Category Archives: March 2020

Upolu

I call this spot Fran Point since that’s the name on the cross in this photo. Here, a rainbow arches over the coast and the surf rolling in.
An endangered Hawaiian monk seal rests in a tide pool along the rocky shoreline.
A monarch butterfly on a tasselflower.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Favorite Place.’ See more offerings here.

I could think of several places on the Big Island that would fall into the category of favorite place. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Palila Forest Discovery Trail, the ocean – all these are places I return to. But the coast at Upolu is where I go for exercise and to enjoy the ever-changing scene there.

This stretch of coast features scenic high cliffs interspersed with lower areas where tide pools nestle among the rocks. Often, there’s a great view of Maui across the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel. In those waters I look for humpback whales, turtles, monk seals, and once, even a passing shark. Up in the air I might see anything from plovers to noddys to great frigatebirds. On land, there’s an assortment of birds, bugs and butterflies to be seen, as well as horses, cattle, and the occasional wild pig.

Sometimes, it’s hot and dry, but usually there’s a decent breeze, occasionally strong enough to make me lean into it while blown dirt sandblasts my legs. Sometimes, I get caught in the rain, but when I do, I’m usually dry again by the time I get back to my truck.

I’ve lived here seven years now and I never tire of going down there and looping around the fenced airstrip, wondering what I’ll see.

A bristle-thighed curlew strides along the edge of the airstrip at Upolu.
A humpback whale cruises no more than 50 feet offshore. This was one of a pair that I saw just this past week. I suspect they were a male and female, with the male interested in mating before heading north to Alaska. Not only was this as close as I’ve seen whales, but it was the first time, from land, that I’ve heard a whale do anything other than blowing. In this case, the pursuing whale made a deep, two-toned mooing sound as it went by.

Arc-eye hawkfish and bleached coral

This is a typical pose for an arc-eye hawkfish, keeping very still as it nestles in a head of cauliflower coral. But the coral is not well. This patch is mostly bleached. The causes of coral bleaching include warmer than normal water temperatures, pollution, and sunscreens containing coral-killing ingredients.

Because of this third factor, Hawaii has passed a bill which will ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. This law goes into effect January 1, 2021. While this will help, it won’t do anything to keep harmful chemicals out of water runoff, and it won’t do anything to prevent the warming of the Pacific Ocean.

Last fall, we had a coral bleaching event here because of warmer ocean temperatures. It wasn’t as bad as feared, but still did damage to corals that were just recovering from previous bleaching events. There are one or two snorkeling sites here that I don’t visit anymore because the state of the coral is just too depressing. I’d like to think that this degradation can be reversed but, honestly, I’m not optimistic about that.

Halo around the sun

I was about to set out on one of my regular walks at Upolu, when I looked up and saw this halo around the sun. It’s the first I’ve seen here (which doesn’t mean there haven’t been others).

In days of yore, halos were considered a sign of impending bad weather. In this case, there’s some evidence to back that up. The ice crystals that cause halos are found in clouds, high in the troposphere, and these clouds are often a sign of an approaching weather front. Sure enough, the next day was fairly wet though, ironically, not in the area where I saw the halo.

SSV Makani Olu

I was on my way to work one morning when I noticed the sailboat in the top image. The array of white sails caught the early morning sun and stood out against the deep blue water. I pulled over, took this photo and headed on in to work.

I saw later that the boat had anchored in Kawaihae harbor, so on my way home I stopped by to check it out. The SSV Makani Olu is a three-masted staysail schooner (SSV stands for Sailing School Vessel), and is used as a training vessel for various programs run by Marimed Foundation. The boat is based at Kaneohe Bay, on the east coast of Oahu.

In the photo to the right, the boat appears to be four-masted, but that’s just because the mast of the boat behind it lined up perfectly.

For more information about SSV Makani Olu and Marimed Foundation, go to marimed.org.