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You are here: /main/research expeditions/May 2005/Day 3 Pearl and Hermes

Day 3, Pearl and Hermes Atoll
by Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeology Team

Spinner dolphins.

In the words of Dr. Brian Bowen of the fish team, today’s weather was “perfect.” The waters around Pearl and Hermes Atoll were calm and glassy and this made everyone’s work today successful. Today, the fish team was accompanied by photographer John Brooks who is taking footage of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the work that the scientists are conducting for the purposes of educational videos. John was able to get great footage of the masked angelfish, a Hawaiian endemic, during at 50 foot dive. Seeing masked angelfish at this depth is extremely rare. In the main Hawaiian Islands, one usually sees these fish in hundreds of feet of water, however, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, these fish occur at much shallower depths.

In addition to their fish sampling, the fish team collected data for population connectivity of spinner dolphins. This is the subject of Kim Andrews, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii’s dissertation, and the fish team was helping her out by taking biopsy samples of the dolphins to determine if the dolphins move between isolated ecosystems. Through Kim’s research, she has been finding that the dolphins at Pearl and Hermes Atoll are fairly isolated. Collecting samples from dolphins requires different methodology from the fish team’s usual strategies. Dolphins tend to be creatures of habit. At night they spend their time outside of the lagoon, while during the day they come inside the lagoon to rest and socialize. The fish team inspires them to come closer by coming up fast along side the dolphins so that they begin to bow ride, at which point the team takes a small sample of the dolphin’s DNA with a biopsy dart gun.

The fish team had a busy day. In addition to the dolphin biopsy sample collections, Dr. Carl Meyer, Dr. Randy Kosaki, and Yannis Pappastamatiou continued to tag fish. Today, they piqued the curiosity of two large tiger sharks, but were unable to lure them in close enough to implant the transponders. The tagging team was successful in implanting transponders into two Uku (a type of green jobfish). After coming in from the field, teams unload gear and get ready to eat whatever amazing meal that the chief steward has created for us each night. But the day’s work is never really complete at meal time. Hours of processing and work in the labs continues into the night. Brian and Jeff are busy processing the fish samples in the dry lab, taking fin clips and putting it into preservative

Fin clip.
Fin clip.

Carl and Yannis spend the evenings entering data from the day and prepping for the next day. Careful preparation is essential, and it usually includes getting all of the field kits ready. The surgery kit needs to be redone each day, and the fishing kit and receiver deployment kit need to be properly outfitted before each day of work in the field.

Meanwhile, the maritime archaeology team spent the day expanding the boundaries of the two shipwreck sites they have been working on for the last two days to include areas inside of the reef. It is amazing how violent wrecking events on the atolls were. Ships that run aground onto the reef scatter artifacts for hundreds of meters. Locating all of the artifacts in the short time that we have at this atoll is an exciting challenge. The team continued to document and interpret parts of the expansive wrecksites.

Kelly and Tane mapping the wreck site.

The coral disease team successfully established two more permanent transects at Pearl and Hermes Atoll today, and noticed bleaching occurring on Montipora capitata (brown rice coral). As the leader of the coral disease team, Greta Aeby is attempting to answer questions such as whether the bleaching that they are seeing is a new phenomena related to climate change, or if it has always been happening and its just that no one has been observing these occurrences. These are important questions with implications for the management of these resources. The work scientists are conducting off of the Hi’ialakai on a daily basis have implications far beyond individual studies or reports. All scientists on the ship have hopes that their work will contribute to the effective management of the remarkable resources in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.




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