September 22nd: Maro Reef, Day 2
Written By Dan Suthers September 22-23, 2004
Today was another ship-bound day for your writer. In the morning I awoke to the smell of bacon and nothing but blue seas in sight. I missed breakfast, so eat fruit before starting to prepare to upload the 9/19 and 9/20 journals. On deck, our little plover friend is standing outside the dry lab door.
Midmorning there is an announcement on the intercom: "The shipyard will be in Portland Oregon." Later I learned that this is for drydock repairs and improvements that may last several weeks. The Hi`ialakai will still be based in Honolulu.
Last night I learned some image processing tricks from David and Scott and improved my previous underwater images, so there are more files than usual to transfer. We are having trouble with the INMARSAT connection. Mike Crumley, Electronics Technician, cannot get me a connection until after lunch, and we lose it once during the file transfer. It takes 20 minutes (about $136) to complete the upload.
Mid-afternoon out my portside drylab porthole it is a beautiful day, but one of our boats to starboard reports they are in a squall with 30+ knot winds and stinging rain. The photographers are spending all day working on the sand anemone, a specimen worthy of this investment if I ever saw one.
At about 1730 the last boat comes in, bearing new specimens. I go into the drylab, and Joe Laughlin is burping a frogfish. I am not making this up. The bizarre looking critter had swallowed some air during capture, and he is trying to get the air out of the stomach by massaging it like a baby. Frogfishes (genus Antennarius) are sedentary predators that sit at the bottom quietly while dangling a "lure" over their mouth. They can expand greatly to suck prey inside, too quickly for the eye to see. They can also eject water under pressure as a form of locomotion .
After dinner at the chief scientists' meeting, Kyle Hogrefe of the Mooring team is talking to Jean Kenyon of the Coral team about what data is available on sea surface temperatures. Several divers have remarked that there seems to be some coral bleaching going on. Jean agrees. Later in the evening Jean and Casey Wilkinson from the Towboard team are looking at benthic habitat images, and commenting on the coral bleaching they are both seeing. Jean notes that the bleaching is primarily in one species: Montipora patula (a rice coral with varying color). This coral grows from the intertidal zone to 15 meters. They grow as encrusting forms, often around or over other species. 
At 1850 Scott brought the TOAD near the bottom for the first transect. It is still light outside, so we can see further than usual: nothing but sand. Scott complains that this transect will be boring, but just then a sleek shape swims by, then another, and another. Soon about half a dozen sharks are encircling the camera. (Click image for movie.)
I go up top for sunset, and find the plover on the front deck. Higher up, a new passenger has joined us. This seabird (I could not identify it in the low light conditions) has managed to defy the bird-deterrent wires that crew have put on the jack mast. I watched while it preened itself, then tucked its head way for what must be a long sought nap.
In the evening there is the usual activity in the lab. David and Susan have completed work with the sand anenome, and are now working on the box fish and a collection of lovely cup corals (Tuastrae) found in caves and overhangs. These corals rely on filter feeding of planktons rather than on the photosynthesis of zooxanthellae for their food [1,3].
Late in the evening, I'm feeling quite tired and ready for bed when Greta Aeby, our coral disease specialist, taps me on the back. She is also looking exhausted from a long day's work, but what she tells me keeps us up for another hour or more. They have been observing a significant increase in coral bleaching this year at Maro Reef and plan to send a notice out to the "coral list," an email list of specialists. We agree to post some images on this web site so that coral specialists can access them, along with an explanation for the layperson. The feature on coral bleaching is here. Greta and I spend some time selecting images and discussing what she is seeing in the field. I stay up late reading about bleaching and doing my evening backups.
 Gulko (1998)
 Hoover (1993)
 Hoover (1998)