Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Ambon Toby in Kailua Kona

     Yesterday was a fine day for snorkeling in Kailua Kona.  On the north shore of Oahu, on the other hand,  the surf was so high that the Eddie Aikua, an international surfing competition, was taking place.  It is a peculiarity of these Very Sandwich Islands, that the people who report the weather also report the surf conditions.  Two days ago the weather people were in seventh heaven and the weather report leaned heavily towards shots of 30 foot waves. 

Finescale Triggerfish, Kailua Pier January 2023
    The island of Hawaii, being south of the other islands, is spared some of that energy that comes from the northerly swell and the lava reef that guards Kailua Bay does the rest.  The water on the Ironman side of the pier was cool, but delightfully clear, with little current or wave action.  

   Early in my swim I saw a pair of Finescale Triggerfish.  This species does not number among the usual suspects.  However, it is more common in this location than one might expect.  I followed one around for a few minutes.  Like a few triggerfish around the world, the fine scale likes to stand on his head near the sandy bottom and expel a stream that clears a bit of sand.  With luck, he will be rewarded with a tasty morsel.  

Milkfish,  Kailua Pier,  January 2023
   Regrettably, of the six pictures that I took, the one in the best focus is also one where the fish is right on the edge of the frame.  In fact, the dorsal fin does not quite make it in its entirety.  Can you forgive me?

    Out by the last swim buoy, also over the sand, I had the pleasure of encountering our school of milkfish.  These are big fish with large forked tails; an occasional l novice will remark that he saw a school of sharks.  The milkfish is named for his milky flesh and is a common fish raised in Hawaiian fishponds to this day.  

    As the water was clear I attempted a few pictures.  Being opalescent, the milkfish appear almost the same color as the sand.  Even with yur eyes it is a challenge to see them against the sandy bottom. I dove within six feet of the milkfish.  With some contrast added to the photos, the milkfish become more obvious.  Its hard to believe that this may be one of my best picture of a milkfish.

Ambon Toby, January 2023 
    Aside from a trio of rambunctious blue goatfish, I saw nothing special until I was almost at the pier.  There, in the clear, sunlit water, I saw an Ambon Toby.  Make no mistake, this modestly sized puffer is a common fish.  It is usually sufficiently shy, however, to make photography a bit of a challenge.  And what is the point of showing a picture of an Ambon Toby unless you can make those electric blue markings sing? 

    Well, this fish was agreeable and I was able to get close, use a little bit of flash and capture the pictures you see here.  Enjoy.


Ambon Toby, Kailua Pier, 2023

Friday, December 30, 2022

Cooperative Hunting at the Kailua Kona Pier or A Mighty Fortress is Our Dog

Yesterday dawned clear and bright with fluffy clouds in a blue sky.  It was also one of high surf, which caused a bit of hesitation, but, in the event, we did the right thing and  made it down to the pier before 9AM. It was high tide, with water swirling against the seawall.   In spite of this,there was a battalion of recreational swimmers around the cubbies and standing waist deep in the surging water on the Ironman side of the pier.

The first Christmas Wrasse in the Inner Harbour.

  But no worries...I had decided to go to the Paul Allen side, which of late has been more productive. 

     I dropped my belongings beneath the palm by the Kona Boys shack, and stepped onto the sand.  This was a serious high tide and water lapped around my feet as I changed.  A chubby young lady in a colorful suit came with her bearded young consort to pick up their stuff from the same ledge.   "Another day in paradise!" my standard greeting, to which she replied, "I'll say!  Its super clear out there!"

      The best news a snorkeler can hear!

The third Christmas Wrasse led us to the hunt.
    As I stumbled my way into the cold water of the Inner Harbour, I had to agree; at least in the sandy shallows the water was surprisingly clear.  It wasn't long until I was swimming beside the king's heiau and encountered a Christmas Wrasse.  This fish was a little bigger than the juvenile we saw on Christmas Eve, and dressed in the bright checkered colors of the adult.  Happily, I followed him for a photo and found that he was hunting with a female Ember Parrotfish.  This may be Sandra's favorite association, although it is better with an adult male parrot, a giant blue and green submarine of a fish, and a larger Christmas Wrasse.

