Yesterday, several HOA Ambassadors traveled up to the North Shore to visit Three Tables, Shark's Cove, and Kuilima Cove to compare signage regarding not stepping on, touching, or otherwise damaging the coral reefs; to take note of the agencies and civics groups responsible for placing and preserving each sign; to investigate signage at Laniakea regarding not touching sea turtles; and finally, to visit a nearby area where there are often Hawaiian monk seals to document any efforts at protection and education being made by volunteers or government on behalf of these highly endangered mammals.
We began our day with a quick stop at Laniakea which is a perhaps the best beach in the world to see the 'threatened' green sea turtle, which frequently come ashore here at the south western end of the '7 Mile Miracle.' It is illegal to touch or otherwise disturb green sea turtles, and we were curious to see what kind of signage was in place to educate the throngs of visitors who stop here each day. We were impressed with the signage as it was centrally located and included not only words, but images to help instruct both English speaking and non-English speaking visitors as to the proper way to view these incredible animals.
From there, the next stop was Three Tables which is located in Pupukea less than a mile north of world famous big wave surfing spot - Waimea Bay.
Three Tables is part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District which was established in 1983 and stretches from the Wananapaoa Islets at the southwestern end of Waimea Bay to Kulalua Point at the northern end of Shark's Cove. As a result of its official designation, this ocean area enjoys special protections against the removal of sand, rocks, corals, certain types of fishing, and limits on seaweed harvesting. Also, due to the efforts of the DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources and Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea - a volunteer-based NS nonprofit that was formed in 2005 as part of the State's Makai Watch program - this area has excellent signage regarding not damaging or disturbing the fragile coral reefs and marine ecosystem found in this jewel of a location.
We went out for a brief swim and encountered beautiful corals, schools of Convict Tangs (Acanthurus tristegus), Parrotfish, Picasso Triggerfish, and even a honu ('honu' means green sea turtle in Hawaiian)!
When encountering the honu on the Makai (or 'Ocean' side) of the blocks of coral (the 'tables' in 'Three Tables') we - like all who encounter these beautiful creatures - felt the pull to swim up to get a closer look, but fought back the urge, did the right thing, and kept our distance. We joyfully observed the turtle for several moments, snapped a photo, and swam off leaving her undisturbed.
From there we headed several hundred yards up the coast to popular snorkel and dive site, Shark's Cove. We noted similar signs to the one pictured above along the entire stretch of coastline in this area and were thrilled to see no instances of visitors standing on or otherwise disturbing the reef environment (with the exception perhaps of the ocean's edge where those entering and exiting the water have to navigate a rocky and shallow shoreline.)
We did some nice deep dives, holding our breaths as long as we could and marveling at this underwater paradise, before moving along to Kuilima Cove which is situated just to the east of the famed and only North Shore resort, Turtle Bay.
We arrived at Turtle Bay and took some photos of the current signage at the beach. We knew from staying at the hotel recently that the signage is not up to par with the signage at the Marine Life Conservation area in Pupukea, as Kuilima Cove does not hold the same officially recognized status, government support, or special protections. That said, we'd love to see the hotel place signs regarding not touching or disturbing turtles, coral, or other marine life. All too often at this magical place do we see guests of the hotel and visitors to the beach resting their feet on the shallow coral bottom, standing up on the exposed coral blocks, and scrambling to take selfies up-close-and-personal with sea turtles.
A little education goes a long way, and in this case, Turtle Bay Resort - which has a tremendous record of sustainable practices - ought to consider placing better signage to protect the reef that is such a valuable asset and resource to their guests, the environment, and the community at large.
We've written two separate letters in the past week as a follow-up to our recent stay requesting a dialogue regarding updating the signage at Kuilima Cove, but as yet have not heard back. We are hopeful that we will hear something soon. We'd encourage others to reach out to TB as well regarding this issue as such an inexpensive update to the signs could go a long way towards protecting what was once one of Queen Liliuokalani's favorite swimming locales in the 1800s.
You can contact the Turtle Bay Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org to do your part to request new signage be erected to protect Kuilima Cove from reef damage caused by under-informed visitors.
Pictures of the current signage are below. They are fairly standard for the signage you'd see elsewhere on the island, but they could be so much better! Compare these two signs to the ones pictured above from Lanikea, Three Tables, and Shark's Cove. In the ones currently at Kuilima Cove it is noted that there is a 'sharp coral bottom' which seems to warn swimmers of the dangers to the swimmers themselves of touching down, but not of the dangers to the coral reef. Given the medium-to-high number of turtle sightings in the cove, it would also be nice to see some additional signage regarding not touching the turtles as well. Well a guy can dream anyway, can't he...?
