Weekly Summary--Week 5 (97/08/02)

Reef, sweet reef

This has been a wonderful week for us. The diving has been poor. We've been rocked by swells and inconvenienced by the resulting underwater sandstorms, but we sighted three regulars that hadn't shown until now, and for this we are grateful.

The return of Nui

On our July 29th morning dive, we saw a handsome male swim to the Turtle House and immediately assume a "cleaning posture." His left profile was easily recognized, and we knew our friend Nui (whom we have known since 1990) was finally back. We didn't saw Nui at all last year. The last time we saw him was August of 1995, but he clearly remembered us. He ignored our presence and let us get as many photos as we wanted.

Judging from the splendour of his shell (spanking clean and no trace of algae) we speculate he might have just returned from the French Frigate Shoals. There is another hint. Ever since his return, all Nui has done is rest--head down, eyes closed, flippers spread out. When he does condescend to open his eyes, they lift only halfway.

He looks exactly like any of us would after a long exhausting trip on the Red Eye.

The return of Mendelbrot

Mendelbrot is a large female whom we've known since 1993. We didn't see her in 1994, and in 1995 she sported shiny new tags. We've been trying to read those tags ever since. It is difficult enough to secure a decent left profile photograph, let alone get close enough to attempt a tag read.

Mendelbrot is wary, quick to give us the flipper, and appears to hold humans in contempt. On July 27th, however, we got close enough for a positive identification. On August 1st, we managed to read her left front flipper tag.

We'll share the information we receive from the National Marine Fisheries Service as soon as we get it.

The return of Zaphod

Zaphod is special. She spends much of her life resting, her head tucked in a hole, the rest of her sticking out for inspection. This is exactly the opposite of eels, who cover their butts and leave only their heads sticking out cautiously. Nature is rife with contradictions...

On the last day of July, we spotted a turtle resting on the bottom. We didn't know her immediately because we were looking at her from the left (we recognize Zaphod only from her right side markings), but she had that look people give you when you can't remember who they are but they fully expect you to. We swung to photograph her right side and of course then we recognized our old friend.

Once we moved away from her favourite spot, Zaphod swam directly past us, swooped down, and tucked her head under the ledge. She's been there reliably ever since.

Shredder, A 240

In our Week 3 summary, we reported reading the tags of a longtime Honokowai resident named Shredder. We share all tag information with George Balazs of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu. A few days ago, George obligingly sent us email and gave us her French Frigate Shoals data.

About Shredder, tag numbers A 240 and A 241, George wrote:

Originally tagged nesting at East Is., FFS on 5/26/91. Subsequently came ashore seven more times for nesting excursions, the last one being on 8/1/91. CCL 102.5 cm. No tumors noted.

Other records since 1991 may exist, and I will do a search for them later.

It wouldn't surprise us if Shredder hasn't returned to nest since 1991. Most female Hawaiian green sea turtles have 2 or 3 year nesting cycles, but Shredder looks old. Old as air. It just might be that she has no eggs left in her. We'll update you should we get more information on this grand dame.

Roll call

Roll call is taking longer this summer, but the kiddies are definitely coming back. Seeing them again each year is a miracle--all that ocean and they just show up, and even like Nui, after two years have gone by they remember you and carry on as if no time had passed in between.

To date we have documented 61 individual turtles. Our previous record was 47 and that was for an entire summer. 22 of these turtles (36%) are "resights"--that is, animals we have seen previously. We might recognize others when we have the benefit of analyzing the video from previous years.

Video update

Over half our summer is gone and we are still without our video camera. Sony is taking forever to fix it. We've been told we should get the thing back by next week. We've made several phone calls to them and been told so many things, we will just believe it when we see the UPS truck deliver the thing.

We have missed documenting so much vital information it is painful to think about it. Video is like frozen time. We go over the tapes all the way back to 1989, and with each review we learn more and see more. The video is an underwater history of this area and the pages for 1997 remain blank!

Fortunately, we still have the still camera, so we can sign off this week with a picture of some of our friends that hang around The Rock. Aloha!
Some of our friends that hang around The Rock.

1997 Week 6

Summer of '97 at Honokowai

Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai

Turtle Happenings

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