Life on the Big Island of Hawaii
Humpback whales have returned to Hawaiian waters. They spend the summers in Alaska and then come down here to have their calves and to breed. This year, the first whales were spotted early – at the end of October. I saw a couple in early November, but then nothing for a month.
This, of course, doesn’t mean they weren’t around, just that I didn’t see any. But in the second half of December I started seeing more of them and more activity, and now I see one or two most days.
On this day, I saw five whales. Three were just blowing, but two cruised along the coast, in the same direction I was walking, and were quite active. In the photo above, one of the whales rises out of the water – not a full breach, but what might be called a head slap as it bangs back down. At left, the whale dives. When an adult whale dives it can stay underwater for 20 minutes or more.
Yesterday, in certain parts of the island, the wind was honking. 20 miles south, there was a fresh breeze, but up around Kawaihae it blew a steady 40 knots with many higher gusts. Walking into the wind I had to lean forward at the kind of jaunty angle that would have seen me fall on my face on a calm day.
In the late afternoon, I made my way to Kawaihae harbor to see the waves and get a free skin treatment in the form of sandblasting. The very sheltered harbor was roiled with whitecaps from the whipping offshore wind. Most of the boats were bouncing up and down on the choppy waves, but I noticed something amiss. One of the boats wasn’t bouncing because it was mostly underwater. The outboard engine was the most prominent part to be seen.
I suspect that when the wind drops, the boat will still be barely afloat. But it should be able to be salvaged, pumped out, and ready to go again in fairly short order, so long as it doesn’t get taken out on a day like yesterday.
Kohanaiki Beach Park, north of Kailua Kona, is a favorite spot for surfers. But at the south end of the park, the focus switches to history.
There’s a hālau, Ka Hale Waʽa, which is used for teaching Hawaiian crafts and culture. There’s a garden which grows the same kind of plants brought over by the first Polynesian settlers. And there’s a Hawaiian star compass, a 17-foot diameter recreation showing how the Polynesians used to navigate the vast open spaces of the Pacific Ocean.
The top photo show shows the compass. To the right, a plaque explains the basics of how it works, using the points of the compass, the sun, nighttime celestial bodies and the ocean swells. I won’t go into detail here, but more information can be found here, here, and here. Below, the setting of the compass, with a Pacific golden plover walking on it. I like this shot because the plover is said to be the reason Polynesians discovered Hawaii. Each year, plovers summer in Alaska and then fly south as far as New Zealand. It is said that the Polynesians noted this small bird’s annual journey back and forth and figured there must be land somewhere to the north, so they set out in their canoes to find it.
Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Round.’ See more offerings here.
When the morning sun hits, gold dust day geckos can often be seen soaking up the early rays to warm themselves for the day’s activities. Half a dozen of them were doing just that on this railing.