   Photos taken, I made my way through the surging water, which was becoming progressively warmer.  Out by the jetty and large protective rip rap,  I encountered a second Christmas Wrasse.  This one was bigger and almost as plump as the colorfully suited maiden by Kona Boys.  And he was fast, gone before I could get off a shot.  But never mind.  Two Christmas Wrasses was a great omen for the day.  

The brilliant Ulua is the Master of the Hunt.
    And this was a day in need of omens;  in seven hours our beloved Huskies would square off against the Longhorns hard by the Alamo.   A bowl game more like a home game for the Texans.  We needed all the Christmas Wrasses we could get!

    Out in the bay, the water was definitely warmer ...Tides 4 Fishing called it a balmy 78 degrees.   Swimming across the bay to Paul Allen's lagoon, I hitched on to  third Christmas Wrasse, this one bigger yet.  I followed him for a short distance and suddenly I found myself in the middle of the action.  There were large Blue Goatfish and a respectable ulua hunting together.  I counted three goatfish.  Three is the number that we invariably observe hunting with an ulau.  One might wonder if the three goatfish are related.  Is it a pride like three hunting lionesses?  The trio was swimming rapidly and with purpose, their bright golden saddles brilliant in the sunlight.   The trevally, which is the maser of the hunt, was right with them.  As he circled his electric blue stripes and spots shimmered.

A Blue Goatfish with the Whitemouth Moray

    As I watched, the hunt was joined by an I'iwi, the male Bird Wrasse.  The I'iwi  was followed by a Rockmover.  And then a large Whitemouth Moray Eel joined in the hunt, racing like a Chinese Dragon over the reef, keeping pace with the carousing goatfish.  Eels can be good swimmers, something that one needs to keep in mind,.  Nevertheless, it is remarkable when you see them put on the speed to keep up with hunting goatfish. What a sight!

    I watched this circus for at least five minutes.  Strange to think that all of these different fish had a role in the hunt, but we have seen it before and it must be so. 

    After a bit, the hunt moved away.   As I completed my swim I had some time for contemplation. Indeed, when you are out swimming by yourself you are at one with the ocean and your mind.  Come Kanaloa, be with the Huskies.

     In the event, amid great feats of teamwork, the Huskies overcame the spread, emerging victorious.   And, as they say at the Dyslexic Lutheran Church of Tacoma, Washington, "A mighty fortress is our Dog."


Rockmover, Paul Allen's Reef, December 2022

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Christmas Wrasse 2022 and other holiday delights

Happy Hanukkah to Rabbi Hillis
     As Christmas Day approached, Sandra and I began anticipating our annual Yuletide  search for the Christmas Wrasse.  At about the same time, I received a playful text from Bob Hillis suggesting that we include a quest for the Hebrew cone to coincide with Hanukkah and one for the Boxfish on Boxing Day.  

    In the event, the beginning of Hanukkah saw the jet stream dipping perilously close to the Sandwich Islands, precipitating a 24 hour period of high winds, torrential rain, thunder and lightening.  Or as Saint Nick might say, "Donner and Blitzen!" On the third day of Hannukah I repaired the damage to the yard, removing two fallen banana trees, and a corn palm that had fallen on our blooming orchid.  Mercifully I was able to peel the corn palm off and save the lovely flowers.

   All of this yard debris required a trip to the Waikoloa Transfer Station.  Sandra loves goats and in the past we have seen some large Billies and Nannies here where we throw our green waste into a pile.  Sadly, the goats were taking the day off. 

La Tormenta did not crush the Casa Ono Orchids
   From the Waikoloa Transfer Station it was only an additional ten miles north to Kawaihae Harbor, where I hoped for a dip behind the long protective jetty.  I was already counting my nudibranchs as we secured a parking place in the shade and looked out into the ocean where the few surfers were enjoying the big waves.  As I finished arranging my outfit for a swim, who should drive up but our long lost friends, Hai and Lottie.  From his open window Hai called out, "Jeff, you can't go swimming. Its full of mud!"  

