Weekly Summary--Week 1 (02/07/06)

Oh Joy! Oh Gladness! Oh Happy Day!

Man we're so glad we're back! Back in Hawaii. Back on Maui. Especially, back with the turtles! In January, when we spent New Year's Eve in the cardiac unit of our local hospital, we thought out lives would never be the same. Peter was diagnosed with unstable angina--80% blockage of one coronary artery and 90% of another. (See Summer 2002: The Prolog.)

After the fear of death and heart damage were removed (Peter didn't have an actual heart attack) we pondered a much-diminished life revolving around pills, angst, and physical limitations, but Peter's angioplasty proved successful and his cardiologist held out a bead of hope for us.

He said if Peter could pass a stress test in six months, he'd be given the green light to dive. Words fail to describe how grateful we were!

"Pass a stress test in six months".

No sooner did we get home than we shed our old skins and destructive habits. We had one goal: get Peter acing a stress test at the end of May. We cut down on saturated fats and exercised every day but Sunday at the local community center. Peter worked his way up from a walk to a walk on a 15 degree grade to a brisk walk on a 15 degree grade to running on a 15 degree grade.

He would have to make it past Stage 4 on the stress test. We trained so he'd complete Stage 5!

Monday through Friday Peter would exercise for an hour and a half. Saturday mornings, even longer. By March we added a half hour of laps in the community pool. Diving was the Brass Ring and we both grabbed it and held on.

Man, we both worked hard (in addition to exercising with Peter in the afternoons, I spent three hours each morning in the gym). We surprised and delighted ourselves in our own transformation from undisciplined fat-cat couch potatoes and net surfers to the people we are today.

We both exercised to music and one song saw us through any fatigue the cardio machines or the weights could throw our way. It's called Faith of the Heart, the opening song to the new Star Trek series. Especially inspiring was this part:

It's been a long night,
Trying to find my way.
Been through the darkness,
Now I'll finally have my day.
And I will see my dream come alive at last,
I will touch the sky...

It sure was a long night alright. It was even scarier than it was long... but we're fine.

Unstable angina is not the End of the World for divers as we first feared; however, a lifestyle of saturated fats, saturated fats, more saturated fats and sitting on our butts is! It took an almost-heart attack to bring that message home. We're truly grateful for where we are now and the condition our early 50's bodies are in.

I haven't run since I was in my late teens. It's wonderful to run! It's even better to see my husband, dive buddy and soul-mate run when just six months before I'd been forced to contemplate a life without him.

Oh, we would have exercised regardless, but the Holy Grail was diving. For that, the doctor set a physical standard we would not have met on our own save for the turtles. We needed to see the turtles again. We want to dive with them another decade. Before, in our fat-cat stage we weren't even sure we could make it from one summer to the next!

Now, we got long-range plans to dive with them--maybe even forever!

There's no doubt in our minds that the honu helped us get here. It was the honu who made us sweat and run and set our goals. We knew even if Peter were ok physically but not ok to dive that he wouldn't be happy.

Happiness is being underwater with the honu.

Happiness is being underwater with the honu.

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...and right now? We couldn't be happier! There are all kinds of examples of humans having saved sea turtles. It happens every day--but this is the first time where sea turtles have saved two humans.

Our beautiful, oh so beautiful honu saved us from ourselves!

Of course, we still exercise--even here on Maui-every morning--for an hour and a half. Stretch, cardio, weights (we use our dive weights), tubing--we do it all. I once read that cardiovascular disease can be halted and even "reversed" through diet and exercise.

We're doing our best to "reverse"!

Ursula, July 6, 2002
Honokowai, Maui, HI

First dive summary

The most striking thing about our first dive is how everything is so normal. Our approach is not only accepted but ignored! For example, here is our first resighting of Wana for 2002. She was nipping at the carapace of a fellow. Did she stop her obnoxious ways when we approached? Nope.

Did she stop her obnoxious ways when we approached? Nope.

