Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tiger Shark!! And More!

Boy, I'm getting really lax on posting! I have an excuse though - we've been really busy lately! Fortunately, the weather and flies have improved, after my whining in my last post! We've had off-and-on rain, but it's been warmer and calmer and the flies are orders of magnitude fewer than they were. The water's also warmed up a lot (from 21°C in early May to 25°C yesterday!), and we've been able to dive to 40 feet or so for half an hour or so without wetsuits - yay!!! The hard part lately has been getting out of the water into the wind!

Let's see - what else has been happening? We finished another round of bivalve recruitment this weekend, and the big excitement there was an 8-9 foot tiger shark cruising near our first site (187, in the southeast backreef near Eastern Island) on Friday! Needless to say, we headed to another site about 5 km away and didn't return until the next day with another person, Merissa Brown, English teacher extraordinaire and the wife of refuge manager Matt. I think we were pretty brave to get in the water at all that day and at the same site the next day! The first photo is all we saw from the surface, while the second image resulted from Kate holding her camera underwater. This was only the second time I've ever seen a tiger shark at Midway, but other people report tiger sharks are more common this time of year as the albatross chicks move into the water. This was the 3rd tiger shark report this year, as far as I know.

So far, we've only seen a few albatross chicks in the water, but this blackfoot chick is right on the seawall and definitely thinking about it!

We also found a big marine debris net near a bivalve recruitment site in the eastern backreef (Site 172). We try to collect any marine debris we find, especially entanglement hazards to monk seals, turtles, and other marine wildlife. We've been collecting lots of buoys lately too.

Monday, we had a large monk seal check out our boat right after we anchored at the Hook (southwest backreef). We can't get into the water until they leave, so we were glad he hung out long enough for photos but left by the time we were ready to get in the water.

We also gave a presentation Monday to the "Papahānaumokuākea ‘Ahahui Alaka‘i" (Hawaiian for Monument society of ambassadors or leaders), an educators' workshop run by the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. They will help us with our research tomorrow by doing benthic and urchin surveys and sediment sampling, so we discussed briefly our research projects, the projects with which they'll be helping us, and the main corals and urchins here at Midway. There are about 12 educators from all over the country, although with the expected concentration in Hawaii - mostly teachers at various levels. They've been learning all about the history and wildlife out here and getting to do some amazing things - watch biologists tag a monk seal, observe petrels and shearwaters at night, and help us with coral reef research!

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