   We were all dressed up, wet suits and all, so, carrying our masks and fins, we walked across the parking area to the LST ramp.  From there we could better appreciate the brown cast to the water in the harbor.  Looking over the edge of the ramp, we verified that the visibility was about six inches.  Abandoning the swim, we had a nice little visit with Hai and Lottie and admired Nai'a, who is now almost three and heartbeakingly cute.  Our friends have moved past Honoka'a to a village uphill on the Hamakua Coast.  On the third day of Hanukkah, they were living through a third day of no electricity.  Might as well be at the beach.

A Juvenile Christmas Wrasse on Christmas Eve, 2022
    But when, you ask, is he going to talk about the fish?

    Our wave predictor suggested that the surf would be up on Christmas Day.  With that in mind, bright and early on Christmas Eve,  Sandra and I took another load of yard debris to our local transfer station and then backtracked to the pier.  The sky was blue and the water cold as we entered on the sandy beach in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel.

  Just past the king's heiau, Sandra stopped and called me back.  She had spotted a likely culprit among the rocks.  It took less than a minute for me to get a look at a juvenile Christmas Wrasse.  The water here was clear enough for me to get a picture.  As you can see, this young trout was eight or nine inches in length and dressed in the garb traditional for his stage of development.  No strong markings on the nose, so he was definitely a Christmas, as opposed to a juvenile Surge wrasse.   

O Little Star of Linckia, How wave swept do you shine.

    This was early in the swim, so even though we had achieved the stated objectivity, schmoopie and I headed seaward.  We looked inside the small pier for a larger, adult Christmas Wrasse, but came up with a lump of coal.  Then on one of the larger chunks of rip rap I spied a handsome Linckia Starfish.  I still say that starfish are rare in Kona, but this was our second in so many weeks.  And here he is for your yuletide viewing pleasure.  One has to  assume that in lieu of a Christmas goose or a plum pudding, he is happily dining on the algae encrusted rock.  A Hard Rock Candy Christmas, indeed!

    Out in the bay, where the water was five balmy degrees warmer, we saw little to excite us.  A large Stripebelly Puffer was patrolling the entrance to Paul's lagoon.  And the Pinktail Triggerfish juvenile (which has an orange tail) was still present on the outer reef. 

   As predicted, Christmas Day here was one of high surf and no snorkeling, which brings us to today...Boxing Day.  Sandra dropped me off at the pier and headed out for shopping.  I worked my way through a myriad of recreational swimmers to the water.  It was not especially cold, but commensurate with the high surf the day before, it was cloudy.  Still, I made it out a hundred yards and eventually saw a fine male boxfish.  I spent a couple minutes securing a photo and headed on in.  There were a few fish, but not as many as one might hope for, and this was the only boxfish that I saw.

A Boxfish on Boxing Day!  But Macy's would not take him a a return.

   On the way in I spotted a small, dark eel.  Diving down, I identified it as an Undulated Moray eel.  He had a sharp face, very dark brown, maybe a cast of purple, with the classic white stripes.  We saw a large whitemouth on Christmas Eve, but this small fellow garnered more respect.  Undulated moray eels are the ones that bite!  And I hope to retire, eventually, from snorkeling with my record intact...  Never bitten by an eel.

   On the beach I was hailed by a family of three Indians, who were wondering about the swimming conditions on the Ironman side. Originally from Boston, they now live in the Bay Area. We reminisced about the Hub and the dad noted that it is too cold to swim around San Francisco, but not so around Boston.  I used to swim at Gloucester, on the north shore, Singing Beach.  I remembered it as a fine place for a dip, but maybe not on Boxing Day!


Friday, December 16, 2022

A Rocky Outing at Kahalu'u

   Yesterday was supposed to be a wonderful day.  We had lunch with Peter and Marla the day before; perhaps as a consequence Sandra was excited to take her first snorkel since returning to Hawaii a month ago.  We got to the bay just at high tide.  It was a 1.8 at 8:45 and we were there just before 9.  It was a bright blue day and we were down to the water ready to go in a few minutes. 

