Archive for the 'Hawaii' Category

Diving – the wreck of the Sea Tiger

July 02nd, 2007 | Category: Hawaii,scuba,Travel

Wrecks are usually great dives because they attract so much life. Also, the creepy vision of a wreck materializing during the descent is a unique experience. I think that people are fascinated with shipwrecks because they represent death and the afterlife. A sunken ship is a dead soul, and visiting it evokes a trip across the Styx. Things sunken and vanished have been lost to this world, but with some equipment and training, you can imitate hercules and make a round-trip voyage to the underworld. Along the way you will see things as strange as could exist on any alien planet.

The surface:

The descent:

At 30 feet, the wreck begins to appear:

At the mid-deck, perhaps 70 feet in depth:

Finally, from near the sea bed at 100 feet, the ship’s silhouette, ghostly in the light from which all reds and greens have been stripped:

Schools of fish weave in and out of the structure.

Where does the coral end and the fish begin? This is a Hawaiian Freckled Frogfish.

A spotted boxfish. I see these on every dive, but they are hard to photograph (as are most fish) because they don’t like to be approached.

I’m not sure what this thing is – maybe a sea slipper?. It looks like a lobster tail with legs. It is very well camoflaged, and the only reason I noticed it was because it moved.

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Makapu’u Head

July 02nd, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

Today I took a drive from Waikiki east past Hanauma bay, past Koko crater and up to the eastern-most part of the island where the endless trade winds make landfall. This area is called Makapu’u and there is a park, containing a small mountain area with old military fortifications and a lighthouse. From the top, you get a great view of the ocean between Oahu and the next few islands (Moloka’i, Lana’i and Maui). I was able to see the islands but they were difficult to distinguish from clouds.

The real treat was the way the sun played on the water, causing it to alternate between deep blue and brilliant aqua as the clouds raced overhead in the astonishing wind. Climbing down the side of the hill overlooking the lighthouse, I had trouble remaining on my feet.

This is supposed to be a good place to watch for whales in the winter, but in the summer there are none. I did see some Laysian albatrosses, and plenty of the ubiquitous zebra doves, foraging by digging scrapes in the ground:

On the way to Makapu’u, there are a number of lookouts and beaches that are beautiful and also great places to take pictures of birds. The highway views reminded me of route 1 in california, but in a more volcanic way. I saw the appropriately named common red-crested cardinal and common mynah (where don’t you see them in Hawaii?).

From the hill overlooking the lighthouse, there is a really good view to the west, towards Waimanalo, Kailua, and Kaneohe. There are two small islands immediately offshore, the larger named rabbit island and the smaller kaohi-ka-ipu. I liked the way the setting sun played on them.

There is also a set of blowholes called the Dragon’s nostrils in this park, but they weren’t blowing this day. I think you could spend many days in this park, which is a great place to explore, photograph birds, and get some exercise. It is much less traveled than the other points you’ll see on the way here from Waikiki, and more rewarding.

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Diving – the pipeline site

July 01st, 2007 | Category: Hawaii,scuba,Travel

I haven’t been in the water in about a year, and want to start out with an easy, forgiving dive. I chose the pipeline site off of Honolulu, and limited myself to less than 60 feet. The reef environment around Oahu seems heavily damaged; it bears the scars of living so close to so many people. It is still beautiful, but can be a bit depressing. The coral around Hawaii is of a different type than Caribbean corals, and isn’t as fancy-looking even when healthy. I did OK on this “checkout dive” but wasn’t that thrilled with the dive operator, who probably had to put down his bong to answer the phone. A lot of the dive operations in Honolulu have a cattle-herding mentality and are not very professional or even safe.

There was a strong surge on this dive, so there was a lot of sand in the water.


There are more images here.

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How i wound up in Hawaii for a month

June 30th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

One of my tasks at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is to support field operations for oceanographic research. It is one of my favorite assignments, because I get to travel all over the world and get plenty of free time in between or after my duties are complete. These assignments typically occur once or twice a year, and are part of giant undertakings involving millions of dollars and hundreds of people working for years to conduct a field test that may take several weeks.

