Sunday, August 29, 2010


This week was another usual week. We found a lot of little turtle hatchlings wandering around the island and had to release them on the beach. We checked and counted some eggs and chicks. We cleaned the barracks on Thursday, like every Thursday (not quite as fun as the other things). And we topped it off with a nice Sunday snorkel today. You get a really short narrative today, but a good number of pics.

6 turtle hatchlings are patiently waiting in the bucket for sunset so they can get on with their lives.
This was a nice turtle release party in the rain. We had somewhere around 45 of them to let go this time.

Here's a row of masked boobies on the log on East Island.

A turtle caused some problems with these Bulwer's petrel nest boxes. The turtle buried the entrances. These 3 chicks were still alive, so it couldn't have been too long. We uncovered the entrances and I hope the parents come back to check on them.

There used to be two sand islands right near here, Whale and Skate Islands, which merged into one big island called Whale-Skate Island and then it washed away, never to be seen again. This area is surrounded by shallow reef in every direction so it's almost always calm. We call this snorkeling spot Serendipity. Pretty nice, huh?

We still have to pick up trash there though. Here's Sarah pulling out a rope with buoys that was stuck on some coral.

All of these pictures were from there today. This monk seal was probably wondering what we were doing in its spot.

It swam around us for a couple of minutes before it decided to move on. The fish are called Nenue in Hawaiian (chubs).

The yellow tangs always add some nice color to the pictures.

The bluefin trevallies follow us around pretty much every time we go snorkeling anywhere. They are waiting to see if we're going to scare out some dinner for them.

Just another jack.

I've been having trouble getting a picture of a sailfin tang. This one isn't too bad (and of course the yellow tang for some more color).

This is a pretty representative shot of how the coral looks over there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turtles and Seals

It was a busy week with 2 NOAA ships here. The Oscar Elton Sette came to pick up Shawn and Darren since the seal monitoring season is pretty much done. Mark stayed back and will monitor them for a couple more weeks. The Hi'ialakai was also here doing some reef surveys and various underwater things. Pablo also hitched a ride with the Hi'ialakai so it's just Sarah, Phillip, and Keith for my volunteers now. Tiphanie and Carlos are still working with the sharks.

We've been doing the usual work around here- saving turtle hatchlings that don't crawl toward the water, pulling weeds, counting/banding birds, picking up marine debris, and that sort of thing.

I'm getting ready to take my vacation. Even though I enjoy it out here, after 10 months out here, it will be a nice break. I am really lucky for being able to live out here, but with living in my office and pretty much being able to only get 1000 yards away, I'd like to get back to the traffic, politics, high gas prices, the general rat race, etc. to recharge my batteries. I'm leaving in about a month and Ty will be out here for a while watching the place. I hope he doesn't get evacuated again. That was a bit of trouble, with the C-130 picking everyone up and him having to burn a couple of freezers full of rotten food and all.

I've got extra pictures this week, just because the newly weaned seal pups were playing on the beach right outside the barracks window. I couldn't decide which pics to use so I'm just putting up a bunch.

Pablo waving goodbye to Tern Island.

Keith, Phillip, and Sarah are digging up a turtle nest on East Island. We had to get a data logger (monitors nest conditions) that was put into the egg chamber when the turtle laid the eggs.

I found this turtle on the runway during my morning walk and set it on the beach. It was pretty lively and crawled right in.

This was the second turtle hatchling I found which was wandering in the weeds. It's amazing these tiny little twerps make it out there.

