Written By Carlos
Underwater Photography by Jim
September 30, 2002
sun is unbroken and the seas are without wind. Clouds, the
color of anchor chain, lay compressed, almost obscuring
the horizon, the scene is other-worldly, and is punctuated
by contrail quotation marks, high and bright, as two airplanes
streak for the still hidden sun. Save for the slightest
of breezes coming from an indistinct source the seas would
be glassed out. Amazing! Beneath the slick surface, like
a great slumbering beast, a ground swell rolls restlessly
out of the north east. The sky above is as open as a child's
eye and just as clear.
The moving dawn turns, the golden orb setting wild fire
to all things it touches. In this single moment the gentleness
of the Great Mother Earth is revealed, her feminine side
laid bare, she embraces us all; the good and the evil, the
ones who do her great harm, and the ones who touch her with
loving hands. Sister sun breaks the horizon and kisses my
face with her warmth, and tears roll uncontrollably from
my eyes, washing my cheeks. Her light touches my heart and
I am enormously grateful for being alive this fine morning.
We have traveled all night and finally arrive at the island
of Lisianski at 10am. We elected to forego this island on
the way up and are now catching it on the return. She lies
south of Pearl and Hermes Reef and a hundred and fifteen
miles west of Laysan Island. Although it is the third largest
Northwestern Hawaiian Island, it is less than half the size
of Laysan. Flat like Laysan with alabaster beaches dotted
with monk seal and thousands of birds, about three quarters
of all Bonin Petrels nesting in Hawaii live here. It is
surrounded by Neva Shoal that extends southeast for 106
square miles. The name of the island comes not from another
shipwrecked boat but from the first recorded visitor, a
Captain Iurri Fedorovich Lisianskii who in tandem with Captain
Krusenstern of the ship Nadeshda were the first Russians
to circumnavigate the globe.
Documentation team is back on schedule, the last ones to
get a boat and thus the last to get into the water. Keoki
once again is at the helm with Mike, Brian and Watt. With
these windless, slick seas we have high hopes of exploring
these waters that are rarely visited. Looking over the side
of the Rapture, before departing I comment on the green
hue of the water, Watt optimistically allays my suspicions
with, "just nutrients, lots of life here." Soon
we are off, Keoki takes us to the northeast corner, "clear
water there," he says. The glassy water is shallow
and allows us to look into it as we skim across its slick
skin. The green and blue coral relief races below, blending
into one another like some mad dreamscape. I watch the show
fly by, trying to see beyond the blur of color and relief,
but soon it is the motion of the colors that mesmerize and
hold me to that which I can not otherwise see. The shallows
break away into deeper water, as we soar directly out to
a deeper sea, searching for the cerulean water that indicates
clarity and depth. We are several miles off the island when
finally we halt and Keoki puts his head under to take a
look. He likes the look of the reef, but there are no fish
in evidence. We bounce around checking reef after reef but
strangely cannot find any fish populations. Have we become
jaded with abundance? It's more than a possibility. In the
heat of mid-day we are basting in our own juices, and when
Keoki likes the looks of a reef that still has no apparent
fish, we nonetheless drop the hook.
seascape is as strange as any I have ever seen. There are
peaks and valleys of exquisite coral mounds that appear
right out of JRR Tolkien. Very much like an ancient village
of Hobbits once lived there. There are multi-leveled coral
castles and studded farm houses, with coral pigs and sheep
and dogs and cats. There are tiny ornate coral houses with
peaked roofs, there is a village of coral shops and a coral
bowling alley, a coral theater with a rerun of Lord of the
Rings playing in coralvision, there is a tiny coral airport
with coral airplanes circling, waiting for permission to
land. There are coral sheds, statues and murals, grazing
lands of sea weed, for coral cows, but there are no fish.
At least not very many fish, not many at all. A single ulua
follows us around the entire dive, probably believing that
we might lead it to some other life form that swims. I do
not take a single photograph; we all cut the dive short
without ever communicating our desire to return to the boat,
we have all gone our separate buddy ways and converged on
the anchor line at the same time.
who always has high expectations and is rarely disappointed,
is disappointed. Mike May is his usual even-keeled cheery
self, and Brian who would just as soon ride a Galapagos
shark on every dive joins Watt in commiseration. It is decided
that we should have lunch and begin again; Watt is determined
to find fish. We eat lunch and return to the search. We
search high and low, close to shore and way off shore, we
circumnavigate the island and all we have to show for it
is a hundred million flies that have taken refuge in our
zode. By three o'clock I have to return to the boat so that
I might tell the story of our day, such as it is. The boys
will go on without me; there is talk of running straight
out to sea to look for pilot whales but then the shoal extends
so far out to sea, forty miles, Keoki says, that there is
little chance of anything being found. As it turns out some
other Team needs the boat and so the day is over for us
all. We come on board the Rapture, bringing sad tales and
the flies with us.
As bleak as I paint this picture, it is from the point of
view of the Doc Team that is always seeking the spectacular.
Not everything in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands can
be spectacular. I would imagine that the coral guys are
gleefully going nuts and the seaweed guys are seeing things
they may never have seen before; they have yet to come in,
so stay tuned. The adrenal popping Doc guys have long been
over due in their daily rush of heart-stopping thrills.
Time to take a back seat to the scientists, time to chill
out, we still have a week to go.
Talk About It!
Mahalo for the journals!
Asked by Mark on Oct 2, 2002.
Carlos and all, I have especially enjoyed your postings and musings on this trip. Photos are fantastic. Your writing brings it all back home to me. Mahalo for sharing this with the world. Be Safe!
Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Oct 3, 2002.