Weekly Summary--Week 7 (01/08/18)

Tired tired tired and exhausted

We're pooped. It isn't just the diving two times a day doing it this time. Since July 31st, we've been pulling "turtle watch" duty at a West Maui beach. That meant waiting at night for a female turtle to crawl ashore to lay eggs.

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That meant waiting at night for a female turtle to crawl ashore to lay eggs.


When that didn't happen, we had to show up around dawn to walk the beach looking for tracks or other signs of nesting. While we no longer have to stay late into the nights, we still head to the beach at dusk and also around dawn to check on the nest.

Yes, there was a nest.

We're determined to tend it as best we can. We even go out in driving rain. We see this duty as a privilege--even when we're soaked right through.

We see this duty as a privilege--even when we're soaked right through.

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We'll report more thoroughly later when we--HAH HAH--find time.


The green slime is still out there and then some. The only difference is that people aren't complaining about the bloom and the papers aren't carrying news about it anymore. The large swell last week carried out a lot of the loose stuff so it's no longer piling up on the beach, fouling people's vacations.

So typical of humans. If it no longer affects them, it's no longer a concern. Yet for the underwater residents at our dive site, little has changed.

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Yet for the underwater residents at our dive site, little has changed.


There's still slime everywhere.

Did you get the number of that turtle?

There's this turtle. He's an attack turtle. He goes by the ID "2001 Turtle 39."

As soon as he sees us, he swoops and dives and aims for us--and he's got great aim.

We know all it would take is a charge on our part or a little shove and we'd fix his clock--but we operate under a no-touch policy. Besides, Hawaiian green turtles are protected under the US Endangered Species Act though, which means they rule the roost.

We offer here our latest encounter with this turtle. Ursula was trying to videotape Zeus, our largest male, and a very gentle, well-behaved honu--unlike this turtle, whose nuisance factor equals that of a three-foot mosquito.

He continued to "buzz" Ursula until she finally did something she'd never done before to a turtle. She "flippered" him! Honu show their irritation by flipper swiping--that is, drawing a flipper across their a cheek. They might satisfy themselves with just one swipe, or if they have a lot to "say" can gesture multiple times.

Well, the turtle annoyed Ursula once too often, and to show her displeasure Ursula "flippered" the turtle honu style!

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She drew her left hand up toward the side of her head...
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...swiped her "flipper" down across her cheek...
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...and in perfect honu dialect, exaggerated the downstroke for emphasis.
Ursula's "flipper swipe" had the identical effect of a flipper swipe executed by a real sea turtle. The recipient blissfully ignored the irritation gesture, exactly the way turtles ignore the irritation displays of their own kind. That means we must be getting through to them!

Then, not more than two minutes later, what happens? The turtle turns and--head-down--takes another run at Ursula.

The turtle turns and--head-down--takes another run at Ursula.

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Yep, we're getting through to them, all right...

A turtle with such a stout heart deserves a name, so we found the perfect one. 2001 Turtle 39 now carries the fitting Hawaiian name Lelepo'o (lay lay PO oh) which means "to dive headfirst." Our goal is to introduce Lelepo'o to sea turtle expert George Balazs. We think George needs to have a word with this dude!

Sequence of the week

You cross the line between being a sea turtle enthusiast and being a serious sea turtle enthusiast when you start taking interest in sea turtle fecal pellets (technical name "turds").

George Balazs has encouraged us to find and collect as many turtle fecal samples as possible for analysis. He especially wanted us to find a sample from a known turtle. This would essentially require us to be around as a turtle is "vacating."

In over 1500 dives this had happened three times. Once every five hundred dives!

Yet we lucked out this week.

1996 Turtle 12 (a male and a regression case) headed to the surface for air. Peter went up near the surface, hoping for a nice shot of the turtle diving. Then it happened. The turtle moved his bowels. Peter gestured excitedly to Ursula twenty feet below. Ursula saw something tubular drifting slowly down and her trained and skillful eye recognized the object immediately. Peter continued to videotape and caught all the action.

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Slowly, the fecal pellet twirled and danced in the water column on its way down.


Ursula, quick-thinking and quick-acting, reached into her buoyancy compensator for a plastic Ziploc bag.

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Like a Gold Glove center fielder, Ursula keeps her eye on the target and stands ready to make The Catch.


She compensates for the speed of the current and rate of descent as she opens the bag at the ready.

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A last minute wobble...


...and it's in the bag--but will it STAY in the bag?

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Sure... because it was a sinker! Zip the bag tight and eventually we will know exactly what this turtle ate in the last day or so.


A less odiferous method

Analyzing fecal pellets isn't the only way to figure out what a turtle eats, however. Here's a more pleasant way: you watch them feed!

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A young male feeds on new shoots of Halimeda.


Week 8 Summary
Summer of '01 at Honokowai
Turtle Happenings
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
Table of Contents
Last modified 01/08/18
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