Category Archives: September 2018

Island hopping

Mokulele plane landing at Kona

Honolulu AirportIn Hawaii, it’s not unusual for people to commute between islands. Many medical professionals are based in Honolulu, but have offices on the Big Island which they visit on a weekly basis. The same can be said for other professionals: lawyers, scientists, engineers and the like. Politicians and government officials go back and forth on a regular basis.

But it’s not just professionals. Skilled tradespeople might work on any of the islands, commuting on a daily or weekly basis. Highway construction crews likewise move from island to island depending on where and what projects are being worked on. Musicians and other artists are regular island hoppers. The list goes on.

There’s one mode of transport for all these people and that’s air travel. There are no inter-island ferries. The Hawaii Superferry operated from 2007 to 2009 but was suspended when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a second environmental impact statement was required. One concern with a ferry is the increased risk of spreading invasive species and diseases of plants and animals.

Hawaiian Airlines is the biggest operator in the islands, with the lion’s share of the inter-island business. It operates from its hub in Honolulu, but also offers direct flights between the other islands. The photo to the left shows the distinctive tails of a couple of its planes at Honolulu Airport.

Smaller airlines have also offered inter-island routes. These include Aloha Airlines, Go! Airlines and Island Air. These three ceased business in 2008, 2014, and 2017 respectively. Currently, the only other island airline is Mokulele Airlines, though it doesn’t fly to Kauai. They service some smaller airports and operate smaller planes such as the one above, coming in to land at Kona Airport.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge is on the theme of ‘Transportation or Commute.’ (More responses here.)

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

For whatever reason, I don’t see a lot of mushrooms around where I live. But when I was out for a walk, I found this group had popped up. I didn’t know what kind they were so didn’t take them home for the kitchen, not wanting to experiment on myself. They were gone within a couple of days, either naturally, or taken by someone who could identify them. At least I hope they knew what they were doing.

Mushrooms from above

South Point surge

South Point surge

There’s a lot of current and swell at South Point, the southernmost tip of both the Big Island and the United States. Not far from the spot where people jump off the cliff into the ocean (not all of them make it back alive!), there’s a hole in the cliff where water surges in and out. This spot also has an opening above and is a great place to watch this wave action. I particularly like the pink rocks and the frothy white water as the waves recede.

Bluespine unicornfish being cleaned

Bluespine Unicornfish and cleaner wrasse

Bluespine Unicornfish being cleanedThe bluespine unicornfish must be a contender for any ‘Grumpiest Looking Fish’ awards. This one though was enjoying the attention of a small yellow and blue Hawaiian cleaner wrasse.

Cleaner wrasses establish territories where other fish come to be cleaned, removing mucus, dead tissue, and parasites from their customers. This service is obviously valued by other fish. They will line up to be cleaned, waiting their turn. Often times, their expressions are quite blissful during the process. But most significant, cleaner wrasse perform their services on bigger fish, including predators, without becoming prey.

Signs: No Lay Net

Signs-No Lay Net

Lay nets are also known as gill nets. They can be hundreds of feet long and many feet deep with floats on the top edge and weights on the bottom. The problem with them is that, rather than targeting specific food fish, they can catch anything swimming by including turtles and monk seals. Because of this, they’re banned in certain areas, though not everywhere in Hawaii.

To me, this photo represents how the ban works. This section of the Kona coast is one of those areas where lay nets are banned. Someone has gone so far as to erect a sign in the lava near the coast. But that’s about it. In due course, the sign will fall down. It probably won’t be replaced. In the meantime, enforcement of the ban is spotty at best. Even when a violation is called in, chances are no one will be out to check on the situation until long after the net has been hauled and the netters gone home.

Return of the Pacific golden plover

Pacific golden plover feeding

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Autumn,’ (more responses here) which poses a bit of a challenge. In Hawaii, we don’t have leaves turning color or a certain crispness in the air. But what we do have at this time of year is migratory birds coming to the islands.

One of the more impressive of these travelers is the Pacific golden plover. These birds spend the summer, their breeding season, in the Arctic tundra from western Alaska to northern Asia. At the end of the season they make an epic migration south to places as far away as Australia, Southeast Asia, and northeast Africa.

Hawaii is a stopover on their way to Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific islands, but some of the birds spend their winters in Hawaii. This is a non-stop journey of more than 2,500 miles and takes the birds three to four days. How they do this is not fully understood. There are no landmarks or stopping points en route and no room for errors in navigation. But year after year, Pacific golden plovers return precisely to the same sites. Not only that, but new born plovers are able to make the journey independently despite never having flown the route before.

Then there’s the small matter of how this little bird fuels itself for such a long flight. There’s a fine balance between the amount of fuel it must carry and the need to fly fast. But even if it gets this right, the fact is an individual plover still wouldn’t be able to go that far. The secret lies in the birds flying in a V-formation which saves enough energy for the birds to make the whole distance with a little bit to spare to cover adverse conditions. It’s a remarkably precise balance which the birds manage successfully year after year.

This plover was foraging (successfully in the top photo) in tide pools along the Kona coast.

For more information about the Pacific golden plover’s migration to Hawaii, go to https://phys.org/news/2011-06-plovers-tracked-pacific.html.

Pacific golden plover