October 6th : Tows and Fish Hunts
Written By Dan Suthers October 6-7, 2004
Today again I went out with the towboarders in the afternoon. They were doing a long tow on the fore-reef (outside) of the north side of the atoll, followed by specimen gathering for David and Susan. This gave me an opportunity to observe the deeper towboarding (gathering more information for my article on towboarding), as well as to see the north side of the atoll and get a little exercise snorkeling.
We approached the outer reef (pictured), barely visible as a low line of breakers and occasional rocks, and Brian and Casey prepared for the dive. During the 50 minute tow, I learned about how Joe and Molly got into this line of work. I'll write more about this in a future article, but both started with NOAA via a marine debris salvage job in the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.
When Brian emerged from the tow, we had to laugh: his wet suit pants were full of water, inflated into bell bottoms. Towboarders jokingly refer to themselves as shark-bait, but no sharks were seen today; unusual for a fore-reef tow.
After the two, our fish specialists Brian and Joe were determined to get better fish specimens. We motored around the atoll, occasionally stopping for Brian to put his mask in the water and observe the area below. Eventually we stopped at a southern area about 30 feet deep with some varied coral habitat on the bottom. They were too deep for me to dive for close photographs, but visibility in the blue water was adequate to catch them in action from above. Like yesterday, they cruised slowly along the surface of the reef, occasionally chasing a fish swimming, but more often poking a stick into crevices and caves to scare fish out into their waiting nets. A special container is used to transport the fish (slowly) to the surface.
I enjoyed swimming about for nearly an hour as they worked below. Brian and Joe were down the entire time, while Casey and Molly took turns diving and watching the boat. Something pink floated by; I have not identified it, but after my "hot lips" experience decided it was not to be touched. Near the end of the dive, several shark and a Hawaiian Grouper showed up, but did not cause any problems. Shark, of course, can be worrysome, and ulua can be real pests, but groupers are more like big curious puppies. Last night Elizabeth showed me a video she made at Midway of a large grouper spending considerable time investigating Kyle's flipper as he worked on a mooring installation.
Tonight, a treat: Pizza for dinner! Then on the deck, HI-2's engine is being serviced by Angelo Grant, and Mike Crumley was working on the radio.
I want to go out with the REA team tomorrow to take a closer look at their work. At the planning meeting I learned that this means I will have to get up at 0700, so I make myself stop writing at 0100.