\ Honokowai Sea Turtles--Summer of 2001--Week 8

Weekly Summary--Week 8 (01/08/25)

Daniel returns (again)

Daniel is back. This week he completed his first dive of the summer with his dad right at our dive site. Daniel and Steve are getting used to diving again and once Dad thinks Son is ready, we'll take Daniel to visit the honu again.

We offer here a video freeze-frame of the pair returning to the beach. We marveled at Daniel's ability to maneuver the seawall during this week's north swell. In fact we think his strategy was brilliant.

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We marveled at Daniel's ability to maneuver the seawall during this week's north swell.


Daniel flipped on his back la-dee-da-style, waved to us--and got Dad to tow him!

As we said, BRILLIANT!

George Balazs visits (again)

George Balazs is Leader of Marine Turtle Research for NOAA/NMFS in Honolulu. In short, he's Mr. Honu. We look forward to George's visits because we enjoy diving with him and love to introduce him to the honu here. Put simply, we delight in his company.

Mr. Honu

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His visits tire us out--we're forced to admit that. He's definitely hi-octane and we're more pea soup. Imagine a well-tuned 12-cylinder Lamborghini hanging out with two 1969 Volkswagen Beetles and you'll have some idea of how George affects us.

He's like a Force of Nature--something that builds, washes over you and makes you wonder, "Whoa! What was that?!"

Yet we learn so much...

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Yet we learn so much...


George checks out the nest (again)

As usual, George's visit was another busy Turtle Day. His first task was to check on the turtle nest that is presently busy brewing some baby turtles. He conducted a thorough inspection of the area and we got to watch.

Satisfied that nature is unfolding as it should, George removed a special card from his pocket. He smiled and showed it to us. We immediately recognized the photo as Kauila! Years ago, George told us her inspiring and gentle story.

Hawaiian legend says that Kauila was a turtle with special power. She could turn herself into a young girl. The people of Ka'u loved Kauila because during the day, Kauila took human form and watched over their children as they played along the shoreline of the bay.

Kauila kept the children safe.

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Kauila kept the children safe.


After this photo was taken, George buried his Kauila card near the nest because (he said) perhaps Kauila's spirit might settle in and around this tiny strip of sand and keep these honu "children" safe.

George dives with the honu (again)

Time for only one dive but what a dive it was. George had only one goal--we'll report on the success of this project later in the year. For the experiment to work he needed cooperative, "docile" turtles. He got what he needed in the gentle, calm honu Uwapo.

Grateful for Uwapo's cooperation and patience, George thanks the friendly laid-back honu by stroking her shell.

George thanks the friendly laid-back honu by stroking her shell.

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Later in the dive we saw two honu ummmmm... two honu being particularly friendly. We recognized the two immediately and of course were surprised.

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Two honu being particularly friendly.


George quickly swam over, leaned closer to determine whether the two turtles were actually mating. He signalled no--but we knew that because we knew these turtles were both males.

A few moments later, after a good look at two tails, George held up two fingers and signalled "Two males!"

Yep. We knew that. Our dive site holds plenty of surprises.

The last surprise came towards the end of the dive. Making our way back, Ursula saw Amuala swim towards her. George stopped to admire the honu's graceful glide.

Then, when the turtle was just a few feet from "Mr. Honu", Amuala released three firm green fecal pellets!

George quickly caught them in mid-descent--one after the other--and then held the "prizes" until Ursula could pull out a plastic bag for their safe-keeping.

George quickly caught them in mid-descent.

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George now has bragging rights for the number of pellets caught at once (three) here at Honokowai. Ursula can claim distance pellet traveled before caught, however: 30 feet straight down. Like all fecal pellets collected here, these will be sent away for analysis.

Bottom line, George was delighted with his successful day. Lots of cooperative friendly honu (in the case of two males, too friendly) and he returned to Honolulu with a fecal pellet from Amuala, a turtle we've known since 1995.

He's promised to return for another visit this coming week. We know why. George says these honu here are splendid.

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George says these honu here are splendid.


We knew that.

Turtle fecal pellets (again)

Yes, there will be more crappy updates...

The fecal pellet that we collected on July 27th has been analyzed by Dr. Dennis Russell and the results are in. It contained 85% Cladophora, which is the first confirmation we have that the turtles here eat this green slime more than just incidentally.

The fecal pellet that we collected on July 27th has been analyzed.

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The Honokowai Story

The Honokowai Story is fascinating and with each passing summer we add a new chapter to the "book." Of course it's the honu who tell the story and we, as observers, scribe--fascinated.

There are times when things so delightful happen we just bust out and laugh underwater. Or the honu are all in good moods and we find ourselves enjoying our time underwater so thoroughly we're loathe for the dive to end. We are at our happiest underwater.

Always, however, when we find ourselves having too good a time, smiling too much or laughing too long, something inside us kicks in and we remember the Misery here.

We do an internal roll call in our heads and call up the names of the honu we've lost to fibropapilloma disease--and then we get back to Job One.

End of one

Since 1988 we've seen some tragic cases of fibropapilloma disease. Tumors grown so big they obliterate a turtle's face. Tumors grown so big a turtle can barely breathe. Tumors grown so big swimming is slow and belaboured.

We've also seen turtles in various states of emaciation and we saw another wretched case this week. The turtle was wafer-thin. A skeleton and a shell.

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A skeleton and a shell.


Her plastron was completely caved in. We suspect she has internal tumours--something that would cause her to starve to death. We cancelled the main goal of our dive to stay with this poor turtle.

Her plastron was completely caved in.

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After a few minutes she surfaced for air. We watched from a respectful distance.

She descended. Weakly she settled in front of a sprig of Halimeda covered with Cladophora. The honu nibbled at the algae but ate very little, as if even feeding demanded too much energy.

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The honu nibbled at the algae but ate very little, as if even feeding demanding too much energy.


We felt such pity--and very helpless indeed. We took one last long look, then left her resting in the sand, surrounded by seaweeds and algae.

...left her starving away amid such Plenty!

Week 9 Summary
Summer of '01 at Honokowai
Turtle Happenings
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
Table of Contents
Last modified 01/09/01
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