For those with concerns of what became of our…errrr…Cliff’s unexpected hitchhiker, here’s the rest of the saga:
Background Information: On March 27, Cliff Livermore brought his 24″ newly refinished Dobsonian telescope to the VIS at 9200 feet to use while participating in the 2009 Messier Marathon. (Refer to the postings on A Darker View, Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (the VIS) and my blog right here, Gadget Gypsy, for more in depth details of the whole 2009 Messier Marathon event at the VIS). Cliff is one of several of us who brought our telescopes for this marathon; but his was the only one that got so much attention and not solely because of the unexpected hitchhiker. You might understand why after examining the photo.
During assembly of the 24″ Dob, the Primary mirror is near the beginning of the checklist in the order of assembly; and when that item on the checklist was reached, the mirror box was carried over and placed in a strategic position near the chosen site to make it easier to place on the “rocker box” for the telescope after the truss tubes and secondary cage assembly have been secured in place. The mirror cover was lifted off of the box and several bystanders erupted into laughter.
Cliff had turned to pick up a necessary piece for assembly when he heard the laughter and visibly stiffened a bit. He turned quickly back to his “Primary Gecko” … ummm … I mean his Primary Mirror and joined the chorus of laughter while asking us and the hitchhiker not to move until pictures could be captured!
There was a large Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) crouched on the very shiny mirror surface! After we had taken multiple pictures and had several viewers of the Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) on the Primary mirror, it decided to attempt a run for cover. I managed to coerce the cold, confused Gecko into a plastic jar that I thought I had taken up with me to put leftover pecans in after I had opened the new bag :-O I put the jar in a warm spot in the VIS to keep it from getting too cold (or frozen as the temperatures dipped below 32 degrees F) and then took it back to Waikoloa with us.
Saturday morning, March 28: Before we headed down the mountain, however, we had breakfast at HP and talked story of the events and happenings of the long, cold and fascinating night. During this time, the Gecko was safely (al beit, a bit cold…no…make that VERY cold) in our vehicle awaiting the journey back to warmer habitat. The Gecko got cold enough that it went deep into a state of torpor and appeared to have been taxidermied with all four legs in the air – EEEEW! Although I knew of this state of ‘temporary hybernation’, I had never seen any living being actually in the state of torpor before. It worried me because I hadn’t considered what torpor would actually look like. Breathing slows soooo far that it could easily be mistaken for dead.
Andy assured me that the Gecko would be fine and to try to limit its stress by keeping it from waking up until we had gotten off of the worst of the road back home. Well, we kept it from fully waking up until we got to the Mamalahoa highway at which time, it sloooowly began to regain activity. First; a forefoot twitched then the tail whipped, and then it finally righted itself since it had ended up on its back while it was in full torpor. Still remaining a bit ‘stunned’ as it returned to full consciousness, it surveyed its surroundings and its predicament. What a sight to watch! How do Hummingbirds not fall off of the branches they are perched on while they are in Torpor? Hmmm. Some research I must do… 🙂
Since it was dark when we got home and the Gecko would be in a somewhat foreign territory, I waited until the next evening, March 28, to release it in a rock wall in my backyard. At first it was disbelieving of its stroke of good fortune and was quite hesitant to venture out of the jar. I gave it a bit of encouragement and it moved to the rock on the wall that had been somewhat warmed by the day’s sun. For the first several seconds, it just sat on the spot that it had first moved to and surveyed its new surroundings. Then the deeper that reality, or the warmth of the day sank in, it moved cautiously closer to a large narrow crevice in the wall.
Just before it disappeared from sight into the crevice, it seemed to cast a sideways glance in my direction as if to say, “Mahalo nui loa and Aloha!” then it was gone!
It was gone into the night!