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You are here: /main/research expeditions/May 2005/Last Day FFS

Last Day in the Field: Rapture Reef and the 14 Foot Tiger Shark
by Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeology Team

Tagging a 14 foot tiger shark.
HIMB biologists Carl Meyer and Yannis Papastamatiou roll a 14'
tiger shark on its back in preparation for taking length measurements and implantation of an acoustic tag. On their backs, sharks go into a subdued state called tonic immobility, which makes fishes of this size much easier and safer to handle.

Today’s stop at French Frigate Shoals was a bonus day in the field. Because we left Kure Atoll a day early due to weather and unworkable conditions, the scientists were able to make one last stop for field work at French Frigate Shoals instead. French Frigate Shoals is an important spot for both the coral and fish teams. The tandem fish teams headed out early this morning at 0630 with special guest coxswain Mark O’Connor in HI-2. Carl and Yannis planned to implant transmitters into more sharks at French Frigate Shoals, and Brian, Randy, and Jeff used this opportunity at French Frigate Shoals to add to their earlier fish sample collections from this atoll. Throughout this cruise, Brian and Jeff have been focused on collecting samples from species of fish that are more abundant in these waters for their work on connectivity and evolution of Hawaiian reef fish. Future work in the NWHI will involve collecting less abundant species, which may be more difficult. However, if the fish team is reassembled for the task, I think that the work will be as successful as this project has been. Following two dives to collect fish samples, and the successful implantation of transmitters into five Uku, the team employed the help of HI-1 (carrying the coral and maritime archaeology teams) in order to successfully implant transmitters in two Galapagos and one very large Tiger Shark. This was an exciting endeavor to watch, since the opportunity to tag a Tiger Shark of this size was a unique opportunity. As HI-1 looked on, holding lines for two Galapagos Sharks waiting to be tagged, Randy, leaning over the side with measuring tape in hand, called out the measurements of the Tiger Shark “4.25 meters!” to Harvey who wrote took notes on the impressive work being conducted by several members of the fish team (4.25 m equals 13’ 11’). Meanwhile below, photographer John Brooks was pleased to finally get footage of a tiger shark in the NWHI and was able to film the operation from beneath the surface. It was truly an amazing way to end our last day of field operations.

Just prior to meeting up with HI-2, HI-1 including the coral and maritime archaeology teams conducted two dives on “Rapture Reef.” This spot, located and appropriately named after the 2002 NOWRAMP cruise to the NWHI on the Rapture was an unbelievable last dive. The coral cover at this spot is unbelievable and it is loaded with fish. We were lucky today, and visibility was incredible. This made the day ideal for filming natural resource footage for John. For the coral team, Rapture Reef holds special significance, and Greta Aeby would like to make it a permanent monitoring site. Today she was particularly interested in Acropora white syndrome. In 2002, she didn’t see any evidence of this disease; in 2003 there was more; now, in 2005, it is difficult for her to see an area where there isn’t any Acropora white syndrome. Rapture Reef would make a good test reef for the study of the spread of disease because it is so discrete. Ideally, Greta would like to be able to return to the reef and map Rapture Reef in its entirety. The site contains a high density of vulnerable hosts and disease is already present on the reef. Greta is also interested in gaining a better understanding of the vectors that transmit disease, since recent studies have begun to look at patterns of the spread of disease in the marine environment that might be more similar to disease spread in terrestrial settings than previously thought.

After work was complete at French Frigate Shoals, we returned to the ship for an earlier pick up than usual (today we were lifted back on to the ship at 1pm) so we could get underway and continue our transit back to Honolulu for our arrival on Tuesday. This has been an amazing cruise for so many reasons. As HI-1 headed back to the Hi’ialakai, the coral and maritime archaeology teams laughed and reminisced about what an amazing expedition this has been. It has been successful for so many reasons: everyone reports they are more than happy with the incredible data that they recovered during the cruise, we conducted fourteen days of safe and successful dive operations off of the ship, and the team of 22 scientists on the ship have grown to appreciate and understand one another’s research in a way that can only happen in a unique interdisciplinary work environment like the Hi’ialakai. There are so many integral components of this cruise to be grateful for, and I know that I speak for the entire science team when I express infinite thanks to the entire crew of the Hi’ialakai who kept us safe, fed us way too well, and facilitated an incredible amount of data collection and good science over the course of the last three weeks. For me, this has been an experience of a lifetime.




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