Upon waking my first thought was of home. Right now at home I would be waking up to the insistent, but loving cold nose of my half husky puppy informing me that it is time for a long jog. I would grab my running shoes, my pup’s leash, and some dried fruit as I head out the door for a nice long sunrise run. Like normal I would watch the sun coming up over the tree tops of my favorite park, feel the cool breeze mixing with the heat of the first rays of sunlight, and know that sense of contentment and comfort that comes from familiarity knowing that a day filled with laughter, family, and friends lies ahead of me. Instead I am lying in my bed experiencing for the first time in this isolated study true feelings of loneliness; wishing I was waking up at home instead of this stressful and unfamiliar place. 

This morning marks the first day of my 30th year on this planet and starts with a cold realization…..No, literally it’s cold. Overnight the HI-SEAS habitat drops into the 50s (F) and at 5:30 AM the thought of snuggling into my covers and ignoring this day is a tempting one, but then I think about having not missed a birthday sunrise for the past ten years and logic kicks in, breaking tradition now would be silly. I quietly gather my birthday surprise for the crew, I have been taunting the crew with my birthday for months now and am looking forward to decorating the habitat and making breakfast. No one on the crew knows exactly when my b-day is just that it will occur during our mission. Our ground support team is also excited and has been helping me plan festivities for almost a month; I wouldn’t want to disappoint our support team and this helps me get my feet moving.

Downstairs I look outside of our one window and am rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise that paints bright tiger stripes of golden light on lava fields highlighting elevated a’a’ flows as the last moments of twilight disappear on the horizon. After a few selfish moments of soaking in this site knowing that this sunrise is meant for me I start to blow up balloons and make eggs with apple cinnamon pancakes to surprise the crew who have been gamely attempting to guess the date of my birthday for over two months.


I am loving every moment of knowing that I will surprise my crewmates with a day that starts off different than most, this change or spontaneity alone is always treat. As the crew wakes they walk out to a ground covered in balloons and the smells of apple cinnamon pancakes and one by one I get the joy of seeing each crew members’ reaction to the new sensory stimuli. This is a much needed day of relaxation after all of the issues of the past week and it has been a week to remember with toilet issues, injuries, the network crashing, and complete loss of communication just to highlight a few of the major issues has caused a very stressful week.


After breakfast the day returns to normal and we begin working on habitat maintenance, an outreach video, reports, and daily chores. However, I have more surprises up my sleeve…. I have strategically maneuvered myself to be the dinner cook and have made delicious and dastardly plans of for a barbeque of sorts. Making hamburgers and hash brown French fries with a calorie packed black forest cake for dessert. Everything has to be made from dehydrated ingredients which alters the cooking slightly since everything is already cooked. Although the beef patties don’t quite want to stay together the homemade buns are delicious and the cake comes out rich, fluffy, and most importantly chocolaty!!!


However, here I thought my day would be a day where I surprise the crew with treats and enjoy their reaction, but they have their own agenda and have decided that tonight we will celebrate with a party. The crew has made me a beautiful card with inscriptions of support and birthday wishes, provide me with contraband chocolate, and cranks up some good music to play games. Not only that, but the merriment leads to an entertaining idea of playing hide and seek. An entertaining prospect in such a confined space, but we play three rounds of laughter filled hide and seek as the hiding places get more and more creative.

BLOWING MY CANDLES OUT.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



As midnight approaches I begin to reflect on this most unique birthday and realize the significance of this moment. I am officially 30 years old participating in a Manned Mar’s Mission simulation on the slopes of a Hawaiian volcano with some of the most amazing researchers, thinkers, and explorers I have ever met…. The feelings of loneliness disappeared hours ago and I realize I am surrounded by friends bonded through this amazing and exhausting experience. In this moment I know that future manned exploration will be filled with moments of human connections, moments that create bonds of friendship and family, that can only come from knowing what the other one has endured and standing next to them throughout the experience.  Thank you HI-SEAS Support Staff and Crew for an unforgettable birthday spent with my HI-SEAS family!!!


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Comment by Tiffany Swarmer on June 12, 2014 at 2:41am

Thank you, that is a beautiful poem and I am glad you liked the sunset. Although it was a little funny trying to get a good photo with 5 crew members all vying for a good view out of our one tiny window. Birthday privileges don't seem to apply to sunsets :) 

Comment by Anushree Srivastava on June 12, 2014 at 12:48am

That is so wonderful Tiffany, especially the first and last paragraph. Thank for sharing! Just picked few lines from a beautiful poem on the tacit progression in "Solitude & Seclusion" - "...Your life, my friend, is a residence far away from other homes named after you... Your inner soul, my friend, is surrounded with solitude and seclusion.  Were it not for this solitude and this seclusion you would not be you and I would not be I."  

Beautiful birthday sunset  :)


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