from the Townsend Cromwell
(9/12 - 9/15/02)
by Stephani Holzwarth
12, 2002. French Frigate
Shoals has granted us calm waters on her windward side.
Two years ago I remember a ridiculously rough boat ride
across the atoll in an attempt to pop over to that side
for a quick survey. After several hours of getting doused
and pummeled by waves on the way over, our engine died,
and another boat had to rescue us. Last year was trade wind
choppy as well, but this year the waters are as smooth as
we could want. The Townsend Cromwell steamed over
to east side of the atoll and lowered 4 small boats over
the side. Our boat set off to tow along the barrier reef
and two other skiffs carried the fish and benthic team to
their survey sites. The 4th boat did CTD casts at regular
intervals along the reef. This involves lowering a Seacat
instrument over the side on a 30 m line and hauling it back
up slowly so it can measure temperature, salinity, and light
transmission (water clarity). It's pretty cool to see how
the stratification in the water column changes depending
on which side of a reef you are on, the bathymetry of the
place, and the time of year- all of which affect local and
larger scale water current patterns, which in turn affect
the coral, fish, and other reef residents.
of fish, while towing I saw a fish with the craziest coloring
you could imagine. I've seen this species of wrasse before,
but today I made a game of looking for them, since I had
plenty of time between recording the large fish listed on
my data sheet. The females are intricately spotted with
one round white dot on each dark scale, apparently even
in their eyes! They swim in little coveys, 5 or 6 together.
The males I saw singly. They have a bluish green polk-a-dot
on each scale, and if that weren't enough- a bright orange
head with blue squiggley lines. Scientifically, we call
this species Anampses chrysocephalus. If that's too
much of a mouthful, you can try the Hawaiian word for wrasse-
Hinalea, or the common english name- Psychedelic wrasse,
which suits it rather well.
13. Another long day on the water! We completed 10 tows
in the last 2 days, covering most of the long, eastern crescent
of barrier reef. From my underwater viewing hours, I have
an impression of this stretch of reef alternating between
flat stretches of scoured pavement and complex sections
of reef growing and eroding at the same time. Fish were
sparse along the flat sections, but in the 3-dimensional
reef I saw whitetip sharks asleep on the sand under ledges,
omilu (bluefin trevallies) and ulua (white jacks) swam over
to trail behind us, schools of 1000 ta'ape (bluelined snapper)
parted before us. The contrast was striking. It made me
think of city versus country. If our cities were half as
much fun as fish cities, I'd be more of a city girl.
14. Travel day. Ship travel is slow- less than 10 nautical
miles per hour. Watched a couple dumb movies (Shallow Hal,
Mr. Deeds- where does Hollywood come up with this stuff?),
made a few ArcView maps plotting all the surveys we did
at French Frigate, ran 3 miles on the treadmill, and then
my favorite- sat on the bridge wing looking out over the
water and up at the moon and stars.
15. Inky smudges of clouds caravan across the eastern horizon.
Jonathan designates them "Cumulus, with moderate to
greater vertical extent." I can see the sunrise only
through pukas in the clouds, windows of color that change
from glowing light blue to a rosy gold. We're steaming for
Laysan Island and
should reach it by midmorning.