That was then (inset, 1993) and this is now (1999).
|Quickstats: Seen 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 (61K JPEG), 1997 (80K JPEG), 1998 (60K JPEG), 1999.||Summer updates: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.|
We think we first met this turtle back in 1992 but we simply can't be sure. The first good photograph of her profile was taken in 1993 and at that point we logged her in as 1993 Turtle 4C. Even back then she had fibropapillomas. Small tumors grew in the posterior of both her eyes. She also had salt and pepper on neck and shoulders. By 1994, we began seeing her almost every day at the same place at the Turtle House: at the bottom of the large coral mound, her head tucked inside a ledge there.
This was most unusual in that most days all we saw of Zaphod was her butt! Covering her head and revealing her butt was in direct contrast to what moray eels and humans do. Eels, like most humans and all politicians prefer to cover their butts! So seeing Zaphod each day with her head tucked under a ledge was certainly different.
We named Zaphod after the character in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams. Zaphod, you might recall, wore peril-sensitive sunglasses. The more dangerous the situation the darker the sunglasses got. His theory was that there is less stress because the actual danger is blocked out.
As we've mentioned, Zaphod had tumors when we first met her back in 1992 and in the five seasons we've known her they really haven't gotten any worse. We cannot put her on the list of improving turtles, but in an ocean where most turtles get worse and then die, Zaphod is still one of the lucky ones.
For whatever reason, Zaphod has chosen to spend her days in exactly the same place, her head tucked neatly under a coral ledge. We have speculated about what is so fascinating under there. Certainly there must be plenty of action with all the soldier fish that are Zaphod's constant companions. Sometimes when there is little happening, we rest beside her and just watch. Her world is beautiful and peaceful. Surrounding her are clouds of lemon yellow snappers and red soldierfish. Occasionally a trumpetfish will hover over her shell while golden ring surgeons work her carapace. Anyone caught in morning rush hour traffic and facing a deadline could easily envy her life.
When it is time for air, however, the spell is broken. She turns to look at you and your eyes meet. Her eyes have tumors.
Our good friend Zaphod kept us in considerable suspense this year. While we have seen this turtle regularly each summer since 1993, this time over half our diving was done before she decided to put in her first appearance.
We finally sighted her on our second dive of July 31st. We recognized her immediately, and she swam directly toward us and then passed close by, so it is clear she remembered us also. A graceful steer with her rear flipper brought her to rest in her usual place, by the same coral ledge she’s claimed as hers for three years now.
After her first appearance, the Turtle House seemed more like normal again. Each dive thereafter, Zaphod was sticking her head under the rock ledge while the rest of her body lay exposed for all to see. We know this is how she prefers to spend her days, and we were careful to let her be as we went about our diving activities.
Zaphod has had tumors since we first saw her in 1993. Since that time, they haven't gotten any worse, and some shoulder tumors appear to have shrunk since then. If this trend continues, we will be able to add Zaphod to our slowly growing list of regression cases. As of now, she has not experienced the dramatic improvements of most of the other turtles fortunate enough to have gotten better.
The shrinking of her tumors is very slow but demonstrable. We expect Zaphod to be at Honokowai again next summer. 1998 will likely find her condition improved once again. In an ocean of bad news, even slow improvement is something about which we can rejoice.
For Summer 1998, Zaphod did not make us wait long to resight her. On our very first dive of the summer there she was at her favourite resting spot near the Turtle House. And oh how tame and trusting she has become!
The best news of all is that her tumors continue to regress. The second best news is she continues to grow at an impressive rate--mostly "around" instead of head to tail. When swimming toward us this unforgettable honu looks like a wine keg with flippers going up and down.
Yet she's graceful and when the spirit moves her, she can turn on a dime. For whatever reason, this summer she spent considerable time with Tutu when that honu showed up at the Turtle House.
We believe Zaphod is a female and expect her to make her first reproductive migration soon, perhaps even for the Summer of 1999.
It was the first dive of the summer and there she was again: Old Reliable in an unreliable place! How odd to see Zaphod at Reef 2 instead of the place she'd stayed at for years. In fact, it took only a few more dives to realize that for reasons known only to her, Zaphod had abandoned her "favourite" place for the spread-out lifestyle of Reef 2.
We visited the Turtle House only a few times this summer, preferring the more populated real estate of North House and Reef 2. Zaphod continued to improve. Her eye tumors had shrunken further. Her remaining tumors on both shoulders looked puckered and apologetic--more like brown zits. Unless you knew where to look, they were easy to miss. She is still regressing and we celebrated the improvement in our old friend.
Zaphod is doing well and again we think she might be ready to migrate in the summer of 2000, laying down plenty of eggs at East Island, French Frigate Shoals. Failing that, we expect to see her again at Honokowai.
As we anticipated, Zaphod was not sighted at Honokowai this summer. We hope to see her next summer, and with any luck, we will still be able to read the engraved number on her carapace that will prove that she nested.
We expected Zaphod to show up this summer, possibly with a fading identification etched into her shell. This didn't happen, for reasons we can only guess. Since Zaphod is fully grown (or nearly so) and was in pretty good condition when we saw her last, we think she is still around playing shy, as she always used to.
We did not see Zaphod in 2002.
We did not see Zaphod in 2003.
We did not see Zaphod in 2004.
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