We've already told you about our first very special visitor of Summer 2000, an odd-looking turtle we been sighting.
Our first very special visitor of Summer 2000
Right after we saw her, we sent email to George Balazs and forwarded him some photos. George confirmed what we'd already suspected. She certainly wasn't a Hawaiian green turtle (honu) and must be either a black or a black/honu mix.
He said that black turtle presence in Hawaii was uncommon, even rare, but it wasn't unheard of.
We named the turtle Ho'omalu (Hawaiian "to keep safe, to protect") because that's what we wished for her--but was it even appropriate to give her a Hawaiian name? Perhaps it should have been Spanish... and above all, what is she? George said Ho'omalu was a splendid turtle, and figured her to be a black/honu mix.
Black? Or black/honu mix?
Black? Or black/honu mix?
Whatever Ho'omalu is, she captivated us.
This week George came diving with us. He needed to see this turtle for himself. Good timing, since we'd gotten Ho'omalu to a point where we could get close enough to touch her, although we would never consider such a thing.
Last Sunday afternoon, George met Ho'omalu and relieved her of some skin barnacles for DNA work that might help determine her origin and status. Here's how it happened.
We got lucky. The turtle was resting sweet and true just where she'd been the day before.
The turtle was resting sweet and true just where she'd been the day before
Peter videotaped, and Ho'omalu was content simply watching Peter keep a respectful distance. George crept towards the animal until he was right behind her. He took off his gloves, reached out, and plucked a barnacle from her rear flipper.
He took off his gloves, reached out, and plucked a barnacle from her rear flipper
She remained calm. She had let George touch her! He placed the barnacle in a bag. George approached Ho'omalu again (the more barnacles the better) and successfully removed three more.
At last Ho'omalu lifted, swam right over Peter, and went for air.
At last Ho'omalu lifted, swam right over Peter, and went for air
As Ho'omalu swam away, we recalled July 11th when we first sighted her off in the distance. She saw us, went "Whoa!", then fled. Now, a month later, the same animal had let a human "groom" her.
George swam over and handed both barnacle bags over to Ursula for safe keeping.
George swam over and handed both barnacle bags over to Ursula for safe keeping
(The pressure was on. Only people with kids have more responsibility than she had that dive!)
Back on the beach, George was delighted--delighted to meet Ho'omalu, and also that yes, she was beautiful, special. Unique.
University of Florida researcher Yvette Anderson, with her mother assisting, visited our dive site this week to collect seaweed samples. They will be used in a study of the number and types of dinoflagellates living on certain types of turtle forage. Yvette is sampling many sites in the Hawaiian Islands, ranging from non-fibropapilloma sites like Kiholo Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii to, well, our dive site where the disease is running rampant.
While Yvette and her mother gathered samples by snorkeling, we were directed to try and gather the same types of seaweeds at the same locations that we sampled in 1997.
We were directed to try and gather the same types of seaweeds at the same locations that we sampled in 1997
One difference between 1997 and this summer is that no matter what we gathered this year, it had Cladophora tufts growing from it. The bloom's still blooming!
Daniel is eleven years old, He and his family have spent vacations at Honokowai every summer since he was a wee lad. This week, he finally got his SCUBA certification. We say "finally" because Daniel's been waiting to SCUBA dive since he was four years old! He and his father Steve have just successfully completed a course with Pacific Dive. Daniel got his junior diver certification.
After Dad made a test run with us to see the turtles, Daniel was given the "clearance" to make the trip to Reef 2, where so many of the honu hang out. Here, Daniel poses beside Ho'oulu--an "oceanliner" as his dad Steve calls her.
Daniel poses beside Ho'oulu
The only disappointment for the day was that Daniel did not get to meet Zeus. As it turned out, Zeus was hanging around North House yesterday. We know. We saw him there on our second dive!
As it turned out, Zeus was hanging around North House
We have known Raphael since 1992, when she was a lot smaller than she is now. At that time she was a friendly outgoing turtle. Raphael had the early signs of fibropapilloma (FP) that year and the disease got worse until 1996, when her condition improved.
We have Raphael listed as an FP regression case.
Well, this week we got a really close look at her left eye, and we're not sure what we see there. She's got a lump where she never had one before. Her eye just doesn't look right, especially when we compare it to the last time we saw her.
Her eye just doesn't look right, especially when we compare it to the last time we saw her (inset)
We don't like to think it's the return of FP, but we're not sure--and because we're not sure, we're now fretting.
Ever since we recorded our first regression case (Tutu in 1992) we've worried whether a turtle can get the disease again.
The disease is evil, evil, evil
Week 8 Summary
Summer of '00 at Honokowai
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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