Keoki [1998 Turtle 65]

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That was then (inset, 1998) and this is now (2001).

Quickstats: Seen 1998, 1999 (53K JPEG), 2000 (49K JPEG), 2001. Summer updates: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.

We first sighted Keoki at a place we call The Cavern on July 17th, 1998. We were stunned by what we saw. It was our first glimpse of a Hawaiian hawksbill.

Hawaiian hawksbills ('ea) are extremely rare and are on the Endangered Species list. Only about two dozen females nest in the entire Hawaiian archipelago. We simply never dreamed we'd ever see one.

In fact, in 1998 we saw the turtle twice and we felt blessed. Here's what we wrote about the second event:

We just might have a resident Hawaiian hawksbill. Last week, on July 26th during our PM dive, we saw Keoki again in about the same place as our first sighting. There was a reverse current, just like the last time Keoki breezed through here, something we think hints that she is from the south. We followed her long enough to get a right profile so that our identification logs will be complete.

After the second sighting, we decided to name the little animal.

We called her Keoki (Hawaiian for "George") in honour of George Balazs of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Our logs continued:

The area where we sighted Keoki both times is where we descend to start our dives, and we also pass there on our way back to shore. Now we don't go by without checking our cameras to make sure they are primed should Keoki make a third appearance.

Summer 1999 Update

Well, Keoki must have liked her name because she did indeed put in a third appearance. It just took her an entire year to accomplish this. We resighted Keoki on July 18th, this time in deeper water at Reef 2. Then we sighted Keoki again on the 21st, and there came a wonderful time when she no longer shrank from our presence.

At some point the young 'ea decided we were harmless. When that happened, we were privileged to witness the private day-to-day world of a Hawaiian hawksbill.

We learned about Keoki's "relationship" with the much larger honu. We learned about her foraging habits, including the best time to observe her sniffing around for tasties. Best of all, we learned that a small crest of coral near Reef 2 is what Keoki calls home.

It turned out we really do have a resident hawksbill at Honokowai. What a great way to end the 1990's! We can't wait to see this beautiful little creature in Summer 2000.

If the fates are kind, we need only swim out to her home--HaleManu (House of the Bird)--and Keoki will be there.

Summer 2000 Update

Well, the fates were indeed kind. We resighted Keoki simply swimming la-dee-da. She showed no fear and she let us tag along with her. We believe Keoki's nonchalance stems from regular contact with divers at Airport Beach, just downstream from Honokowai.

We didn't see Keoki as often as we had in 1999, nor were we blessed with witnessing much in the way of foraging. Throughout our dive site, there is evidence that a hawksbill has been re-arranging the furniture, however. There were plenty of holes along the reefs, sure signs that a hawksbill was digging for sponges.

This is now the third summer that we have sighted this hawksbill. Clearly Honokowai serves the needs of this feisty little creature. Keoki has grown in size since 1999 and by all examination looks healthy and robust.

We fully expect to see her in 2001. Hawksbill presence at Honokowai is important in our grand scheme of things. The green sea turtles (honu) living at our dive site develop fibropapilloma (FP) tumours, usually within three years of first being sighted. Honokowai is a high prevalence FP site. So it is interesting to observe a hawksbill living in the same water conditions the honu do. Will Keoki ultimately get FP?

We don't think so--which leads to the natural question: why?

In the meantime, while we wait for answers, we delight in her company.

Summer 2001 Update

Well, our prediction from last year ("We fully expect to see her in 2001.") almost didn't come true. In fact, if we had kept the vacation schedule that we've followed in the past (leaving at the end of August) we would not have sighted Keoki this summer.

We did see a hawksbill ('ea) fairly regularly, but it was Kiniana--a young turtle that we sighted only two times last summer. Now it seemed the other way round. Kiniana was the "resident" 'ea and Keoki the rare presence.

We believe that's because her preferred resting area--Hale Manu--has been taken over by Hawaiian green turtles (honu). It was a normal event to see three large honu resting exactly where little Keoki called home the previous two summers.

Perhaps she saw the writing on the wall and found a less traveled "road".

And my but she showed up late. We sighted Keoki just once on a September 4th morning dive. She was swimming through and we got close enough to confirm her profile (and therefore I.D.) but little else.

We do hope we see Keoki again in 2002. She's such a delightful young 'ea and we've come to look fondly on her as being a card-carrying member of the Honokowai honu ohana.

Summer 2001 is memorable in that we documented all three hawksbills as resights from previous years. We certainly hope that Keoki will play a more regular part of Honokowai underwater life next summer.

Summer 2002 Update

We didn't see Keoki in 2002. This wasn't really a surprise. Hawksbills seem to have a much larger range than the honu and don't seem to rest in the daytime the way honu do, both factors that reduce the odds of seeing her. Also, we didn't dive as frequently as we have in previous years. We think there's an excellent chance we'll meet up with our 'ea friend in 2003.

Summer 2003 Update

We did not see Keoki in 2003, but we know where she is. In July, we received a picture from Bill Stohler showing that Keoki is alive and well and hanging out at Old Airport Beach, which is not too far south of us.

Summer 2004 Update

We did not see Keoki in 2004.

Howzit [1992 Turtle 3]
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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Last modified 06/08/05
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