Kazu Kauinana, May 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 13, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  25, 33.1N
Longitude: 121:28.9W
Visibility:  10nm
Wind direction:  090
Wind speed:  19Kts
Sea wave height: 2-3
Sea swells height: 4-6
Sea water temperature: 24.8
Sea level temperature: 24.8
Sea level pressure: 1021.4
Cloud cover: 4/8, altocumulus, cumulostratus, cumulonimbus, cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

I left the OSCAR SETTE at 8:30 this morning on a Zodiac with cargo and a crew of five for Laysan Island. This island was not a military landing strip so it still looks like what you might imagine a desert island would look like.  It is really beautiful—nice sandy beaches, clear water with coral reefs, low shrubs and grasses, a patch of coconut trees and even a lake.

Sarah Luecke took us on a tour from the beach where we had landed to the hyper-saline lake in the northern, middle of the island.  As with all of the islands, you cannot explore without a guide. Shearwater noddys, Tristan’s petrels, and bonin petrels burrow into the ground to make their nests, and if you do not follow your guide carefully, there is a good chance that you could cave in their nests. We managed to cave in only two, and we had to re-dig the tunnels to make sure the birds could continue using them.  Birds are everywhere and they have no fear of humans. They behave like barnyard birds, so when you are walking you have to go around them, because they will not move.  When they get  irritated with you being too close they clack their beaks like plastic toy wind-up dentures.  The two breeds that are the most oblivious to human space are the large Laysan Albatross and the black-footed Albatross. The chicks are almost as large as the adults, covered with patches of downy molting fuzz, and are really goofy looking.  They plant themselves everywhere, especially on the paths, in front of tent doorways and chairs, and next to your belongings.

It was great to see so many birds, because at about the turn of the century the bird population had been decimated by the Japanese feather industry.  An American Guano contractor had subleased the right to taking wings, breasts, skins, and tons of feathers to the Japanese company.  This went on for at least a couple of years before it was stopped but, by then, the damage was done.  At least a million birds were killed and three out of the five endemic species became extinct.  Fortunately, most of the sea birds came back.

The bird population here had at one time been so dense that you could see the cloud of birds way before you ever saw the island. It was so thick that a guano industry was established here in the late 1800’s into the early 20th century.  The Japanese immigrant workers who worked for Haole American businessmen based on Oahu, had to use picks and axes to break up the caked up thick layers of it.

There had also been an attempt at rabbit farming by a family, but that didn’t work.  It did, however, destroy almost all of the vegetation on the island.  Through a lot of work and expense, the rabbits were eradicated and an intensive replanting program was established and is still active. In spite of all of these man-made disasters, the island today, looks like paradise.  So it did give me a lot of hope that we may still be able to maintain some of the few precious resources that we have left.

Personal Log 

We walked along the beach and saw monk seals in the water and on the beach.  We found a spot where it looked like it would be terrific snorkeling and it was.  After that, it was time to go back to the OSCAR SETTE.

Kazu Kauinana, May 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude: 25, 21.8N
Longitude: 170, 51.1 W
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 100
Wind speed: 17 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3
Swell wave height: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8C
Sea level pressure: 1018.3
Cloud cover: 6/8 cumulus, altocumulus, cirrus, cirrocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

My shift on the cetacean watch began at 9:00 this morning.  I started with the Fujinan 25×150, four-mile range, light-gathering, “Big Eye” binoculars.  It was o.k. using the Big eyes looking straight ahead but looking through them at port or starboard was difficult because of the up and down rolling of the boat.  I would switch to smaller hand-held binoculars instead of the deck-mounted Big Eyes.  The water surface conditions were choppy so we did not see any whales, dolphins, or seals.  However, I did spot a yellow spherical shape floating by. We had been instructed that if we did see a mammal to draw exactly what we saw and not to copy the illustrations from the identification book.

I worked the mammal watch detail until 11:00 a.m. and then I went back to work on the clay portrait I am doing of Chad Yoshinaga, the lead scientist.  He is too busy to sit for me but I did manage to take some Polaroids and work from that.  I have to admit, I am proud that he is a local boy who not only made it as a scientist, but he is the lead scientist.  There aren’t very many kids from Hawaii who are in this field; in fact, we are greatly outnumbered by scientists from the continent.  Part of the reason is geography. Kids who study at the U. of Hawaii are getting exposure only to our limited wildlife, whereas the continent has a greater variety.  Beeg mahni fo go sku ova dea.  This will be my ho’okupu (gift) to Chad, the ship, the program, and the crew, who by the way, seem to be entertained by watching me work.