This year, my base of operations is in Hawaii. My official duties are interspersed with days of “rest” which means that I get to do whatever I want when I’m not working. I also have used personal vacation time tacked on to the end of this trip to get the most out of my employer-sponsored travel. By the time this is over, I will have been gone for 32 days.

The trip was preceeded by frantic preparations. When you’re going to be gone for a month, there are a lot of things to take care of. It is almost like quitting a job and taking a new one, as miscellaneous assignments have to be brought to a close in order to make time for the massive field trip. Of course, all of the equipment that will be used in the field must be prepared, plans made, and communications with multiple institutions cemented. Add to this the personal arrangements that need to be made when you’ll be gone for a month, and things get complicated. Of course, the reward is to spend a month in Hawaii, doing interesting work and traveling.

My work consists of conducting oceanographic surveys from US navy P-3 aircraft. The surveys characterize the environment under the water, reporting temperature at various depths and other factors critical to understanding the way that sound travels through the marine environment. In order to collect this data, the aircraft flies over large areas of ocean, dropping grids of probes which report conditions to the airplane by radio. This is often done in concert with other research vessels, such as surface ships.

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Arriving on Oahu

June 29th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

Hawaii is useful to a country that wishes to project its military power over the globe. For this reason, the Hawaiian islands are full of military bases, particularly Oahu. Oahu contains Pearl Harbor, although I didn’t work there – I need to work from the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay, which is home to a detachment of the US Navy’s P-3 aircraft.

K-bay P-3 flight line

The town of Kaneohe is backed by the staggeringly beautiful Ko’olau range, which is a knife-sharp ridge of volcanic origin (as is everything in Hawaii).

I am lodged in Honolulu, right on Waikiki beach. I got a pretty nice place in the Hilton Prince Kuhio, on the 29th floor. Waikiki is beautiful, but very crowded.  The Waikiki area has lots of options for eating and other services that visitors need. There are other beaches to choose from, although they are less convenient. The state of Hawaii has done a good job of containing tourism and development. On each island, there are zones that are developed, and zones that are less so or not at all. On many islands, the roads are intentionally inefficient in order to discourage crowds.  Waikiki is the main area of oahu that was set aside for tourists and their trappings.

waikiki hotel view

Oahu is not the largest of the islands but it’s still pretty big. It takes about 1.5 or 2 hours to drive across it. I’ve been here before, doing exactly the same kind of work, and that helps me in understanding the place.

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Kaua’i – my first destination

June 28th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

My first responsibility was to install some equipment at the Koke’e Air Force radar station on the island of Kau’ai. The station is at the north-west corner of the island, within Koke’e state park. I love being outside and so this assignment is right up my alley. If I was going to Kaua’i on my own dime, this is exactly the place I would go first – Right in the region of the Waimea canyon and Koke’e park. Not only have I ended up there, I was my job to go! I didn’t have much time there, but did have a free day and an afternoon, and will return with Holly in only a few weeks.

Work put me up in the Hyatt regency Kaua’i in Poi’pu, which is no shabby place. Here’s the view from the front porch:

View from the Po'ipu Hyatt

Sometimes when things get planned at the last minute, they have to put me in a nicer place than usual because that is the only thing available at such short notice. Hey – someone had to do it… I won’t complain. The Hyatt is an up-scale hotel with marble bathrooms and multiple services. They have a beautiful courtyard/atrium complete with large parrots.

Bird at the Po'ipu Hyatt

After my work was done, I spent the reminder of the day hiking on the Pihea trail. This trail starts at the Pu’u O Kila overlook and continues along a ridge overlooking the Kalalau valley on the Na Pali coast. Here is the seaward view:

Pihea trail, overlooking the Kalalau valley

Looking the other direction, towards the interior, you see the Alaka’i swamp and mount Wai’ale’ale:

Alaka'i swamp

I had a magical experience on this trail. An Erckel’s francolin made a very close approach, and gave me a good performance of its vocalizations, which are soft clucks, chirps, squabbles and squeals.

Japanese quail

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Preparing to leave for Hawaii

June 20th, 2007 | Category: Hawaii

Well, it’s only 5 days away, and the trip isn’t completely planned yet! I am in my typical pre-trip frenzy of preparation. I have too damned many hobbies that require equipment.


The big island, Oahu and Kaui are my destinations.

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