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After repeated nibbles at the shell didn't work, Wana targeted a nip for the other turtle's left hind flipper and that got results! The turtle up and lifted, leaving Wana a resting place of her own!

Roll call

Three of our tagged females have decided to stay home this summer instead of making a migration run to East Island, French Frigate Shoals. We were delighted to resight Tiamat on our first dive. We've known Tiamat since 1991 when she was an adolescent honu. "Ti" is looking chunky and content so we're pretty sure she'll be making more honu next summer but for this one? We're delighted to be in the company of an old friend.

We were delighted to resight Tiamat on our first dive.

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That's what we're here for: documenting this loathsome disease. Several turtles we've known in previous years have developed fibropapilloma tumors in the ten months since we last saw them.

Our young friend, Akebono, is now showing two "hot spots" in her right eye. We fear that by the end of the summer, these two areas might erupt into true tumors.

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Our young friend, Akebono, is now showing two "hot spots" in her right eye.


Right now we still have her listed as "FP suspected." Unfortunately we think by the end of August, Akebono will be upgraded to "FP confirmed."

It's only been seven dives and already we've seen some hideous stuff.

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It's only been seven dives and already we've seen some hideous stuff.


One poor turtle (above) had oral tumors and that's always bad enough, but wrapped around its right front flipper was fishing line, a part of which was wrapped around a tumor.

We felt badly having nothing with which to cut the line. We now dive with a pair of scissors and hope to see this poor creature again. In fact we'll make sure we divert our course over to where we sighted it last.

The worst cases are always difficult to identify because their facial markings are either obliterated by tumors or matted algae. This poor turtle has oral tumors as well as a tumor on her left shoulder almost the size of her head. This is the largest tumor we have ever seen.

Documenting algae

The greatest adjustment we had to make underwater was getting used to the total absence of the Cladophora that has plagued our dive site since 1998. Every year it's been a blight reaching its peak nuisance level last summer. Now there's none. Good riddance!

Another surprise is the Hypnea musciformis is back in bloom--not in the full force we saw in the early 90's but certainly taking advantage of Cladophora's absence. Also staging a comeback is Acanthophora spicifera. That's quite a change. The only constant remains the ever-present Lyngbya majuscula. (For more information about the limu, see our essay The Algae of Honokowai.)

The only constant remains the ever-present Lyngbya majuscula.

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With the Lyngbya comes the ever-present sea hare Stylocheilus striatus.

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With the Lyngbya comes the ever-present sea hare Stylocheilus striatus.
Red arrow indicates sea hare, yellow arrow indicates Lyngbya.

As in other years these little guys prefer Lyngbya as their food source but can also be found in Spyridia, Acanthrophora and also Amansia. All four of these seaweeds are turtle forage and if a turtle eats it, we document it.

What goes in must come out

So, we're always on the lookout for turtle fecal pellets. We've been especially successful so far this season. In the last seven dives, we've managed to "catch" one pellet fresh out a turtle as it floated away...

We've managed to "catch" one pellet fresh out a turtle as it floated away...

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...and five more discovered in various places around our dive site. We place each pellet in a plastic bag...

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We place each pellet in a plastic bag...


...record the date and where found, and hand the material over to sea turtle expert George Balazs. George then ensures each pellet is analyzed to determine the exact seaweeds the turtles have been eating.

Of course there's another way to figure out what turtles eat. You watch them feed! So far we've seen turtles eat:

Melanamansia glomerata (formerly called Amansia)...

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...Halimeda incrassata...

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and Lyngbya majuscula.


So we're busy, picking up where we left off last year. Back in January we didn't even know if we'd ever dive together again. Summer 2002 will be about Celebration. We are also writing a book. Two hours, every day, we write. We have a new appreciation for things now.

Why, we Canadians even celebrated Independence Day! We brought Old Glory to the Turtle House and waved it at every honu we saw on July 4th.

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We brought Old Glory to the Turtle House!


Week 2 Summary
Summer of '02 at Honokowai
Turtle Happenings
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
Table of Contents
Last modified 02/07/13
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