Strawberry Drupe encrusted with red coralline algae.
    As the tide was high, many of the rocks we needed to step on to get in the water were submerged.  Sandra held my hand as I stepped on one wet rock and then I decided to avoid another wet rock and take a giant step out onto the sand.  I'm still recovering from back and knee problems, not entirely strong and flexible, and this step was a bit too far. I tottered and then fell down.  It was a slow motion fall, but my coccyx landed hard on an irregular chunk of immovable lava rock.  Meanwhile, Sandra had been surprised by the sudden release of my hand and she fell onto her left side.  

   Miraculously, neither one of us was significantly injured.  so instead of riding in an ambulance up to the hospital in Kealakekua, we dusted ourselves off and swam out into the bay.  The water was cool and clear.  As we met out by the reef teacher's buoy, Sandra spotted a small porcupinefish.  This is an unusual fish for Kahalu'u and I would have loved to see it, but by the time she got my attention, he had disappeared, probably inside a coral.

Spotted Linckia Starfish,  Kahalu'u,  Dec. 2022
    We swam out to the middle, seeing a nice variety of fish.  Attached to one of the corals I found a fine Strawberry Drupe.  Now that we are aware of them, we see this larger snail shell every now and then,  It is about as big as a self respecting lilikoi, which means that this one was about the size of the nasty hematoma that I would develop over the next couple of hours.  Sometimes the shell is covered with fouling organisms and blends in with the dead coral.  In this instance, he was covered with rosy red coralline algae.  Quite strawberry like, indeed.  Most often these shells are home to the eponymous snail, but sometimes they house a larger hermit crab.   To no avail, I gave this one a good tug and verified that it was the snail, not a hermit.

    We were still feeling good so we headed further out.  Way out there, in a coral fenestration, I spotted a smaller Spotted Linckia Starfish.  These guys can be tricky.  They can lose most of their arms and resemble something quite different, like a nudibranch, albeit one without gills..  As you can see, this one was a straight forward five pointed star.  You could have plucked him off the rock, pinned him to your chest and gone out to shoot bad guys at the OK Corral. 

     When I think of starfish, I picture of muscular arms prying open an oyster shell and eating the soft mollusc inside.  This linckia, we are told by John Hoover, lives on hard substrate and may get by eating coralline algae.  Like Lewis Carroll's Walrus, I think I'd rather eat oysters.  And as my dear brother will tell you,  nothing goes better with an oyster than a glass of Pinot Grigio.  

 Come walk with us, dear oysters,for the day is Clear and Bright. / And if we get hungry on the way, we'll stop and have a bite!

Well, we didn't eat any oysters.  and we certainly didn't eat any coralline algae.  But on the way in, we followed a pair of Saddleback Butterflyfish.  This is one of our reef's most handsome fish, frequently seen in pairs and not unusual at Kahalu'u.  These dapper devils, like many butterflyfish, subsist on coral polyps.  One might assume that their continued presence in our bay indicates that there is an ample supply of live coral polyps upon which a butterflyfish might satisfy his appetite.

Saddleback Butterflyfish Pair, Kahalu'u Dec. 2022

    Me and my appetite, on the other hand, are holding out for oysters.


Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Octopus Lovers of Paul Allen's Reef

     We have had some good surfing conditions this week, but today the ocean calmed down.  Snorkeling would have to wait, though, as the day up here at Casa Ono began at 5AM with soccer.

Viva la France.  Look for Mbappe to stick it to England.

   The fish were still asleep, but the soccer players of Brasil and Croatia were facing off half a world away in the desert emirate of Qatar.  Croatia won   Croatia is a hard working and talented team and I'm determined to get a red checked tablecloth in which to drape myself before they face off with Argentina.   The boys from Zagreb have garnered a portion of my support, along with France, which boasts the 21 year old phenom Kylian Mbappe. Looking like a young Tracy Jordan, Mbappe has scored more world cup goals than the legendary Pele at the same age. I'm betting on Kylian and his mates to send England home tomorrow morning.  I might need to break out my beret for that one. 

