October 11th : Waters of Many Moods
Written By Dan Suthers October 11-12, 2004
Today was our third day at Lisianski. I had hoped to return to the Monipora garden for further photography, but we were 5 miles south of the island, too far away to fit with my other plans, and others also needed the launch. Instead I watched Stephani and Susan dive to reefs in darkening waters at depths I could not see while ulua mobbed both them and me.
After a long bumpy ride, we joined the REA team on HI-1 in murky water that had only a few meter's visibility. Although no reef could be seen, our fish specimens had to be released on the reef, so Stephani took the specimen bucket and dove down into the inscrutable depths. I was impressed with her "leap of faith" and breath holding ability. After several attempts she was able to release the fish on the reef at about 35 feet. This procedure is necessary in order to prevent the specimens from being snapped up by predators on the way down.
There was no point in snorkeling there, so I waited until the REA team surfaced and conducted some opportunistic interviewing with Peter and Randy.
During our transits between these sites I was again struck by how little warning this area would have offered to sailing ships. Imagine sailing in the deep blue sea (the Pacific is many miles deep not too far away from here), and then seeing the waters get lighter with a tiny island barely visible in the distance. How would one know where the shoals are, or how to get around this hazard? I was also appreciative of GPS technology as we motored around the Pacific Ocean in a little inflatable with one engine beyond the sight of any vessel or landmark.
Yesterday's calm seas are gone. The seas came up in the afternoon, and there were rumors of an approaching storm, but it did not materialize this evening.
At dinner I learned that the sailboat has been identified: it is a fishing boat, one of 9 that are active in the area with a permit, and a NOAA fisheries observer is on board. Our worries about possible illegal activity are unfounded. The Hi`ialakai command sent our rescue boat with some ice cream to them in exchange for some of the fish they had caught.
At midnight, I went on deck to look at the stars in the sky and was even more fascinated by small dancing lights in the water: bioluminescence! Some zooplankton give off light when disturbed. As my eyes adjusted, I first noticed it in the wake coming off the bow: the foam was sparking as if made of angel dust. Then, looking forward I saw flashes in the water approaching us, perhaps triggered by small breaking waves or the movement unseen creatures. This brought back memories of many years ago when I worked as a photographer at a marine research station in Maine. I used to jump in the water at night and spin around to experience immersion in the light of that living fluid. But it's not an option here: it would be certain death!