Personal Log 

The ship’s fishermen caught four Ono today.  Each was about four feet long. This was the first catch on the entire trip so far probably due to our passing over a seamount only 600′ deep.  Tomorrow will be better fishing because we will be approaching Laysan Island. I am scheduled to go ashore with the scientists.

Kazu Kauinana, May 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 11, 2006

Weather
Latitude:  24, 01.0 N
Longitude: 167, 10.3
Visibility:  10 NM
Wind direction:  090
Wind speed:  20 KTS
Sea wave heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8 C
Sea level pressure: 18:18
Cloud cover: 2/8 cumulus, altocumulus

Science & Technology Log

I did not get a good night’s sleep last night so I woke up at 6:30 a.m. instead of my usual 4:30. I attended an 8:00 a.m. briefing this morning for all those who were scheduled to leave for Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals.  I departed early at 9:00 AM in a Zodiac with two crewmen who were delivering cargo to the island.  You could see the island in the distance when we started out but we encountered a squall and lost visibility of everything.  The pilot was familiar with the reefs and the island, and when the rain cleared, we were still on the right path.

As we approached Tern Island the thousands of birds that inhabit the World War II landing strip became increasingly  clearer and the raucous squawking grew louder and louder until it was almost deafening.  It was HITCHCOKISH!  In fact, the bird sounds from Tern Island were used in the movie “The Birds”.  We were greeted by two women (Most of the volunteers and scientists on this trip, and I think in general, are women) who helped us dock and unload the boat. I spent most of my time on the island at the dock unloading shuttle loads from the OSCAR SETTE.

An airplane was scheduled to arrive so I watched the staff clear the runway of all the baby Albatross from the airstrip.  They were about 4 months old, molting, the size of a small turkey, and like the rest of the bird population, fearless of humans.  They picked them up and handled them like human babies and carried them off to the side of the runway. Bicycles with handlebar baskets were also used for the ones further down the strip. The plane arrived and the sky became peppered with adult birds.  No birds were killed. This is pretty good considering that there are so many birds that you have to be careful not to step on any while walking. The birds do prefer to nest off the hot run way but the chicks wander out there and bask. If you do happen to disturb a nesting bird off of its nest, usually by running or nearly stepping on them, you have to stop and monitor the nest until the nesting bird returns. This is to prevent other birds from pecking holes in the eggs, killing the chicks or stealing nest-building materials. Sahm tarabo yeah?

I wasn’t allowed to leave the pier without a guide so I went back to watch for the next cargo delivery and stared into the crystal clear water.  I noticed a fish headed straight for me and as it got larger and larger, I realized that it was a three-foot long ulua.  It turned parallel to the edge of the pier, tilted his body at an angle so it could see me better then slowly swam off. It returned two more times and had a good look at me before swimming off to write his friends about what he just saw.  I was told later that they are very abundant and that they hang around you when you go snorkeling.  They must know that like the rest of the reef fish they cannot be eaten because of Sagittaria plants.  From the pier, I also saw two large Green Sea Turtles wrestling or mating.  Hard to tell since I couldn’t see their genitals.

After about two hours on the pier, a boatload of excited scientists from the SETTE arrived and we were led on a tour of the island.  Some of the most interesting facts I found out about Tern island are: their water catchment is a large concrete slab on the ground (too hot for birds nests and not used for drinking); drinking water is reverse osmosis from sea water; 10 people live on Tern; sea lion research is also done on the island (we saw three adult Hawaiian Monk Seals on the beach); when you go swimming go with someone else and look out for the SHARKS.

It’s 10:30 p.m., I am exhausted, hele au moe moe.

Kazu Kauinana, May 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 10, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude: 23-28.0 N
Longitude: 165-45.0 N
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction:  078
Wind speed: 22 kts
Sea wave heights: 2-3′
Swell wave heights: 5-6′
Seawater temperature: 25.2 c
Sea level pressure: 1020.6
Cloud cover: 1/8, altostratus, cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a repeat of the last two days: CTD sampling and cetacean watch or marine mammal search.  There were no sightings today because of the choppy water conditions until we got closer to the French Frigate Shoals.  As we approached the atoll the bird sightings increased and surface fish, like flying fish, became more abundant.  A large Mahi-mahi was seen swimming on the surface next to the boat and added to the rising excitement.  No land could be seen, but rolling surf over shallow reefs appeared and beautiful turquoise blue streaks interrupted the dark blueness of the ocean.  We looked through the “Big Eye” binoculars at a line of surf surrounding what looked to be a sliver of sand and sure enough, it was a sand spit, and there were three Hawaiian Monk Seals basking in the sun. We were exhilarated!

