October 10th: Personal Encounters with Predators
Written By Dan Suthers October 10, 2004
Although I was scheduled to go out in the Zodiac this afternoon, I did not make sufficient progress catching up on my writing duties last night, and had informed the bridge at 3am that I would be staying on the Hi`ialakai today. It was a calm day, the ship's motion being hardly noticeable.
At dinner, divers are commenting on the coral here ("Some of the best in the NWHI"). However, most talk was about the aggressive ulua encountered today, an interesting coincidence as I have been writing about predator-dominated ecosystems. One of these large predators attempted to lunch on Molly's toe as she was rinsing off her wet suit, feet dangling in the water, after a dive. It drew blood but the wound was minor. Greta had difficulty taking photographs when an ulua repeatedly swam in font of her. Brian had two encounters while trying to catch fish specimens for photography. He and Joe set up some expensive barricade nets, and was carefully teasing some small fish over the coral into the nets, when POW! POW! two ulua swam through the nets as if they weren't there and destroyed them. Later he had just spent 20 minutes with a hand net catching his specimen in a cave, but just as he brought the net out of the cave an ulua ripped the fish and net from the rim, ate the fish and spit out the net. Most of their fish gathering nets were destroyed, although they did manage to get a few specimens. Never mind the reef sharks: I will keep a close eye on the ulua when I am in the water tomorrow!
One specimen that was not eaten was a fish that the scientists did not recognize at first. It may be an unusual coloration of a Hawaiian Hogfish (Bodianus bilunulatus ).
In the evening we are treated to a layer of evenly distributed cumulus clouds in the distance. One can almost see the planar air boundary that is demarcated by the flat cloud bottoms parallel to the ocean, both receding far into the distance in all directions, with only the curvature of the Earth making them disappear. This gives one a feeling of being in a vast space, which on a human scale is obviously the case! Such a visual experience cannot be reproduced in small web page images. Later, the horizon took on the appearance of a wildfire on some unseen lands in the distance, with clouds of smoke arising towards us into the evening sky (below).
The sailboat in the distance is still sitting in the same spot on our radar, and has not identified itself (they are not required to do so). On the bridge tonight there is discussion of whether it is in our jurisdiction and what approach might be taken to investigating. People on a leisure cruise don't just sit in one place for days, so we wonder whether there is some activity that is being put on hold until we leave.
On the TOAD tonight, areas of unusually rich coral are seen, as well as an occasional shark.
 Hoover (1993)