Monday, April 30, 2007

We're doing a manta ray night dive tonight...

The mantas have been around the last couple of nights and we're going up with a group tonight.

Yesterday we had some interesting dives. We had a small group on who had to change their schedule from morning to late afternoon and wanted to do two dives right outside the harbor at a site that has a lot going on... a lot going on was definitely the case yesterday. I missed out on most of the fun because I played captain, but I did manage a "captain's dive" in between (Bob's also a licensed captain, as as long as one of us is on board at all times everything's cool). During the first dive, they were swarmed by a sizeable group of uluas (jacks), Bob said there were maybe 30-40 in the group - this is just something we don't see here, I think I've maybe seen 10-12 at a time before. Also seen over the course of the dives were leaf scorpion, a reticulated frogfish that I'm dieing to get a picture of (I couldn't find it on my dive), longfin anthias, 2 dwarf morays (along with several other moray eels), 2 devil scorpions, several pipefish, one of our less common flatworms (Bob had to look it up after the charter, so it definitely was not common), a male Whitley's boxfish was sighted, and at the end of the day as it was turning dark the divers were treated to an active Dragon Moray right near the boat. Overall a lot of good stuff.

The days have turned beautiful here the last litte bit, and today is no exception. I'm thinking of going up the hill to the Captain Cook Monument trail for a short power waddle... it's getting easier, but I've got a ways to go before I take on doing the whole trail.

The pic above is of a Yellowtai Filefish (Pervagor aspricaudus). It's the only photo of these guys I've got, I took it yesterday. This one was particularly colorful, oranger than the picture in Hoover's book (a really great Hawaiian fish book I've got linked on the right side of the blog), and more blues also. They're very shy and tough to get a shot of, I had to brighten this photo a bit as it was back in a hole, but the color's pretty true on the pic.



Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's Kona's slow season again...


People do on occasion ask what our slow seasons are. I've covered it before but it never hurts to repeat it. At least in this biz, it seems the slowest months are May, and September through late November (excluding the week either side of Ironman).

I've been on the call list for jury duty the last couple of weeks and it appears that Tuesday is the day for jury selection. I do have charters tomorrow and Monday, as well as earlier the last couple of weeks, so it seems the timing is right if I do get picked. I'll be going back to my part time job at the airport 'til it gets crazy busy again, they've been real flexible with me during the time I've been busy and I haven't worked with them in about 2 months.

Here's a school of tangs (surgeonfish) I ran across the other day. Tangs are herbivorous and do a good job of cleaning algae off the corals.

We've been reasonably busy with charters lately. We had a week of pretty crummy water - swells from both the north and south, along with winds - but the swells and winds and swells have calmed down and it's been gorgeous the last couple of days... that's how we like it here, and usually that is the case, we've just had some late season north swells lately. The manta action has been slow recently. Last year this time we were having record numbers. I expect with some calm conditions and better plankton levels than we've had lately, it'll pick up again - but you never know, we have no control over Mother Nature.

That's it for now. Later,


Sunday, April 22, 2007

How to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua'a....

The Hawaiian name for a couple of well known triggerfish is humuhumunukunukuapua'a. People love to mispronounce it, as it's easy to do. Here's my best shot at sounding it out...

who moo who moo new coo new coo ah poo ah ah

Now say it real fast and you'll impress your friends.

This particular fish pictured above happens to be called a humuhumu lei (also called a Whiteline Triggerfish- Sufflamen bursa). Hawaiian names for triggers are usually humuhumu followed by a descriptive section. Leis happen to the be the floral garlands you wear around your neck here, so I'm not exactly sure how the description fits on this fish unless the vertical bars behind the head are thought to resemble a lei. The Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, shown earlier in the month (could be lower on this page or you may have to check in the archives for April/March) aptly translates into "trigger fish with a nose like a pig" humuhumu - triggerfish ; nukunuku - nose ; pua'a - pig



Friday, April 20, 2007

Bird songs at dawn... What we wake up to here in the Kealakekua / Captain Cook area....

