The day after the Superbowl, while Taylor Swift was (presumably) experiencing the best part of a tight end, the Kona Coast was blessed with a break in the relentless winter swell. Making the most of this opportunity, I had Sandra drop me off at the pier while she went shopping for dungarees. While there were a gazillion people on their collective way out of Lost Wages, the tourists here in the land of swaying coco palms weren't going anywhere, except to the beach, of course.
|Female Pearl Wrasse sans Coral, Kailua Pier, February 2024
In fact, the water wasn't freezing and it was as clear as any I have experienced at the pier this winter. Sadly, this gave me the opportunity to get a really good look at the coral, or the lack there of. The bay was not swarming with fish, but at the second swim buoy I enjoyed a nice female Pearl Wrasse. You see her picture here, swimming in an area that should have been carpeted with coral. Instead we see long dead coral covered with a fine dusting of sand, courtesy of the relentless swell which has lasted almost non-stop for six weeks.
|Red Phorbas Sponge, Kailua Kona, 2024
As I swam out, I saw lots of dead coral and more than a few clumps of red encrusting sponge, probably red phorbas (sponge experts warn us against identifying sponges unless we take them home, denude them with chemicals and examine the skeleton). Regardless, these sponges are apparently not susceptible to the ravages of climate change. In fact, they are thriving in the new conditions.
As I passed the penultimate swim buoy I saw a large undulated moray swim into a clump of Evermann's Coral. I had the camera in hand, but he was too fast for me. I waited for a minute or two, hoping that this fine specimen would emerge and resume hunting, all to no avail. I briefly considered diving down for a closer look but discretion reminded me that of all the eels, this is the one that bites. And so he was left to his own devices.
|Oval Butterfly, Kailua Bay, 2024
On the way in I enjoyed a pair of Oval Butterflyfish. John Hoover tells us that we should find them amid lush coral growth, feeding on polyps of living coral. Sadly, this makes me wonder how much longer we will see this species in Kailua Kona. This pair looked healthy and I watched as one attempted a nibble at a remaining coral.
This is one of the species that has a doppelganger in the Western Pacific. In Bali we see this fish with a remarkable red anal fin, hence it is known as the Redfin Butterfly. I suppose that this species , like its Hawaiian cousin, eats coral polyps and is similarly endangered.
As we approached the pier, I encountered a meleagris Spotted Puffer. He was only a few feet away and finning pleasantly, So I took a little movie for your enjoyment.
I dove under the floating line and examined the reef near the pier, with the Body Glove twenty yards away, apparently preparing for its late morning excursion. As I returned to the swimming area, things took a turn towards the surreal. Right below me was a five dollar bill. I dove down four feet and nabbed it. Interestingly, the US Treasury creates bills that seem to take little harm from immersion in seawater. I had only retrieved one bill before, many years ago near the entrance to Paul Allen's Lagoon, back when Paul was still alive. In those days he made the journey from the Octopus by helicopter, so the money must have come form one of his guests. Perhaps he was preparing to tip the boat handler. Who knows.
|Outrunnng the law with Baby Face Nelson
Anyway, clutching the bill I started heading for shore. And then I saw another. And it was a twenty! As I circled the area, which was only fifteen yards from the sandy entry, I was reminded of Delmar telling Baby Face Nelson that his folding money and come unstowed. Happily, this discovery was repeated a few more times and I stowed the proceeds in my swimsuit pocket, safely secured by the velcro fastener. Heaven only knows, I didn't want to repeat Babyface's mistake.
I may have collected all the folding money when I saw a round shape in a sandy spot next to a rock. Figuring it was a coin, and despite my new wealth I was not going to turn up my nose at legal tender regardless of the vintage. I reached down and grabbed the coin. In that instant, the rock moved, revealing itself to be a Devil Scorpionfish about three inches form my unprotected paw.
|Who knows what you might find in Kailua Bay.
I surfaced and circled, hoping for a shot of the scorpionfish, but he was long gone. Perhaps he thought that in my greed I would nab him and, following the fate of the proverbial jumpbuck, stow him in my tucker bag.
This was the end of the Kailua Bay Caper. Sandra and I are going to follow the lead of Ned Nederlander and use our new found riches to set up a foundation. And then we're going to buy a big shiny car and drive all over Kona, showing Flugelman a thing or two.
In the meantime, you keep smiling and watch out for any unstowed cash.