Last dive of 2000 (00/09/02)
by Ursula Keuper-Bennett

The Last Dive Day is one of the toughest things we have to do each summer--even tougher than getting into the airplane to "trade" Maui for ten months of Canada. I think this Leaving serves as a hint at what dying is like--at least the kind of dying that stomps down too soon on someone who was still happy to draw breath and counting on a whole lot more.

It's hard to let go of the desire for "more."

Fetches a 52K JPEG
Why it's hard to let go


Used to be we had only one Last Dive. We'd go to the Turtle House and do a swing to Reef 2 present our flowers and say our alohas. Now, with North House, we must make two "Last Dives" in order to bid farewell properly.

We bought mixed bouquets of flowers and three red roses for the honu.

Unidentified flower bearer

Fetches a 43K JPEG

What we wanted most was time with the turtles--the kind of time that allows you to rest alongside them and marvel at how beautiful they are and to save each moment to "disk" to be replayed during the Depths of February.

Things didn't work out like we'd planned, though.

Our timing was bad for Ho'omalu. We'd arrived at Mt. Balazs just as she went up for air. It's difficult to say good-bye to a turtle that isn't there! All we could do was leave a rose by her "parking spot" at Mt. Balazs.

Fetches a 35K JPEG
A rose for Ho'omalu


Then Peter presented a flower to a honu as I taped--only I noticed both of them looking directly above my head. A second later I heard a !CLONK! as plastron struck SCUBA tank. Another honu had landed on me!

Blurred through no fault of the picture taker

Fetches a 38K JPEG

Things weren't going very well...

Then Peter presented a generous bunch of red flowers to another turtle only to have that turtle munch on the flowers!

Fetches a 52K JPEG

Clearly the honu was not impressed by their taste, since she spat out the bits and then swam away.

At least one turtle stayed as Peter presented him with a flower. Success--only the turtle never opened his eyes! (We don't call this honu "Snoozy" for nothing) He slept through all of 1999 too!

How not to impress a honu

Fetches a 65K JPEG

Things went better with the Reef 2 turtles. We left a flower for Ho'oulu, and I got to say special good-byes to Uwapo who's grown into a special favourite. Peter presented Tutu with a red rose, and we both got special satisfaction saying good-bye to Turtle 2000-30.

Fetches a 62K JPEG
Flowers for gentle 2000-30


Turtle 2000-30 has a right hind flipper that looks like it's been cut half clean off with a pair of shears. Shark maybe? A cautious, jumpy turtle in early July, she'd leave as soon as she saw us.

By summer's end, this gentle turtle would honour us by rising to the surface for air and then settling back down even though we were still there. We don't know how or when they conclude we're "safe" but are always grateful this process happens.

In August 1998, we laid down two plaques at Honokowai to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the sea turtle tagging programme at French Frigate Shoals. One plaque honoured a special DC3 that flew weekly runs to Tern Island in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

In 1998, we'd placed the "N36 plaque" at a coral outcropping called East House; however, it soon became obvious that the turtles were pummeling the site into collapse and ruin. We were left with no choice but to move the plaque to its new location at The Battery.

The plaque for N36 now lies at The Battery

Fetches a 64K JPEG

The place is called The Battery for reasons that are obvious. There's a battery there--almost certainly dropped from a boat! The Battery proved to be a perfect location for the plaque, because while no turtles rested around the battery itself, on a good visibility day as many as two dozen turtles can be seen resting along the reef nearby.

I removed a sprig of flowers from my bouquet and placed them underneath the plaque. The plaque itself requests that all humans sharing Honokowai ocean with the Honokowai honu grant these special turtles safe passage.

Fetches a 60K JPEG
A sprig for N36


And that was it. Air was down to 1000 pounds and time to head back to shore. We'd wave good-bye to every honu we saw along the way. I drank in every sight and sound because it would have to do me for ten months.

There was one last flower to present.

Akebono lives in the shallows, so I kept one bright yellow daisy for her. This summer she had moved to a large yellow coral heard in 15 feet of water. On most dives, we saw her there.

Akebono wasn't at her home on our last dive. She may have upped for air before our arrival, or been playing with Makana, or because it was late afternoon, perhaps even foraging. The hole with no turtle looked incomplete even with a sea urchin perched there.

For Akebono's sake

Fetches a 73K JPEG

Last summer by the end of August, we feared both her eyes were showing the warping that we've come to regard as the harbinger of fibropapilloma.

Now, a year later, she's in big trouble.

Like Makana in 2000 and Polzbarney in 1999, this little turtle is sure to break our hearts for 2001. We just keep losing the smallest turtles to fibropapilloma.

And we're resigned to having that as our last memory of Summer 2000.

Summer of '00 at Honokowai

Turtle Happenings

Table of Contents

Last modified 00/12/02
Send comments or corrections to