I don't have anything that records sound other than my cameras, so here's a "video" of the bird songs we get every morning. The video is dark because the camera picks up light rather poorly and youtube darkens it even more - if you look real hard you might see some sky against the trees, it's not really this dark in real life.

Pretty much anywhere you have trees/jungle in Hawaii you'll have birds. They are quite active in the morning as the sun comes up and in the evening nearing sundown. I generally sleep right through the real heavy activity unless I've been traveling and come back... our sounds aren't like typical morning sounds back on much of the mainland. This was taken this morning as the sun comes up, turn up your sound and pretend you are waking up in Hawaii.....

Good morning!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Can you say aaaahhhhhh?

This eel looks a lot like me when you hang fried chicken in front of me... Eels have a reputation that is much more fierce than they actually deserve. Eels spend their lives crawling in and out of corals, and in order to be able to back up they can't have large operculums (the gill plates most fish have covering their gills). They basically have very small gill openings and they have to actively pump water through their gills by opening and closing their mouths. Now in this case, they do tend to open thier mouths a bit more when you get real close, but it's strictly to look fierce as a defense mechanism.

Speaking of fried chicken, I finally made some fried chicken that I actually really liked. I've tried making fried chicken for years and never had figured out how to actually make the chicken meat itself taste all that good.... something to do with needing to read recipes I guess... No more having to resort to Banquet out of the box (yuck) to get chicken with any flavor any more.

I'm back in the water in a day or two. The trailer's been rebuilt... uggh, pricier than expected so I gotta keep busy for a while. So far my number hasn't come up on the jury duty roster, so I'm good 'til Tuesday next week at least. That's about it for now, I've got to go downstairs and clean the vacation rental for our next guests.



Saturday, April 14, 2007

Local News... Legendary Hawaii singing personality Don Ho passes away today.

Here's the article.

Rest in peace Don.

I'm off today, so hey, let's get a headache together....

This is a 3-d photo pair of a fuchsia from our porch. If you are a long time reader, you might remember this post from last year with a 3-d iris photo pair. I'm thinking the iris one is a bit easier to see, so for more thorough instructions and practice you might want to click on the link and look at that one first. What it all boils down to is that your brain normally sees two separate images (one from each eye) from slightly different angles and then puts them together so you can perceive depth. You can do the same thing with photographs by taking an image and then taking another image from slightly to the left of the original viewpoint, and then reversing them (first image on the left and second on the right) as you look at them. At that point you need to cross your eyes to where you see three separate images and the middle one will be in 3-d. Once again, the linked post explains it better, and a couple of the commenters mentioned a trick that helped them focus to get the effect.

I went down to the harbor today to check on the status of the boat and trailer. The boat is out of the water (I had it in a slip for a couple days while the trailer work was being done) and back on the trailer, which has had a primer coat. I suspect the remaining paint job occurs during my next charter or when they can stick it in a slip for another day. Nothing much other to report at this point.



Friday, April 13, 2007

What's more interesting... American Idol or Moorish Idol?

This is a Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus). This is one of the fish that seems to hold the interest of both snorkelers and divers the most. They are very elegant looking as they swim across the reef. The do a pretty good job of keeping just out of flash distance with my little camera, so this is about all I've got so far. I had to touch it up in photoshop, so it doesn't look quite natural but it's close.

We did the night dive again last night. Still have fairly light plankton levels, but there was a manta there for the whole show.

Right now I'm having fun... not too much really... we're having the boat trailer rebuilt. They tend to go real fast in a saltwater environment, a little salt water can turn a chunk of steel into a crumbling brown mess faster than you'd ever think. I've had to rent a slip for a couple of days to keep the boat in while the trailer's beeing worked on... Makes for more excercise for Bob and I since we've got to carry tanks to the slip and such.

