The Coolest Jobs in Hawaii
What do you daydream about when you’re at work? Surfing? Shopping? What if you could do it for a living? This month, we found 11 lucky people who get paid to do what many would do for free.
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During dive season, Terry Kerby works in a totally different world. As the chief pilot for UH Manoa’s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL), he leads scientific expeditions more than a mile under the surface of the ocean, getting up close and personal with active undersea volcanoes such as Loihi, south of the Big Island.
“Once you get past 2,000 feet, it’s pitch black. You just rely on your flood lights,” Kerby says. “It’s a really dynamic environment, so you never know what you’re going to find, and the life forms and the activity you find is just incredible. There’ll be acres of mussels covering the bottom, or tube worms surrounding thermal vents.”
Kerby and his crew explore the briny deeps with two submersible vehicles, each of which is 20 feet long, and squeezes three people into a command sphere only seven feet in diameter. Sounds like a pretty slight rig to buzz volcanoes with, but Kerby says the main danger is actually getting entangled in something at the bottom. It’s happened to him twice in his career; luckily, he was able to free himself both times.
In addition to volcanic research, Kerby has also discovered historic wreckage from World War II-era Japanese submarines, surveyed ordnance for the Navy and shot documentary footage for National Geographic. “After 30 years of piloting,” says Kerby, “it’s the same rush as I had doing it for the first time.”
MARINE COMBAT TRAINER
A convoy of Humvees rolls down a desert road in Afghanistan. Suddenly, an IED explodes in front of the trucks, and sniper fire rains down from the nearby hills.
Disaster in the making? No, just another day at the Combat Convoy Simulator at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. Site manager Ivory Sostand is conducting an exercise designed to train Marines for the dangerous task of driving through hostile desert territory.
Sostand is in charge of running the $6.2 million facility, which has six octagonal rooms, each one with a real Humvee, minus the engine, wheels and armor plates, sitting in the middle. Projectors throw up a 360-degree image on the walls, accurately representing interactive environments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marines can drive anywhere, and trade fire with enemy combatants along the way.
“Once you close the doors, [the Marines] are in an immersive, 3-D environment. For all intents and purposes, they are in-country,” says Sostand.
“I’m an online gamer, as well, and I gave up my Star Wars and my World of Warcraft, because, hey, I’ve got the ultimate video game right here,” he says.
The Marines have simulators for target shooting, driving cargo trucks, escaping from overturned Humvees, flying helicopters—and they’re adding new systems all the time.
Ed Green, the manager of the combat training devices and sims section, says these virtual experiences prepare Marines for dangerous situations better, faster and cheaper than ever before. “It’s a really positive thing,” he says. “Training these guys before they go, you feel like you’re saving lives.”