Michelle, my friend, Thank You for sharing this video! 🙂
Early in the week, I get a call from Dave at Blue Wilderness Dive Adventures with an invitation to join them again this year for a trashy dive…huhhmmm…
I mean another Puako Beach Clean-up Dive on Saturday morning, September 18th 😉
Both Andy and I joined in on last year’s effort on September 12; but, “sadly”, Andy had to work on the Mountain this year on the scheduled date. This year, while he was on Mauna Kea Summit, I went shore diving bringing in rubbish of all types and taking pictures as best as I could in the murky water so near the Puako Bay shoreline.
We didn’t have to dive very deep to bring up a lot of rubbish such as car tires, a vehicle break cylinder, numerous drink cans (what a waste of HI-5‘s!),yards of abandoned fishing line with a couple of large hooks attached, some golf balls, a few “what’s its”, and a boat anchor (Lori got her workout on that one) — and that was just what was pulled out of the water.
The onshore team gathered up way too many cigarette butts, a rusty section of barbed wire fence with rusty posts, a dirty diaper or two, more golf balls, and a few more “what’s its”!The “what’s its” lead to some interesting speculation of what the former function was prior to becoming rusty litter :-O Much laughter ensued from the comments put forth!
All was not depressing, however! 🙂
What an awesome way to go whale watching!!!! Okay. So…it was quite early to get up on a Saturday; but it was sooooo worth it! Just after New Year’s, Andy registered us to participate in the 2010 Santuary Ocean Count on January 30, coordinated by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Check out the many links and bushel loads of information that they provide on their site.
“Bright” and EARLY on Saturday morning, January 30, we met the group at Kawaihae harbor (about 7:00am) and consolidated some vehicles then proceeded to the site that we signed up on for the Ocean Count. The site had a GREAT 180 degree view from north to south of the Kohala coastline near Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawai`i!
We all signed in and gathered the papers that we would need for recording the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) data. This was to include a tally for the # of adults and the # of calves in each pod, and a tally for each time one of several behaviors were exhibited during each half-hour increment from 8:00am to 12:00pm. Followed by one final count-only period from 12:00pm to 12:15pm.
We all got settled in our chairs. We got our paperwork with writing implements, and our binoculars close at hand…and…at 8:00am began the count. Working in pairs, one would call out location, how many in the pod, and behavior observed; and the other would rapidly mark the tallies in the correct box on the paper. There was a lot of activity during the full four hours, and the time flew by! The Humpback were numerous and active on our west coast shoreline!
We seldom had opportunity to just sit back and talk story; but we did get some casual conversation inserted into the very occasional lull. Captivating conversation at that! This made the time pass by even faster. The lowest number of whale spotted from our site in any half-hour block during the count was about 11 adults. The calves were rare early in the count and then reached a count of four in two or three of the mid-count time slots.
Near the end of our count (about 11:00 or 11:30), we all became a bit unsettled to observe two vessels that appeared to be commercial operations, display actions as though they were pursuing a pod of five Humpback Whale that were moving toward the north point of the Island (it looked like they were traveling in the direction of Maui). They presented as though they were pursuing the pod of five thus making the Whales increase their speed to stay out of range of the boats.
The vessels operators could have moored their boats anywhere along the coastline in the general area and seen a much more rewarding show as well as not having made the impression of stressing the large pod as it appeared that they did, and possibly causing any calves to get dangerously left behind!
We also watched as a small speed boat that was too near the shore tear over a lone Humpback that unexpectedly surfaced in its path. The boatman made little effort to observe to see if the whale was injured by the encounter, and we watched it tentatively while we finished our day’s count to observe if it was badly injured or just jostled and disoriented. It appeared to recover and begin to play in the water again. This left us with a feeling of relief as we gathered up our belongings, and cleared the site.
Setting aside the irksome few vessels traversing the Kohala coastline after helping to make a few notes of the boats’ actions, I focused my attentions back on the whale count.
Over all, the Ocean Count was a fantastic experience! There were several conscientious boats in the water as well. Like the kayaking fishermen who got a surprisingly good show! The numerous animals exhibiting an impressive show of behaviors were awesome! Behavior we observed included breaching, diving, fin slapping, spy hopping, numerous blows, and more… (<–this link is to a picture PDF).