    Argentina beat the Netherlands in an uninspiring contest and then it was time to hit the beach.  Sandra dropped me off at the pier a bit before noon and I was soon entering the chilly waters of the Inner Harbour Although it is right in front of the King Kamehameha / Marriott Hotel, this is a very public beach and as I adjusted to the cold water a Polynesian lady was coaxing her three year old daughter to put her face in the water. 

Best Cephalopod ever,  Club Squid, Amed, Bali 1998
    Soon enough, my face was in the water and I was heading out over the rocks by the great king's heiau.  The water was fairly clear and there was a fine variety of fish. 

    The mission of this swim was to find a Christmas Wrasse in anticipation of the upcoming holiday.  This area among the big rip rap, with the ocean surging in and out, is a great place to find the Christmas and Surge Wrasses.  At that moment they were not in attendance.

     Out in the ocean it wasn't long before I spotted an octopus.  And a quick instant later I realized there were a pair of octopi. While this may not seem all that remarkable, this was my first pair of octopi.  As a pair they were magnificent.  The smaller was on top of the coral head.  He stood up straight and looked me over.  The larger was hiding under the lip of the coral.  She was very light and big.  Possibly the biggest octopus I've seen in Hawaii.  

     This was not the first pair of cephalopods I've seen.  The first was in Bali, and not in a special place, right off shore at the resort we were staying.   No bay, just a few ways for fishing boats separated by large rocks. Just look at the bio luminescence this pair threw up.  Utterly amazing. 

   I  backed off to get a better angle for photography.  When I turned back, I was unable to find the octopus. After a few minutes of searching I headed out to the reef.  

The delightful endemic, Whitley's Trunkfish  12/22
   Out past Paul Allen's lagoon I swam through the lava shallows, hoping for Christmas  Wrasse,a Five Stripe or some other shallow surging water fish.  the conditions were sufficiently mild that even in my recuperative state I was able to swim over the shallow reef.  Twenty years ago I would have been swimming over a forest of cauliflower coral.  Now the coral has died and disappeared;  the swim over bare lava rock is much less perilous to the old epidermis. 

    Anyway, nobody was home so I swam a little further away to the natural trench that Paul's minions once used as their approach to the estate.   In the trench, about ten feet down, I spotted a Whitley's Trunkfish.  This cute little endemic always brings a smile.  Way back in the  day, before computers were invented, before I knew enough to swim on the Paul Allen side, my boys, age five and seven, found Whitley's in the Inner Harbour, putting this fish on their respective life lists before showing it to me.  A fish watchin' daddy's proudest moment.  

Romeo and Juliette as seen from the surface

    I dove down into the trench, garnering the nice photo you see here.  My first real dives on my recuperating knee.

    Exhausting this area, I headed in to make my rendezvous with Sandra.  On the way in I kept an eye out for the molluscan lovers.  I didn't see them, but I did get a quick look at a Christmas Wrasse.  (Mission accomplished.)  As I reached the rip rap, I pulled my watch out of my pocket to discover that I had ten more minutes to swim.  

     "Wait a minute!" you exclaim, "Your watch in your pocket?"   Well here's the deal.  The plastic bands on waterproof watches, when exposed to regular salt water immersion, last less than two years and those bands are almost impossible to replace.  The last one gave up the ghost during the summer and is now in a drawer back in Vancouver.  I've been looking for a replacement with a metal band and as yet have not found something I like.  So I'm using one of the legion of watches that tick away in my top dresser drawer; it resides conveniently in the pocket of my swim suit. This was only the third outing employing the pocket watch technique, but its working so far.

Day Octopus with bridging arms.  Kailua Pier 12/22

    With my ten minutes of injury time, I took another swoop at the octopuses.  I'd been over this area several times and this time I spotted the dead coral and rock where the lovers were last seen hiding.  And there they were, deceptively camouflaged as befits their ilk.  

