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You are here: /main/research expeditions/July 2007/Journal Day 7

Journal Day 6 - Gardner Pinnacles

by Keeley Belva

Don’t forget—if you’re in Honolulu, you can learn more about the Monument at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach hotel when NWHI researchers “talk story” Saturdays in July from 9-11am.

Click here to see where the Hi'ialakai is now.
Click here to see current data from the ship.

Swimming with sharks, in my mind, is up there with jumping out of planes—something you don’t do if you can avoid it.  Yet there I was in the water taking photographs of researchers who do this regularly—although I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the water for long!  The researchers that were bonding with the sharks are actually conducting a study on apex predators, such as sharks, jacks, and grey snappers, to monitor the movements of these animals.  By placing tracking tags on these animals, we can better understand habitat range and behavioral patterns that may be important for their protection.

Galapagos sharks at Gardner Pinnacles
Galapagos sharks at Gardner Pinnacles. Credit: Luiz Rocha

We spent yesterday at Gardner Pinnacles, our second stop on the 25-day cruise to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  The pinnacles consist of two large rocks that are above the surface.  These rocky structures make a great resting place for basking Hawaiian monk seals and various sea birds, an obvious fact even if you didn’t see the `iwa or great frigate birds circling above you—for the smell of guano is present even from the ship.

Gardner Pinnacles
Gardner Pinnacles. Credit: Ziggy Livnat.

The research teams spent most of the day in close proximity to each other as the currents were strong everywhere else.  The logistics of getting the three small boats off the moving ship and to the research sites still amazes me.  Every morning we load the boats with our gear for the day wearing hard hats and life vests, then get dropped into the water on a crane, and at the end of the day we unload everything the same way.

There was an exciting moment a few nights ago when the photographs that were taken on the deep-water time-lapse camera were recovered.  This camera can reach depths of two and a half miles—giving us an opportunity to explore a habitat that is rarely accessible.  These photos showed a hagfish, a species never before photographed in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that was feeding on the bait.

Drop cam being retrieved on Hi'ialakai
The time-lapse camera was lowered to 2300 meters, on the south side of Nihoa and was recovered after 24 hours. Credit: Keeley Belva.

Coryphaenoides longifilisThe time lapse camera is looking straight down on the bottom of the ocean at 2300m and the bait is a single skipjack tuna.  The bars are marked at 10cm (~4 in) intervals for scale.  One of the first fish to be photographed at the bait is a rattail, Coryphaenoides longicirrhus.  Members of this family are often among the dominant fishes and top predators in the deep sea.  Credit: John Yeh.

After about 6 hours hagfish dominate the scene, oozing slime over the bait that deters other scavengers from eating it.  Hagfish are found around the world but the species here, Eptatretus carlhubbsi, is the largest in the world, reaching a length of 1.16 meters.  This species has been found only in Hawaii, Guam and Wake Island.  It is rarely captured and has only been filmed twice before by the HURL submersibles. Credit: John Yeh.

Today we are transiting again, on our way to Lisianski Island for four days of research there.  These transit days are good times for everyone to prepare for the next few busy days and have a little bit of down time. 

Don’t forget—if you’re in Honolulu, you can learn more about the Monument at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach hotel when NWHI researchers “talk story” Saturdays in July from 9-11am.

Click here for maps of the region





Coral bleaching

Galapagos shark

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