Weekly Summary--Week 5 (04/07/31)

Nose news

Last week, we reported that Peter forgot to put sunblock on his nose. Then he kayaked for over two hours under the Hawaiian sun. Not only did his nose turn lobster-red, it swelled to double its normal size! He skidded to his worst when his fever hit 102 while he was covered in a blanket and complaining about chills.

He felt like Death-on-a-Soda-Cracker.

He was better by the early part of this week, tested his nose snorkeling, and then declared himself ready to dive.

My it was nice getting back to the honu--and it was even nicer having Peter back.

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It was nice getting back to the honu!


Foraging update: confirming what was suspected

We kayak every day now, sometimes both morning and evening. This week, we tried to establish once and for all just who belonged to the honu heads we've been seeing foraging along the seawall here.

We usually observe the most concentrated foraging just before sunset, so we've timed our kayak forays for our best chance of seeing the most turtles. Try as we might, it simply isn't possible to get identification photographs from the kayak while these creatures are foraging. It's easier to connect with a head in the arcade game of BOP-A-MOLE than secure a decent photo of a foraging honu "popper."

We needed a different strategy. We'd kayak, but Peter would have to jump off and snorkel to shoot underwater images. One evening this week we did just that. We noticed about a half dozen honu heads concentrated along a single shelf of the seawall.

Peter, camera in hand, slipped into the water and quietly approached the turtles. Ursula followed with the kayak.

Ursula followed with the kayak.

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He managed to squeeze off pictures of two different honu of sufficient quality that we could make ID's.

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1999 Turtle 111 sighted foraging.


The results are in. Of the two turtles he photographed, both are honu from our dive site. Interestingly, for one turtle known since 1993, this foraging event was our first sighting of her for this summer!

1993 Turtle 40 spotted foraging.

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The chicken sprouts wings

Two weeks ago, we reported that, "Like the Explorers of Old, we've inched our way up the West Maui coast, growing ever braver and ever more skillful."

Ursula-the-Chicken-Heart continued to "inch" all this week. Her meager but growing confidence means we are able to explore newer areas for longer periods. It also means we now kayak well into the night. As always, we're watching for honu.

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We now kayak well into the night. (Yes, that's a turtle shell.)


This week we bought a headlamp, so we can now see the rocks we hit after nightfall, instead of just striking something hard and fretting, "What was that?!"

It was our newfound ability to stay out late that allowed for the most remarkable coincidence ever.

5690 water report

We were paddling off Kuamo'o, our alternate dive site. We were hugging the coastline for two reasons: one, Ursula's chickenosity; and two, to see turtles foraging you need to be near the shoreline rocks where their favourite algae grows in abundance!

We stopped to enjoy the sunset, and as the night crept softly into our boat, rather than cursing the Darkness, Ursula turned on the light. There is nothing cheerier than a tiny beam except a way bigger beam! Confucious was right.

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There is nothing cheerier than a tiny beam except a way bigger beam!


Then it happened. We saw splashing off Kuamo'o Point. We also saw tips of something in the splashing. Peter wanted to see what it was but Ursula (the X-chromosome) thought it better to determine what it was from a distance.

She feared perhaps it was a shark--as in tiger shark. As in tiger shark and turtle.

As we cautiously paddled closer, however, we could make out two turtles, then three. There was no more hesitation. We checked it out. Quickly it became clear there were four turtles. One in the center (presumed female) and three male suitors...

At this point, we switch to Peter's email account--a report actually, of what happened.

Last night (July 28) we decided to take the kayak out at sunset to investigate foraging activity at our second kuleana, Kuamo'o (in Napili).

Just after sunset, around 07:22 PM, we saw three or four honu heads surface close together, accompanied by a lot of splashing in the water. We suspected males were attempting to mount a female and sure enough, when we drew close that was exactly what was happening.

Ironically, Ursula commented, "Wouldn't it be amazing if that was 5690?" Just as she said this, we both clearly saw the top of shell of the female--it had the remains of a fiberglass patch! Even more unbelievably, I managed to get a photo that clearly shows her left profile. As you can see from the attached image (inset was taking during egg-laying) there is no mistaking that we were seeing our favourite Maui lady entertaining some of her suitors--or more likely, resisting them.

5690 and friend (inset taken during egg-laying).