   I took a few photos from above and then dove down six or seven feet,  holding onto a chunk of dead coral.  I did this a few times capturing the pictures you see here.   The larger of the pair was out in the open, eyes up with a couple legs draped bridge-like over her body,  Three times I was able to hold on about two feet away from the octopus and she held her ground.  To say that this was unusual is an extreme understatement.  Any octopus who doesn't want to end up as dinner knows when to head for cover.  Perhaps she was protecting a brood.  Probably not.  Her partner, who you see behind her, was hunkered down, wearing black with white spots.  He was much more concealed, but he, too, did not swim away.  

Juliette in front, Romeo in black and white, behind.
   On the way in, while swimming through the large rip rap, I got a very close and quick look at a big gorgeous Christmas Wrasse.  

   As I stood in the shallows I found myself next to an Indian couple.  Being a gregarious soul, I asked them where they were from and the lady said,"India!"  I asked where in India and they told me Mumbai. I congratulated them on living in one of the world's great cities and they allowed that Kona was nice too.  The gentleman noted that Kailua is a lot like Goa.  

   I've never been to Mumbai ,never been to Goa.  But I have watched Outsourced, a charming romantic comedy.  The girl in this flick characterizes her liaison with the young Seattle businessman as her "Holiday in Goa."  According to the Urban Dictionary this may be a term actually used by Indian women who are approaching an arranged marriage.  And that's all I know about Goa.

    As I walked ashore I passed a two year old girl in a sun hat.  she looked up at me, I smiled and she smiled back.  It was that kind of day.

   While engaged in my apres-snorkel ablution I ran into three fourths of another Indian family.  In this instance it was a pretty young mother, babe in arms, attempting to brow beat her four year old daughter into the shower.  Kids of every race race and religion hate that shower.  

   On my way to collect my stuff I encountered the whole family.  I asked if they were from India and the husband, who had cleverly avoided the shower situation allowed that they were indeed from India but were now living in Seattle... and that it had been snowing on the way to the airport.  We agreed that in December Kona is better than the Jet City.

   As I rounded up my stuff the first Indian guy was turning in their snorkels at the beach boy shack.  I reminded him to get fins the next day and swim out in the bay.  At that moment I caught a glimpse of his wife on the beach and we exchanged smiles and a wave.  That was my Holiday in Goa for this day.


Go Croatia!



Friday, December 2, 2022

Back in the Water Part Two and an update on Mauna Loa lava viewing.

        This last week has seen some pretty delightful accomplishments.

    As you already know, we made it mauka and saw lava bubbling up from the summit of Mauna Loa and slithering down the north face of the mountain.  Last night on the news they had a geologist dumping some viscous blue liquid down a short ramp while explaining, as it pooled on the table top, that lava doesn't run as fast on a flat surface as it does flowing down the slope.  Oh! Really?  What he was actually trying to explain was why all the high paid, super intelligent geologists thought the lava would over run the highway today when...surprise, will happen in about a week.  Regardless, we got ours.

  And for those of you who are on island or arriving in the next few days, the Department of Transportation is opening up the old Saddle Road in the vicinity of the approaching lava as a viewing area off the main (soon to be engulfed) DKI, which is what they are now calling  modern Inouye Highway. On the accompanying map, you will notice that this old road goes around the south side of the cinder cones mentioned in the previous blog, getting you even closer to the lava. 

   A day later the redoubtable SKG and your humble correspondent replaced a switch...a rheostat switch, no less, that controls the light over our dining table.  We are neither licensed nor bonded and, I am pleased to announce, do not occupy the ward recently vacated by Jay Leno.  Or worse!  To emphasize how things wear out in Hawaii, this is the third switch we have replaced in the nine or ten years we have been at Casa Ono.  And this is not an especially old house. Or to put it another way, this climate is murder on everything and one needs to be a bit handy.  If you don't die in the process, so much the better.