Continuing down the beach we encountered a Hawaiian Monk Seal. These creatures are an extremely endangered species and must be given a very wide berth. Disturbing a monk seal through loud noises, coming too close for pictures, or any other form of harassment is not only illegal, it can also cause the monk seal to dangerously alter their feeding, mating, and resting cycles. There are only an estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in existence, so please do all you can to avoid disturbing these amazing animals.
You'll note in the pictures below that some conscientious volunteers erected a crude ring of vertical sticks to create a ring of protection against this resting monk seal, as well as some nearby signage aimed at educating passersby about the need to respect these ocean mammals.
And finally, on the way back to the car we did our part to express our gratitude for this amazing day and this beautiful place by doing a mini beach clean-up, making sure to get AT LEAST THREE PIECES of trash before leaving for the day.
Did you get your 3 pieces today???
Mahalo nui loa and much aloha!
HOA Ambassador for Waimanalo, Hans Heinz, led the beach clean-up crew down to 'Nalo today where we cleaned the beach and naupaka bushes from Sherwoods down to Waimanalo Beach Park.
We recovered over 100 lbs of rubbish, including: ocean-borne plastics, beer bottles and cans, a surprising number of toothbrushes, several lighters, countless cigarette butts, bottle caps, plastic tubing, and large commercial fishing related ropes and plastics. Unfortunately, we also found and disposed of not one, but TWO dirty diapers...I mean come on people...that is just criminal!
That aside, we had an absolute blast! The weather was strikingly gorgeous, the water as crystal clear as I've eve seen it, and a great deal of trash was removed from the beach.
We also took the opportunity to rock our new HOA hats and t-shirts and have discussions with a half dozen other beach goers about HOA's mission and the importance of taking at least 3 pieces of trash with you every single time you leave the beach. People were really receptive, grateful for our efforts, and genuinely interested in helping out or cleaning the beach on their own in the future.
We'll put this down as a 'win' for the day.
HOA = 1 vs. Ocean Trash = 0
On June 21, 1944, 1st Lt. William Sparks took off in his P-47 Thunderbolt from Bellows Air Field at 3:33 P.M. only to experience immediate engine failure in the famously heavy fighter-bomber nicknamed the 'Jug', which would force the young officer to crash land some 1,000 yards offshore on the shallow reef located to the south west of Moku Iki island.
According to excellent research conducted and recorded in 'A World War Two Underwater Plane Wreck: The History of a P-47' by Whitney Petrey, et al., 1st Lt. Sparks was uninjured in the crash and was able to walk and swim back to base.
Incredibly, Petrey goes on to detail a second crash involving Officer Sparks whereon March 4, 1944 - only a mere 3 and a half months prior to the Lanikai crash -the young pilot collided in mid-air with 2nd Lt. Lloyd R. Millet at 6:12 p.m. over Oahu.
Millet bailed out and sustained minor injuries. Sparks crash landed without injury. What's more, the very same P-47 Sparks crash landed on June 21st in the reef off windward Oahu had previously crashed at a Municipal Airport in New Mexico. Some plane...some pilot!
P-47 Thunderbolts at Bellows Field, Oahu, 1944.
Source: United States Army via Hawaii Aviation Preservation Socciety (Licensing: Public Domain under United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105). Image was found here, posted by David Stubblebine, on ww2db.com.
The more I learned about the story, the more obsessed I became, and after carefully studying satellite imagery and reading everything available on the subject of the crash, I set my sights on finding the wreckage and exploring it as soon as possible.
With a first-rate 'boat crew' in Hans and Kass, and a borrowed kayak from local shark researcher, Derek Kraft, our three person team set out at 5:30 p.m. on 5/23/16 (other commitments delayed our departure) from the end of the beach access at Lanipo Street in heavy onshore wind swell and rough surface chop.
Incredibly, Hans volunteered to swim out to the crash site, allowing Kass and I to navigate for him from our elevated position in the borrowed kayak, while he would provide reef reconnaissance through his goggles while swimming alongside of us.
We made our way due south along the shore to the rock marking the No-Pass Zone at the beginning of Bellows Air Force Station.
From here we would work our way directly out to sea, aiming to the South and slight West of Moku Iki Island. We located the reef-less deeper channel we had studied in our satellite imagery and worked our way further out to sea fighting increasingly large wind swell and chop - the waves increasing at times to 3+ feet requiring constant vigilance, effort, and nuanced paddling to avoid capsizing, which could have proven catastrophic given the likelihood that we wouldn't be able to get back to the boat should it become separated from us. We are all expert ocean swimmers with a great deal of experience in this exact area, but still did not want to court extra danger of any kind given the area's dangerously shallow reefs at the edge of the shelf, the late hour of the day, the large swell, and the potential presence of aggressive marine life.
We toiled to hold our position in the expected location of the crash while Hans furiously searched the reef for the wreckage. From the boat we continued to triangulate off of Moku Iki and the end of the runway's coastal position and angle, the coral and break waters around us, and our relative position to the channel, all while trying to maintain proper alignment to the oncoming surf, off of - and away from - massive coral heads, and close enough to Hans to provide assistance should any prove necessary.