We reached our destination for the day, which is in a protected area just south of the French Frigate Shoals.  We will spend the night here and tomorrow morning I will help transport the research team to Tern Island.  This will be our first drop off.  The researchers are excited and to top it off, it is almost a full moon.

We arrived at our destination a couple of hours before sunset so the ship maneuvered over a seamount where the depth was about 600 feet and the fishing crew did some bottom fishing.  They used Hydraulic fishing reels with a 1000-foot line capacity, 3 to 4 hooks per line, 8-pound lead weights, and squid for bait.  Very efficient!  They landed eight Onaga, the largest about 5lbs.

Personal Log 

I attended a meeting this morning for the Mammal Watch team.  An interesting issue was raised concerning the declining Hawaiian Monk Seal population, numbering now at only about 1000, and the relationship to shark predation.  For some unknown reason, male seals were killing pups and the carcasses were attracting sharks.  Sharks are now stalking new areas where pups are more vulnerable and may be affecting the population.  What species of sharks, how many, and what to do about them are questions that must be resolved. Enter in the Hawaiian Shark Aumakua cultural factor and the issue becomes even more complex.  Some Hawaiians believe that sharks are ancestral guardian spirits and should not be destroyed, but that may lead to the end of the seals.  And even if conservationists are allowed to kill sharks to protect the seals, the Question is “should we really be interfering in the balance of nature and would it work?”  I was surprised to hear that the seal population is reducing at an alarming rate; I thought it was increasing.  Anyway, these are just some more world problems to keep you up at night.

Kazu Kauinana, May 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  22, 33.4n
Longitude: 162, 06.2W
Visibility:  10
Wind direction: 070
Wind speed: 21 kts.
Sea wave heights: 2-4
Swell heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8
Sea level pressure: 1020.4
Cloud cover: 4/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was primarily orientation and familiarizing myself with the ship, staff, and scientists.  It was so interesting to talk to the scientists and discover that the main motivation for their chosen profession was the same as that of artists: Passion!  Most of them had an early interest in animals or plants and were now fulfilling a life-long dream.  In spite of all of the sacrifices (money, family, material possessions) they love what they do and consider themselves lucky to be doing it.

Part of the day was spent on a cetacean watch, or marine mammal search, from the flying bridge. We used two Fujinan, 25×150, 4-mile range, light gathering, “Big-Eye” binoculars to methodically scan 180 degrees in front of the ship.  Ironically, a mother and baby calf Humpback whale surfaced almost directly in front of the ship. That was the only sighting, mostly due to choppy wave conditions.  I have to tell you that methodically scanning the ocean all day on a boat that is pitching and rolling can be very tedious, but very ZEN.

I also witnessed an XBT (Expendable Bathymetry Thermalgraph), a foot-long torpedo attached directly to the ship’s computer by a thin, hardly visible copper wire, dropped 460 meters.  It sends back the temperature data to the ship’s computer and then is released, thus the name, “expendable.”  I asked the scientist conducting the test if there had been any significant temperature changes during the past 10 years but that information was not available to her.

Today was a repeat of yesterday’s data gathering except for a CDT (conductivity, depth, temperature and oxygen) cast.  The “fish” CTD, or data sampling device, is hoisted with a crane over the side of the ship and submerged to a depth of 500 meters.  I found that the most interesting information taken was the chlorophyll count.  There was a dramatic  increase spike at 100-200 meters, and then a dramatic drop to about zero.  Chlorophyll is the beginning of the food chain.

Personal Log 

A large part of the day on a research vessel like this deals with the practical everyday functioning of the voyage. Today we had a fire drill, which was very straightforward and required that we all meet on the escape boat deck.  We also had an abandon ship exercise, and we all gathered on the same deck next to our prospective escape boats with our life vests and immersion suits.  We tried on our one-piece, head-to-toe, neoprene suits and got a good laugh because we looked like bright orange GUMBYS.  Actually, we felt a sense of relief mixed with anxiety that if we had to use them that we would be  prepared.