Flat Rock Crab, P. planissimum  thanks to Kwajalein Underwater
   Finally...Yesterday I got the clearance from my supervisor to re-enter the deep blue sea.  There was a hiatus in the winter swell and I took the opportunity to go for a swim at Kahalu'u.  Both Kathleen Clark and my pal Yasuko were there and it was a jolly reunion. 

   Yasuko said, "Genki des ka?"  to which I replied "Genki des." She then proceeded to chatter on in  inscrutable Japanese.

   Kathleen said, "Oh, I was just thinking about you yesterday."  Then the other shoe dropped.  Paul, who I know mostly by reputation, had taken a picture of a "flat crab". She showed me the picture on her phone. Percnon planissimus is a rock crab that lives in crevices, an invertebrate that I may not have seen.  Paul's picture was magnificent.  Yasuko and I agreed that it looked like a tarantula.  I'm showing you a picture from the internet, which isn't nearly as good as Paul's, but you get the idea. 

Hebrew Cone, Kahalu'u December 2020
   It was clear that to regain my place in Kathleen's esteem I better start finding some crabs.

   Social hour completed, Sandra helped me down over the rocks and into the bay.  I'm pleased to tell you that the snorkel repaired gratis by Jeff Jones at Honu Divers worked perfectly. Even better, my left knee did not complain excessively as I toured the bay for 40 minutes. It was just a little choppy with mild current, so this was a good initial test. Out in the bay I saw some usual suspects, the best being a Hebrew cone hunting in the sand out by the Rescue Shelter.  

   I no longer pluck snails from the sand, for fear of ripping off their delicate little heads, so this photo is totally in vivo.  It was only Thursday, but figuring that the snail didn't know the difference, I wished him a Shabbat shalom and went on my way.

   I had arranged with my beloved to meet me at the entrance  and as I returned to the tidepool for that rendezvous I spotted one of my favorite little fish.  As we have discussed previously, the juvenile Raccoon Butterflyfish is distinctive from the adult form.  On this morning I spotted a large juvenile (perhaps three inches LOA)  still wearing the extra spot on is trailing dorsal fin.  Luckily, there was a small adult in the neighborhood and I was able to catch the two of them in a single frame.  

   To which you reply, "What a fascinating and educational display!"   Assuming that you are not already asleep.


   Here is a second photo of just the juvenile which more clearly demonstrates that pattern. The Sargent Major in the background appears to be wondering what all the fuss is about.  Little does he know.

   The previous night, after singing Christmas carols at the Lutheran Church, Sandra and I had a nice conversation with Rebekah, Pastor Brian's lovely young wife.  She recalled talking to us a year ago about our annual yuletide quest for the Christmas Wrasse.  She was not previously aware of this fish and it seemed was rather amused at our yearly tradition.  When I told her about my knee and the wrasses's habit of living in turbulent water requiring a bit of swimming skill on the part of the observer she was concerned.  And so are we.  But it seems like Sandra and I will be able to answer the call. 

     And the rest is up to Poseidon.  Or is it Kanaloa?



Thursday, December 1, 2022

Volcano! A Trip to the Mauna Loa Lava Flow

      Two days ago Sandra and I went to the volcano.  Until this week, that would have meant the long drive south to Na'alehu and a turn east to the Volcanoes National Park.  Kilauea, which erupted so spectacularly a few years ago, eventually devouring a large portion of real estate near Hilo.  Suddenly the volcano is Mauna Loa.  

    That giant hulk of a mountain, so big that it diverts hurricanes, erupted about five days ago, sending poison gas, ash and other volcanic debris into the air.  Within a few hours we had received several inquiries from our friends on the mainland wondering about our safety.  While the short answer is that currently we are quite safe, this may not be a frivolous question.  By that evening we had vog so thick that we could not see the horizon.  People with pulmonary disease were noticing a difference.

