24 May 2013 – Laysan Island Day Two

Laysan Ducks I got my ducks! I volunteered to load water jugs to the US Fish and Wildlife team on Laysan (3 to 6 months with 5 folks and a ton of birds, no thanks). First boat out in the am, and in glassy, perfect conditions we motored up to the beach and were met by a crew that looked about right for folks who would volunteer to stay on a deserted island for 3 to 6 months with a ton of birds. After unloading the water, they let us look around from the beach, and sure enough, 5-6 of the rarest ducks on the planet were wandering around, and doing a little territorial sparring. I didn’t bring my good new camera, as we had to swim/wade to the beach – in retrospect I wish I had, but hey, can’t have everything. We also saw the endemic Laysan Finch, as well as a large number of nesting Laysan Albatross who’s chicks are still a pile of fluffy grey bird feathers. Brown noddies also on nests, as well as Great Frigatebirds. Would be neat to spend an afternoon on the island, and checking out the inland saline lake, but we didn’t have the time, so my brief visit will have to suffice.

I stayed on the water all day, as a surface support member for the morning deep team. They had a great dive after yesterdays aborted dive where they landed in sand and saw nothing but sand. On the afternoon dive, unfortunately it was our turn to miss the reef and have to end our dive early due to strong currents. Basically, the night before the dive, we look on the ship’s sonar for possible sites. On station the next day, we try to verify with a depth finder the exact location of the ledge or wall. Most of the atoll is sloping hard substrate, which has very little marine life, at least marine life of interest – there are lots of Alga that are interesting to some. Once located, the surface team drops a marker buoy with a small anchor on it to mark the site. Unfortunately, the anchor often drags, as was the case today, which means the current is strong, and unless we drop correctly up current, we will miss the site.

We are currently scanning for tomorrow’s sites, but took breaks for a beautiful sunset on the fantail of the ship, and then a few minutes later, a dramatic full moon rise off the bow. Evening entertainment is taking pictures of both events. We processed a good number of fish from the morning deep dive, as well as the shallow team, so despite our aborted collecting event, science is continuing aboard the good ship Hi’ialakai.

Attached a few pictures of birds and stills from yesterday’s dive, including the now famous Laysan Ducks. One more day here at Laysan, then a transit day Sunday back to French Frigate Shoals.

 

Cirrhilabrus jordani malePseudanthias thompsoni and environs Dave Pence with schooling fishLaysan close up Laysan albatross close over water Sunset on the fantail Rob on bow at moon rise

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