22 May 2013 – Transit day to Laysan Island

Everyone spends a transit day differently; a few workout twice, many watch movies, some tinker with their gear, and other (like me) enter taxon names into our checklist program so we can tell the divers what to be on the lookout for when we get to Johnston Island. Our mission is basically an inventory of the species that are present at each of these sites. In order to help build that inventory, we need to see what species have been recorded present in publications, museum collections, observation data and by personal communications.

We have a robust database for the northwestern Hawaiian Islands in our database, but our Johnston Atoll data was lacking. I spent most of the day reviewing older publications, and hand keying the observations and records into our system. If I have done my job right, we should have about 300 species of near shore fishes on our list. Compared to Hawaii, this is a fairly small number, about half. Johnston Atoll is the most geographically isolated atoll in the world, and the currents don’t favor new species coming to its tiny reef area. Part of the data we collect, especially from the deeper collections, may support theories about how and why different reefs have large and diverse populations, and also why some have more endemic species than others.

We are about halfway through the 301 species, but have about 5 days to get the remainder in the system.

Laysan Island is our destination for the next three days, and is somewhat unique in having a saline lake in the middle of the tiny island. There is an endemic duck that lives in the lake, and makes most of its meals from the numerous flies that also inhabit the island. I am angling for a trip ashore, but it is a longshot. We may need to resupply the drinking water on island, and I volunteered to help lug the five gallon jugs ashore.

Three days of deep dives here, then a day in transit back to French Frigate Shoals, a day diving there, and then the long trek down to Johnston Atoll.

My mission while at Laysan is the Red Tailed Tropic Bird. I have a few fair pictures, but I want to get a good one – such a beautiful bird.

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