Saturday, June 29, we arrived on Maui only to be greeted by a heavy rain that once again sent torrents of muddy red water down the flood control channels. The good news was that there was no water draining into the ocean to the north of our dive site, thus avoiding the kind of nutrient sandwich in which we were forced to dive in '93.
Even so, our first dive was in extremely poor visibility, the kind of unnerving murkiness that makes you wonder what things might be sneaking up on you. In fact, the visibility was so bad we could not make out our usual landmarks and actually had to navigate instead of just show up. Of course, the turtles have to live in this stuff!
The first turtle we sighted was Hilu, 1993 Turtle 27. We were happy that the first face we met was a familiar one. The water was too murky to determine the exact status of Hilu's tumors, but they certainly weren't any worse than last summer.
As Hilu got up to leave, we got a major surprise. Our most beautiful and sweetest tempered turtle sported the long tail of a male! In our commentary on the vulnerability of females, we stated how our experience has been that emerging males telegraph their status through a pronounced shift in behaviour. Hilu has been a regular visitor to the Turtle House since 1993, but so far this summer we have only seen him once and that was resting by himself at another reef system--typical male behaviour.
Another good friend changed sex on us, but this was as predicted. On our fifth dive, Goofyfoot drifted in. Typically, he hovered long enough to annoy a smaller turtle, then swam off into deeper water to rest by himself.
Before this summer began, our greatest worry was Aikane. In February, a turtle expert whom we respect a great deal warned us that Aikane's right eye was showing the earliest signs of problems. For several months, we had prepared ourselves for the sight of our most special and most loved turtle with an eye tumor.
When we first saw Aikane, we were amazed at her size and girth. We were relieved to discover that her right eye did not appear to have changed at all over the winter. We took special care to do a macro photo of her eye to compare with last summer's photo. That was the good news.
The bad news is that Aikane has a white clump on her shoulder that looks similar to the one Howzit had in 1994. A year later, this white area developed into a full blown tumor.
One more thing: Aikane's tail has gotten, well, kind of long for a female. It is reminiscent of Nui's tail back in 1992, before "she" became a he. If Aikane also changes sex, our population will certainly have its fair share of males! In addition, monitoring these turtles in the future will become more difficult simply because males typically are less social and rest off by themselves away from the ladies.
Overall, the news is promising. With only one exception, most of our turtles show improvement in their tumors. Perhaps wishing and hoping for recovery really does work! Even the few animals whose tumors have worsened (the youngsters) haven't experienced the alarming mushrooming that we have seen in previous years. Of course, we are very happy about this and feel an uneasy optimism. Still, this degree of improvement is also baffling, and we must wonder if their good fortune will continue.
Speaking of good fortune, our page on tumor regression suggests that Goofyfoot is showing excellent improvement and his tumors are disappearing. We hesitated to include him as a complete recovery because last year he developed two or three white spots on his head. We have no doubt now that Goofyfoot has completely recovered from his visible tumors. The white spots are just that: white spots. We can now add Goofyfoot to our list of animals that appear to have recovered spontaneously from this disease.
There is more good news. Raphael has also shown improvement. There have been no new tumors and she has clearly prospered. We were amazed at how much she has grown in the last 10 months! Her mouth tumor is gone and her eye tumors have virtually disappeared. The tumor at the top of her head and the ones on her right shoulder clearly have shrunken. We wish her a full recovery.
On the dark side, the youngster Hoahele whom we first met last year has come down with tumors. She spends each day resting in Howzit's favourite place.
Our afternoon dive of 96/07/04 was gloomy and murky. It had been raining, the sky was overcast and a reversed current sent the silt from Kaanapali drifting up from the south. There were few turtles, and the ones that were there weren't doing much of anything. Hoahele was in Howzit's favourite place. She lay quietly as Howzit had done last year, when we could lie beside him, knowing that we probably wouldn't see him again. The whole scenario just brings back sad memories.
We haven't seen Howzit yet and we don't expect to. While we wish for Howzit to show up as improved as Goofyfoot, flying in and hovering with a full complement of cleaners on his shell, we know that won't happen. While there has been much good news so far, there will be no happy ending for Howzit.
Week 2 (July 13, 1996)
Summer of '96 at Honokowai
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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