Here's a least tern that's visiting the island. There was another one, but it died over a week ago. We'll send it off for necropsy to find out what happened.
Here's the newly weaned pups by the barracks. They are only a couple months old. They don't play very long before they need a nap. I wish the sun was behind me for better lighting. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another Beautiful Week

I try not to title my blog entries "Another Beautiful Week" every time, even though it is, but it works when I don't feel creative enough to think of something better.
We're losing a few more people this coming week. The monk seal crew is about done with their seal monitoring this summer. Shawn and Darren are going to be leaving as well as Pablo. That will bring us down to 7 people. The bird work is slowing down a bit since the last of the albatrosses are now gone from the island and most of the summer nesting for the other species is dwindling too. The only birds that are early in their season are the wedge-tailed shearwaters and that will keep us busy when those 700 or so chicks need banding.
The wind is finally starting to drop a little bit. It's been 15-20 mph for most of the summer. It keeps it a little cooler, but the chicks in the bushes have a harder time staying in their nests and get blown out fairly frequently. If we can find the nest, we will put them back, but that's not as easy as it sounds. If they get put in the wrong nest, they'll get pushed out and if they stay on the ground, they'll die, but we try.

One of the last remaining Laysan Albatross chicks. This one had a pretty good hairdo (I know it's not really hair!) As of today, there aren't any left on the island.

Here's a white tern chick up on the roof of the barracks.

An adult white tern on the basketball hoop at the boathouse.

This is an elegant coris and a goatfish under some coral.

A bluestriped and a threadfin butterflyfish swam by during my last snorkel.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

World Heritage Site

I didn't tell you the news last weekend. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a mixed cultural and natural site due to the cultural significance to the native Hawaiians and to the amazing and unique natural aspects of the monument. If you want to read more about World Heritage Sites, here is the link It won't change what we do here but at least it is recognized as "having outstanding universal value" by the World Heritage Committee.
The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette stopped by again. It dropped off a few things for the seal crew and the shark crew and brought some food, mail, and supplies for the volunteers and me. Dasha (my wife and a wonderful volunteer) left on the Sette so she can get to work at her real job and use that Ph.D. that she got in Pharmacology. She'll be working in Washington D.C. so all of you from there, make sure to say "Hi" when you see her.
Earlier today we took a swim off the end of the island. This is Keith, Tiphanie, Mark, and Pablo jumping in.
Here was almost all of the Tern population (Carlos and Tiphanie were on Trig Island) on Friday. From L to R, Keith, Pete, Pablo, Dasha, Shawn, Sarah, Mark, Phillip, and Darren.
Sarah and Phillip are squaring away the marine debris that we picked up off of East Island on Saturday. The seal crew had to save a turtle last week from some of the wires that are all over the island from Coast Guard and Navy days. So it was a good time to go get a bunch of wire as well as a few nets and ropes that had washed up.

East Island looks really barren right now. The turtles have dug up most of the weeds. The seeds will sprout sometime soon though.

This seal is one that we call "Channel Sleeper" because he's always out sleeping in the channel behind Tern. Every now and then he comes over to see what we're doing while snorkeling. He is 21 years old, which is getting up there for monk seals, but he should have 5 or 6 good years left in him.

Here he is again, I just liked the silhouette.

Here's another random fish picture. This is an arc-eye hawkfish. They always sit in the coral like this. I just noticed that I didn't put up any birds pics this week. Don't worry, you'll get some more soon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Great week, as usual.

Guess what? It was another beautiful week here at French Frigate Shoals.

Things are going along as usual. We are mostly doing bird plot work, weeding, and taking care of little maintenance projects. We did get quite a bit of marine debris picked up this week. We collected one net that we found out on the reef and the volunteers spent an afternoon digging and cutting rope that was stuck in the sand on Tern Island. At least no curious seals will get stuck in those.

There are still a few albatross chicks left on the island, but not many. We've got quite a few other species of chicks still here. We just started banding the Christmas shearwater chicks this week. I'll get some more pics of the volunteers banding one of these days.

This is Keith snorkeling above a school of little fish.
This is one of the Laysan albatross chicks getting ready to leave.

Pablo is releasing a green sea turtle hatchling that couldn't find the beach.

Here's a few old turtles and one seal pup (on the left) on East beach.

The seals like to sleep in the turtle pits sometimes.

Just in case you forgot what the buildings look like here. This is our fuel shed, warehouse, and the barracks is way in the back.