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Ship Logs

Updates from the Townsend Cromwell (9/16/02)
Posted by Stephani Holzwarth
Photography by Jim Watt

Yesterday we dove at Laysan, which is a 2 mile long island covered with birds and monk seals. When our ship dropped anchor a sky full of birds swirled above us- frigate birds (iwa iwa), boobies, noddies, terns, shearwaters, and petrels all peered down at us, this large white ship that suddenly arrived in their backyard. We deployed an SST buoy in a patch of sand surrounded by Laysan Monk seal.shallow reef right off the island. We motored quietly past monk seals sleeping on the beach, looking like big soft bean bags. "It looks like devastation has hit, and they're all dead!" Brian commented, and it is true- the seals are so relaxed and sacked out that their heads loll sideways and they lay there with one flipper across their heart in a tragic pose. Then, as you're watching one from a distance, it will move its flipper fingers scratching, or raise its head to glance around. Brian and Bill were followed by a curious seal during a tow along the south side, but otherwise we didn't see much to write home about. The west side was reef pavement covered with scruffy turf algae and the occassional Pocilloporid coral head occupied by a dozen fantailed filefish (Pervagor spilosoma). The east side was mostly sand. Today we dove on Neva Shoals near Lisianski, after steaming northwest another 140 miles during the night. And that was different story.

Beautiful! I had my doubts while driving across the shoals to reach the east rim. It was a rough ride. Our 15 foot boat took a lot of water over the bow as we bucked into the swell and wind chop, clamboring over waves steeping up on shallow spots. Once we were underwater I remembered why Neva Shoals is one of my favorite places to dive. Rusty and I towed over
miles of coral covered magic land- castles and spires, huge mounds, rivers of white sand between mountains, islands of coral in the wide channels, even a mermaid cave which I intend to occupy as soon as I get my tail and my gills back. ;o) Big and little fish were aplenty. Grand Spectacled parrotfish cruised around, all smooth pink and blue like an elaborate easter egg. I flew past Potters angels, teardrop butterflies, and a grass green wrasse that was new to me (Brian says it is probably a juvenile Thalassoma Galapagos Shark at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.ballieui.). We saw our first Galapagos sharks of the trip, with a total of 10 between the 2 tows teams. They were young ones, between 3 and 6 feet long, and not any granddaddies which can reach 11, 12 feet. Sharks are so cool! I love being in the water with them, watching them swim gracefully around us, curious but polite (unlike the ulua that gave my trailing line a good yank). It is true my pockets are not full of speared fish, so there is that other side of sharks I have not encountered, which is fine with me.

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Stephani Holzwarth
Stephani Holzwarth

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