Tonight I get to call in for jury duty and see if they need me for next week. I'm supposed to call in every Friday evening 'til the middle of next month. It'll be interesting to see if I have to serve. I get the notice about every other year and whatever jury I get called for seems to be cancelled. I'm not taking students for the next 4 weeks just in case, I can get coverage for certified divers but I don't want to commit to more than I can cover. They used to call me from the Hilo side, but they've recently changed the rules to where you can refuse if you live more than 70 miles away. I'm like 3 miles from the Kona courthouse, hopefully it'll only be a few days if it happens at all.



Monday, April 09, 2007

Is scuba diving excercise?

This is a topic that comes up in the scuba message boards on occasion. Judging by the fact that I tend to get winded just walking back to the house from my mailbox, I somehow doubt it's a heck of a lot of excercise anyway - in my defense though, it is a bit of a hike and almost a hundred foot elevation change from my mailbox.

So today I took a walk part way down the trail to the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay. I haven't done the entire trail in about 4-5 years. I had a friend who's done it a couple of times with me over the years, the first time he about died, so he went home and put something like 5000 miles on his bicycle and came back and totally whooped tail on the trail. He wasn't even breathing hard, while I (all 250 pounds of me at the time, I'm about 25-30 lbs lighter these days) had enough difficulties that he had to take an embarrassing commemorative video. Today I walked down to what he referred to as the "hugging tree" on his first trip - the hugging tree is apparently where you stop and hug the tree for 10 minutes because you are afraid you will collapse and not be able to get back up again. It's maybe half way down the trail. I handled the top half of the trail just fine, it's the bottom half that's a ton of work, but it got me thinking about diving and excercise. My goal is to be able to do the whole hill (1300' elevation change over 3 miles) again without huffing much.

Back to scuba being excercise or not. My guess is that for a lot of people, it can be at first. Once you get used to it though, at least in the type of diving we do here, it sort of becomes controlled floating and there's very little exertion. The only real exertion is getting into your wetsuit (man that can be surprisingly tough sometimes, especially on a hot sunny day) and getting to the water if you are shorediving. Shorediving can be some work, my ankles are definitely stonger than they used to be from climbing over rocks and such with gear on, but the actual diving, especially now that I'm primarily diving off a boat, isn't much work. I think there is some tendancy to burn calories just trying to stay warm, but the cardio end of it is minimal.

As you might be able to tell, I'm starting to realize I'm getting older... hence the walking. Pat had her birthday yesterday and we went out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse up at the new shops at the Mauna Launi... Here's the brief review...Nice restaurant, a fabulous chili lime calimari appetizer and good pear martinis were offered on their specials for the evening, and the filets were really good. I had the "cowboy cut" ribeye, it was nothing special for me, I prefer the ribeyes off the grill at home. Service was great, the meal was pricey but in line for the resort area up north. All in all, pretty good but not at the top of my list for Kona/Kohala.

Now that I've rambled on for a while, the real reason I wanted to post this is because I took a semi-reasonable shot of a Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) male. Commonly called Blue Boxfish, the males are a gorgeous blue with spots on the back while the females and juveniles are a dark brown with spots all over. This fish is not to be confused with a Whitley's Boxfish, that I'm still hoping to see some day with camera in hand.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bouganvillea, gingers and other stuff....


Went out for a walk around a subdivision down the hill from us. When we moved here you could buy an acre down there for about 85 grand and it was basically empty, now it's sky high (we've had a huge property value appreciation in the last 6-7 years) and gradually filling up. I took the liberty of taking a couple shots of plants we see. The first one is the flower of a costus. They are a lot like gingers in appearance, in fact I think one of the common names is Ginger Lilly. They're a pretty neat flower that we don't have on our own property.
The second flower is a bouganvillea. Every time I hear that name I think of McHale's Navy... I think they mentioned Bouganville a lot on that show. It'd be curious if that's where this plant originated. Anyway, the leaves on this plant turn bright colors and they can look quite spectacular. Bouganvillea is planted along much of the highway around Kailua-Kona and makes for a brightly colored border - tourists love it. It's great stuff... 'til you own it.... It's a lot like blackberries, it grows like a weed and takes over things and it has nasty thorns. We had a 40 foot high cascade of white and purple next to our house that I decided to cut back one day because it took up half of our immediate front yard - turned out to be just 2 plants. It took me 2 weeks to get it cut back and I was quite cut up by the end of it.

