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Day 6 - Gardner Pinnacles
by Keeley Belva
Don’t forget—if you’re in Honolulu, you
can learn more about the Monument at the Outrigger Waikiki
Beach hotel when NWHI researchers “talk story” Saturdays
in July from 9-11am.
here to see where the Hi'ialakai is now.
here to see current data from the ship.
Swimming with sharks, in my mind, is up there with jumping
out of planes—something you don’t do if you can
avoid it. Yet there I was in the water taking photographs
of researchers who do this regularly—although I will
be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the water for
long! The researchers that were bonding with the sharks
are actually conducting a study on apex predators, such as
sharks, jacks, and grey snappers, to monitor the movements
of these animals. By placing tracking tags on these
animals, we can better understand habitat range and behavioral
patterns that may be important for their protection.
Galapagos sharks at Gardner Pinnacles. Credit: Luiz
We spent yesterday at Gardner Pinnacles, our second stop
on the 25-day cruise to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument. The pinnacles consist of two large rocks
that are above the surface. These rocky structures
make a great resting place for basking Hawaiian monk seals
and various sea birds, an obvious fact even if you didn’t
see the `iwa or great frigate birds circling above you—for
the smell of guano is present even from the ship.
Gardner Pinnacles. Credit: Ziggy Livnat.
The research teams spent most of the day in close proximity
to each other as the currents were strong everywhere else. The
logistics of getting the three small boats off the moving
ship and to the research sites still amazes me. Every
morning we load the boats with our gear for the day wearing
hard hats and life vests, then get dropped into the water
on a crane, and at the end of the day we unload everything
the same way.
There was an exciting moment a few nights ago when the photographs
that were taken on the deep-water time-lapse camera were
recovered. This camera can reach depths of two and
a half miles—giving us an opportunity to explore a
habitat that is rarely accessible. These photos showed
a hagfish, a species never before photographed in Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands that was feeding on the bait.
The time-lapse camera was lowered to
2300 meters, on the south side of Nihoa and was recovered
after 24 hours. Credit: Keeley Belva.
time lapse camera is looking straight down on the
bottom of the ocean at 2300m and the bait is a single
skipjack tuna. The bars are marked at 10cm
(~4 in) intervals for scale. One of the first
fish to be photographed at the bait is a rattail, Coryphaenoides
longicirrhus. Members of this family are
often among the dominant fishes and top predators
in the deep sea. Credit: John
After about 6 hours hagfish dominate the
scene, oozing slime over the bait that deters other
scavengers from eating it. Hagfish are found
around the world but the species here, Eptatretus
carlhubbsi, is the largest in the world, reaching
a length of 1.16 meters. This species has been
found only in Hawaii, Guam and Wake Island. It
is rarely captured and has only been filmed twice
before by the HURL submersibles. Credit: John Yeh.
Today we are transiting again, on our way to Lisianski Island
for four days of research there. These transit days
are good times for everyone to prepare for the next few busy
days and have a little bit of down time.
forget—if you’re in Honolulu, you can learn more
about the Monument at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach hotel when
NWHI researchers “talk story” Saturdays in July
here for maps of the region