The rotenone stations (localized fish poison on a small section of the reef) were a success. A whole world of critters lives in and under the rubble and sand, and come out only at night, or in some cases, maybe not at all. The only way to find out about these animals is to use some type of chemical to either flush them out, or kill them and dig them out. Rotenone takes about 10-20 minutes to be fully effective, depending on concentration and local conditions – current, temperature etc. Today, we started finding tiny little fish after only a couple minutes, and the three of us turned into jewelry store robbers in a smash and grab, trying to corral the floating fish into Ziploc bags and nets, before the stunned ones escaped, or the speedy goatfish and jacks grabbed a valuable meal. Both the morning and afternoon dive teams did a deep rotenone station, and the afternoon team did a second station in shallow water. All three yielded a number of sp. Records, where you can identify the organism to family or genus, but then simply call the animal sp. as we have no idea to what species it belongs. Those will go into a formalin or ethanol for review back on Oahu by experts, who have the time and tools to discern the tiny differences on some very tiny fish that yield a valid name.
We recorded several more new records today, after four days, the atoll is still revealing more of its treasures. We swam through a school of Hemitaurichthys thompsoni (Thompson’s Butterflyfish), that was probably five hundred strong. Nestled within, was a cousin, Hemitaurichthys polylepis, the iconic Pyramid Butterfly.
Another iconic fish not on the list previously is Monotaxis grandoculis, the Big Eye Emperor, a type of snapper.
The final fish from visual observation is the Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris. This fish is often mis-identified with it’s more common cousin the Forceps Butterflyfish, but we are pretty certain that this one is the long nose. Weigh in with your opinions, we love the “Name that fish” game.
I still do not have the endemic angelfish shot, Centropyge nahackyi, to my satisfaction, and with large swells and high winds, I may not get another chance. The captain will make a call in the morning, whether it is safe to launch small boats in the conditions, or if we run back to the Hawaiian Islands, and get one or two days in deep at Niihau. We’ll see, but the scientific staff on board is keen to get a couple more days here at Johnston, as time here is rare indeed.
Back early from the morning dive, I did a little more birding as I am wont to do, and came up with my favorite – red tailed tropic bird. Really a magnificent bird. The kings of the air waves here are the boobies, who often land on our small boat roof, and today, landed on Keo’s camera housing while he was filming them on the surface. They are fearless, though they have reason to fear when afloat, the surface support team observed a large shark attempt to eat a floating booby a few days ago.
Greg McFall from NOAA has been taking underwater stills during the expedition, and I think he really scored today on the shallow reef in the Lagoon. Take a look, and remember to click on the images to see them in higher resolution.
Fishing continues from the fantail, Kelly Gleason caught another Ono and Jasmine caught a small tuna today. We had sashimi again for lunch…ono.