It was particularly attention grabbing when a mother was teaching her calf how to do some of these behaviors! The calves appeared to try very hard and would sometimes repeat a behavior several times before changing to another. We even observed a pod of approximately 20 spinner dolphins skimming through our observation area heading in a northerly direction! They looked to be having a great time, completely undaunted by the number of Humpback in the area! 🙂
Even in Alaska, while I did see a larger number of whale once or twice, I do not believe I observed so many behavior patterns in so little time. The process of watching for specific behaviors and counting each occurrence of each behavior made me ‘see’ more of the whales and what they were doing than I had observed while simply watching the whale and madly firing my camera shutter for the pictures.
I WILL make an effort to participate in this event again! And NEXT time, I WILL remember the sun block since I seem to wear my dive skin and/or wet suit so often that I forgot to protect my sun deprived legs when I wore my shorts for the Whale count event :-O Eeeee Youch!!!!! Nope. No pictures of that part of my day. Too embarrassing to feel that much like a tourist again… 😉
Darkerview.com also posted on this volunteer opportunity! — search “Whale Count”>
Andy (Darkerview.com) and I attended the 17th Annual Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Open House that was held on Saturday, October 17th 2009! A PDF of the Open House News Release from the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed how to get there and what to see when you get there.
It is my understanding that the NWR will continue to hold one of these every year. I am anticipating attending the open house again next year! I still need to get to the greenhouse to explore the seedlings that they are propagating to bring back endemic species like the Koa tree (Acacia koa) while they eradicate the invasive plants.
Except for the dense fog, heavy drizzle and generous amounts of green foliage, the bumping bouncing drive to the event was reminiscent of many of the roads that we explored in Arizona with the same 4-wheel drive. For the first few hours of our visit to the reserve, the sky was overcast and drizzly; and the sun was barely able to light the landscape through the fog.
When we finished our hike on the birding trail and turned around at the quarry, it was as though we had stepped through a vortex or into an alternate dimension as we began our hike back to our vehicle to eat our lunch and then head for home 🙂
The road started as a narrow, graveled and tolerably maintained course; and then took on a different character as it changed to steep, well rutted stretches of trail among the curves and hills. The sections that were most susceptible to erosion were paved to prevent complete washout and inaccessibility to the refuge and the nearby ranches.
We took our time on the drive in to take in the beauty of it all, despite the heavily invasive, and thick growth of that pretty yellow flower on that bushy evergreen plant that I now know as Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus). It was EVERYWHERE!
An invasive in Hawai’i. Gorse is so dense that it chokes out nearly every other plant in its wake. While Gorse may have its place in the RIGHT place, its attempt at world take over is better left out of Hawai’i.
The Gorse that was so prolific on both sides of the nearly 16 miles of Mana road, basically disappeared when we turned in the gate to Pua ‘Akala Barn and event parking. Eradication of the Gorse and reestablishing Koa trees is part of the mission of Hakalau Forest NWR as well as preserving endangered native species (See Management for detailed information).
While on the refuge grounds, I noticed only one pitiful instance of Gorse that was showing signs of giving in to the eradication effort. And numerous young Koa trees getting their roots established!
When we reached the main demonstration area, we started with the barn area where there were storyboards, pamphlets, and loads of information about the reserve. Then we moved on to the historic Koa wood Pua ‘Akala Cabin (built in 1883 and used up until about 1980), and the equipment shed that was very near the cabin.
It was wet and overcast during our exploration of the buildings (the cabin with its temperature controlled fermentation room and the barn with a unique water catchment system). This provided a diffuse lighting and prevented harsh shadows; although, it was quite the challenge to get an acceptable photo before the lens was covered with water droplets.
As Andy mentions in his ‘back-to-work’ entry at A Darkerview.com: “Long vacations seem to be common here in Hawai’i, particularly when flying to the mainland. When purchasing tickets, families tend to make the best of the expense and do everything in one trip. The result is that many vacations are measured in weeks, not days.” I am very glad we optimized our travel like we did and also arranged a visit ‘home’ then to Alaska! 🙂
The call came while still away off-Island, “Are you still interested in working here at the School? Please call me quickly to let me know. I have vacancies to fill and we start SOON!” My reply was made as soon as I was within Cell coverage again, “YES, I am interested!” I was asked to sign in the Monday following my return, August 3, 2009 (the first day of School). How exciting! I was so there!
Having the summer off meant that the ordeal of Email and paper pile-up causing, “No real work accomplished, just the task of catchup and restarting everything” that Andy dealt with so well was not an issue that I had to bear upon my return to work at the school. I was greeted by many “genuine expressions of welcome” and shouts of recognition by students as well as teachers.
It felt good to be back and even better to be remembered with such enthusiasm! The Bear Cub Hugs are a real treat, too!
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