I thouhgt I'd give it a break from the scuba posts for the most part, although I did see this facinating article about the recent Soloman Island earthquake lifting an entire island 10 feet, exposing and likely killing the local reefs. It's amazing what a force nature can be.

Happy Easter to all!


Friday, April 06, 2007

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a - the triggerfish that woke us up at 3am.

We did the manta ray dive up at the Kona airport last night. There was one manta, very little plankton. We did it down at the Sheraton site on the weekend, that particular night had a huge current that blew the snorkelers from one of the other boats way off the site... the airport site is a much better site for this dive when the mantas are in.

I've got the weekend off and then it gets busy for a while again. The goal is to get it going 7 days a week and then hire an extra staffer to work in and give Bob and I breaks. We've got someone who's been working with us occasionally who hopefully will be available when the time comes. We had a great sunny morning today and I went out for a brief shoredive. I managed to get this, which is my best humu picture so far. I generally don't make the effort to get a photo of these guys because they like to stay away about 8-10 feet or so. By the way, we had tremendous viz again today, we're epecting one more swell this weekend and then hopefully we're done with the big stuff 'til winter.

So anyway... A couple of years back the phone rings in the middle of the night and Pat answers it "Hello" then a pause, then "You've got to be kidding me. Do you realize it's barely 3 AM here? Let me put you on with Steve, he's the fish guy." Turns out the only thing the caller wanted was to know how to "say the name of that state fish". We get our share of callers who forget about time zones, but this was probably the earliest we've had.

The fish above is one of the Humu-humus (Rhinecanthus aculeatus) we have locally. Hoover's book (A great Hawaiian fish book linked on the sidebar of this page) calls it a "Lagoon Trigger", in the pet trade we called it a Picasso Trigger (which is the name he calls what we called a Rectangulate Trigger). We see them mostly in shallow water, say in the 4-12 foot depth, more than where the divers are normally found.

Back when I first moved over here I worked for a now defunct scuba/snorkel place downtown. We had some people stop by who were laughing about spending a week on the Aggressor dive liveaboard and spending all week looking for a particular fish and finding none, only to find 6 or more of them in 20 minutes snorkeling at Kahalu'u beach after the week was over. I'm pretty sure they were talking about either these or Saddleback Butterflys, as they are both common on the north end of Kahalu'u. I ought to go down there on a sunny morning to get some real good shots of both, they're fairly tame there.



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Banded Coral Shrimp in Kona Hawaii.

We had a cool cloudy day in south Kona today. I had the day off and didn't make it into town, so I have no idea what it was like in Kailua or north today. That's one of the wierd things about the Big Island, the weather where you are isn't necessarily what the weather is 15 miles away... we have to explain that to customers sometimes when they're up at the resorts and it's blowing a gale, it's often windfree down where we're diving.

A little news I saw in yesterday's paper that may affect some shoredivers... The ladder at the old wharf at Mahukona apparently washed away during big surf recently. There's been some type of ladder there for years, it was rebar for a long time, then sometime in the last couple of years someone put in a stainless pool ladder. Anyway it's gone and nobody at the county is making a decision as to whether they are responsible for replacing it or not. They noted they'd make a decision later in the week. I suspect some local mystery benefactor has been putting it in all these years and may have to do it again to get it put back in, in the meanwhile, it's somewhat of a safety issue because people have been using it for years and it's quite difficult to get out of the water at times without it.

The photo above is of a pair of Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus). I noticed something a bit interesting when I enlarged it to check on sharpness/focus earlier, they're expecting... soon it'll be time for them to pass out a lot of little waterproof cigars, take a look at the belly and you'll notice eggs. Many shrimp, lobsters and other crustaceans carry their eggs 'til they hatch.