   By the next day, the TV people were showing pictures of the eruption and it was clearly time to take a trip.  We packed the car and headed to Mauna Loa.  If I was to step outside our home and point at Mauna Loa, I would point ESE, guessing that the summit was 40 miles or so from the tip of my finger.   For volcano viewing, however, we headed north, up Palani, to the junction of Hwy 200, the modern road that replaced the Saddle Road about 10 years ago.  Although the lava is issuing from a vent virtually on the summit, the lava is flowing down the north flank of Mauna Loa.  Hence, from the valley between the volcanoes you can see the flow.  From Kilauea, you can only see lave bursting from the vent on the summit. 

  When we first started coming to Hawaii, the Saddle Road was deemed so perilous that car rental agencies prohibited its patrons from driving it.  Now the Daniel Inouye Highway cuts the travel time between Kailua Kona and Hilo to less than 2 hours.

Hawai'is Inouye with JFK

   Daniel Inouye was a great American.  Growing up in a Japanese family in Honolulu, he served in an all Japanese regiment in World War II.  He lost an arm fighting in Italy and was awarded the Medal of Honor.  After the war, he went to George Washington Law and returned to Hawaii to rise in the territorial government.  Following statehood, he served in the United States Senate from 1962 until his death in 2010.  When it comes to naming public works and warships, his name is at the top of the list.

     We made the turn from the antiquated Mamalahoa Hwy onto the modern Hwy 200 around 3:30.  It took about twenty minutes to get to the Ka'ohe Wildlife Management Area.  This hunting preserve is a couple miles and a thousand vertical feet back up the old Saddle Road.  We have been there several times in the past  to watch threatened Hawaiian birds, most notably the Palila, the Hawaiian Parrotbill.  The refuge entrance constitutes a spectacular belvedere overlooking the long valley between the two massive volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  The gentleman whom we parked next to sized up as haoles (grossly unfair) and graciously informed us that we needed to drive further east to see the lava. So as he prepared to go out and kill something, we saddled up and headed east on Hwy 200.

    Our next stop was at the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area.  Here we find a modern parking lot and restrooms, an antique visitor center and a few cabins for rent.  We did not see any lava but did encounter a gentleman driving a Hawaiian Electric van.  He said he had just heard that the lava was five miles from the road and that we should continue driving east.

    In a few miles the road wound around a group of spectacular cinder cones and then suddenly there were cars parked on both sides of the road.  The mayor of Hawaii County, Mich Roth, had issued a proclamation the previous day: anyone parked on Hwy 200 for the purpose of lava-watching would be fined $1000.  We joined the legion of scoff laws and peered across the fence which kept sheep from wandering onto the road.  Like everyone else, we looked south towards Mauna Loa.  It took a moment to see a red glow on the side of the mountain.  Binoculars improved our view; we could see the leading edge of the lava and if one looked carefully he could see a web of lava streams leading down from the summit.  On the summit itself, we could see fountains of lava bubbling into the sky.  

Lava descends from the summit towards the Saddle Road.
    Noting that there were even more cars parked further down the road, we drove another half mile.  There in the vicinity of the Pu'u Huluhulu parking area. (one can only envision a Jeopardy! category dealing with six Us.)   Her in the middle of a field of pahoehoe, one was treated to a large gravel shoulder  We positioned the SUV for a quick escape, figuring that if the fuzz showed up, they would surely deal with the miscreants parked on the shoulder first.  From here we had a wonderful, if hazy, view of the lava making its relentless way into the valley.

    We made friends with the ladies parked next to us, shared our binoculars and after about 45 minutes decided to head home.  Lava viewing accomplished. Our cameras were not up to the task of capturing this distant view, and I'm providing you here a picture that shows approximately what we saw. 

   In a day or two the lava is predicted to cross the Inouye Hwy, cutting off an easy commute between Kona and Hilo for the foreseeable future.  The lava is not predicted to make it to Hilo, but I'm sure the geologists will tell us that nothing is certain.  


Addendum.  Having just downloaded the water camera, I found a picture that with some serious manipulation gives you a pretty good idea of what we saw.  As the eruption was evolving, this moment was a once in a lifetime experience. 

Mauna Loa Eruption

Look carefully to see the lava streams coming down the mountain.