds prepares to launch a weather balloon, substituting a vegetable for the radiosonde package.
Editor’s note: As part of the preparations for the upcoming Marine ARM GPCI Investigations of Clouds (MAGIC) field campaign, principal investigator Ernie Lewis, AMF2 site manager Brad Orr, and co-investigator Mike Reynolds participated in an “evaluation cruise” to simulate some of the conditions and activities that will take place during the campaign.

Hawaii was wonderful. We (Mike Reynolds, Brad Orr, and I) left Los Angeles on Saturday, February 11, at 5:30 am, on MAGIC Leg00a, along with nearly 1000 cargo containers aboard the Horizon Spirit. With the help of Mike’s son Jeremy, we spent the previous two days installing a meteorological (MET) system on the mast and a navigation system to characterize ship motion, both of which worked very well for the entire cruise. We arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, February 15, at 9:30 pm, after a mostly cloudy and cool trip. Fortunately, the seas weren’t too rough and there was no seasickness (hurray!).

In Hawaii, we checked the MET system and met with personnel at the Horizon office in Honolulu. Brad left to fly back from there, while Mike and I returned to the Spirit for our second ocean voyage. We departed at 11:00 pm that night on MAGIC Leg00b and arrived back in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 23 at 7:00 am.

The trip back was much windier—the ship was traveling at 15 knots, and we had headwinds of 25 knots most of the way home. That’s a relative wind speed of more than 45 mph! One of the goals of the trip was to investigate the feasibility of weather balloon launches from different locations around the ship. Filling balloons on deck in those conditions is, needless to say, quite challenging, and there were strong downdrafts around the ship, which added another challenge. However, I am proud to report that during the cruise we successfully launched five potatoes, two turnips, one avocado, four sweet potatoes, one rutabaga, and three squash, while sending only one squash into the ocean, having one squash explode in hand, and popping only two balloons.

Brad and Mike were good travel companions, and everyone on the Spirit was great. We thank Horizon, and especially Captain Walt Rankin and his crew on the Spirit, for their enthusiasm and support. I look forward to more Hawaii trips with them and also aboard the Reliance.

–Ernie Lewis, MAGIC principal investigator