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The odds of seeing mounting behaviour from a kayak are probably pretty long. The odds that the female would be 5690 are incredibly long. The odds that we would be the ones spotting her: astronomical. The odds of us getting an identification picture... well, let's just say we'll never win the lottery now.

Kuamo'o report

In addition to our regular kayaking at Kuamo'o, we also made two consecutives dives there this week. The honu there remind us a great deal of our first two years diving at Honokowai, when many of the turtles fled at the sight of us.

That's why our dive site is so special. It takes years of patience to gain the trust of a sea turtle ohana. The honu at Kuamo'o are edgy--wary. The most timid leave the scene as soon as they sight us. The cautious watch us from the safety of distance.

Others, the few we've seen every dive, have already grown to believe we mean them no harm.

We know it will take a few more summers here just to get them to tolerate close work (like photographing eye tumours).

For now, there is one special turtle. She was around every time we dived Kuamo'o last summer. Again, she's there, always in the same spot, every time we show up in 2004.

Perhaps it's time to give her a name. We'll call her Noho, Hawaiian for "residence" or "stay". Actually, Noho turns out to be the perfect Hawaiian name for her. First, because she clearly is a "resident" of Kuamo'o. Second, because we dearly wish her to "stay".

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Noho turns out to be the perfect Hawaiian name for her.


Home Sweet Home, Ohana Sweet Ohana

As much as we are growing to appreciate the Kuamo'o ohana, it's still always something of a relief to return home with the Honokowai honu. It's the years we've put into building the trust of these creatures. Most important of all, it's knowing their histories. Their stories.

We lost a lot of diving with Peter's nose out of commission for five days. One of the first things Ursula did when she returned to Reef 2 was look up Wana. Wana has been a daily feature of Reef 2 since we first met her in Summer 2000.

One of the first things Ursula did when she returned to Reef 2 was look up Wana.

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In this photo, Wana peers at the camera through tumoured eyes (very small tumours posterior of the eyeball). We know, however, that these tumours have not gotten worse since they first erupted in 2001. We're confident that Wana's ocular tumours will regress in the next few years.

That makes us very happy. You see, judging from Wana's size and tail, we believe this turtle to be a female honu. We suspect that one summer soon, Wana won't be around Reef 2 and will instead be at East Island, French Frigate Shoals, laying her eggs for the first time.

You can't ask much more than that.


Another of 5690's nests, number 3 this time, is hatching. Before we get to that, it's time that we offered a mahalo nui loa to Mr. Theo Morrison of the Lahaina Town Action Committee. He has ensured that the lights in the park are turned off during these crucial emergence times. This is important to the safety of the hatchlings, who otherwise could be attracted towards the park lights and away from the ocean. Now, if only the management at 505 Front Street were as cooperative...

We would really like to see a hatchling-stampede. You know, the kind people get to see on Discovery Channel? In 2002, at least twice we stayed on the beach right through until dawn in the hope of witnessing the beginning of a honu's life. While we did get to see five little guys flap down the beach, we never did get our stampede.

Friday morning, it looked like 9-10 hatchlings had emerged from nest 3. We figured there were more to come. So Friday night we showed up at the nest prepared to spend the night. Yes, we were equipped again, although next time we'll bring more to soften the wall we tried to nap comfortably on.

Ursula did manage to sleep, but then again she can sleep on airplanes, so a seawall of rock and cement are no challenge for her! Peter spent most of his time watching the nest for any signs of change.

He'd brought his MP3 player and was contentedly listening to Fleetwood Mac. (We have every song from every album and often several different versions of the same song.) We could both stay up the whole night with THE MAC keeping us company!

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Peter spent most of his time watching the nest for any signs of change. (He's not napping. Really, he's not!)


Then the first triple A battery died. When he reached for his backup, it was clear that that one wasn't fully charged. It faded and pooped out within minutes.

Peter faded soon afterwards. Finally, at 11:45 when the full moon revealed still no change in the nest, Peter pulled the plug and wanted a real bed. A good thing too.

Because when we showed up on Saturday morning, it was clear that only one hatchling had emerged during our absence. Depending on how late the little dude "erupted", it's entirely possible we'd have slept through the event!

Still. There's always tonight. Tonight under a Lahaina full moon. Stay tuned.

2004 Zeus report

Nothing to report. Depressing.

Week 6 Summary
Summer of '04 at Honokowai
Turtle Happenings
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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Last modified 04/08/07
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