After nearly an hour, we were about to have to abandon the effort and return to shore with what little daylight remained when Hans announced that the wreck was directly below him!!!
We took turns manning the boat (no easy task!) while the other two explored the wreckage in the ever-darkening waters. [Side note: While some might wonder why we chose not to anchor, the answer is simple...WE DID NOT WANT TO RISK DAMAGING THE WRECK IN ANY WAY NOR THE SURROUNDING CORAL. If you visit the site, PLEASE do not touch the plane, surrounding coral, or anchor anywhere near the plane where the to-be-expected heavy surf is likely to shift your anchor and possibly cause damage to this amazing artifact. Consider and practice your strategies ahead of time to avoid having to rely on less than ideal practices.]
The wreckage was both eerie and magnificent at the same time. After exploring the fuselage, cockpit, and wings for several minutes each, it was time to head rapidly for shore to avoid having to make our escape back to land in the dark.
We were thrilled to have found this absolute gem given that many people we have talked to have tried in some cases numerous times and been unable to locate the wreckage in the heavy surf, maze of coral, and due to the difficulty of seeing the plane from the surface. Without Hans' determination to swim through those rough conditions we surely would have missed it.
An incredible adventure and surely an evening none of us will ever forget!
A screenshot from Google Maps indicating the location of crash site is below. The GPS coordinates can be found here.
Disclaimer: This adventure should only be attempted by highly experienced open ocean kayakers and swimmers. This is a very dangerous area in the ocean and familiarity with the local currents, swells, wind conditions, and tides is critical to a safe and successful journey. 'HOA' accepts no liability of any kind in the event you choose to try to locate the wreck. You and you alone are responsible for your safety. Check with the local kayak rental places, NOAA, and other wind and weather related sources before heading out. Be safe, have fun, and remember not to touch or otherwise damage the wreckage or surrounding coral. We'd also suggest only attempting this adventure in clear, calm, flat conditions. Mahalo!
In this great 17 minute talk, famous free diver and Marine Biologist - Ocean Ramsey - who frequently swims sans cage with Great White Sharks discusses the importance of protecting and respecting sharks. Enjoy the video!
Atlantis Resorts plans to build a $2B resort on Oahu's west shore at Ko'Olina that will include an aquarium housing sharks and dolphins. Oahu already has two dolphin parks and the west side is of course one of the best natural spots to view dolphins in the wild in all of Hawaii.
Captivity is inhumane, reduces the life expectancy of captive dolphins, and sends the message to visitors that wild animals exist only for our amusement and can be locked up, used, or otherwise exploited according to human whims.
Sign this petition today to send a message to Atlantis Resorts execs and Hawaii politicos that the people do not want to see another dolphin park in Hawaii. Hats off to Lila Jones for this great effort!
In 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a report entitled, 'Hawaiian Archipelago's Coral Reef Management Priorities' detailing the government agency's 10 year strategic coral reef management priorities. The report's purpose was to determine how to best direct its investment in activities in each jurisdiction through grants, cooperative agreements, and internal funding. It is a fascinating report and worth a read. For those with limited time however, a few key facts are provided below:
- According to NOAA, greater than 60% of coral reefs in U.S. waters are found in the Hawaiian Archipelago.
- The eight main Hawaiian Islands support over 140,000 acres of coral reef habitat.
- Hawai'i has estimated rates of endemism of 25% or greater for most coral, fish, and invertebrate species. This unique marine life is found nowhere else in the world
- It is estimated that the state's coral reefs generate approximately $800M annually to the state's economy from marine tourism
-'While Hawaii’s reefs are still in fair to good condition, many urban areas and popular destinations have suffered from landbased sources of pollution, fishing pressure, recreational overuse and invasive species'...
Let's take a look at a few of these causes of damage as paraphrased from the report:
Land-based sources of pollutants, such as sediment, nutrients and other pollutants, represent one of several factors threatening the quality of coral reef ecosystems. Sources include: sediment washed away by mono-crop farms, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, pathogens, and excess nutrients. These pollutants are washed into the ocean during heavy rains and damage the reef in a number of ways including promoting algae growth that competes with corals for space on benthic reef surfaces and can affect the success of coral settlement.
What you can do:
1. Drive less and as a result use less petroleum and reduce the level of hydrocarbons you are responsible for emitting into the atmosphere. Bike, walk, run, or even swim wherever you need to go, whenever possible! Also, worth considering is purchasing a more gas efficient vehicle, hyrbrid, or electric; or switch over to a moped, scooter, or motorcycle for when you must drive. Its Hawaii after all, take it slow and cruise a bike!
2. NEVER USE PESTICIDES - especially in residential or home use. No need whatsoever!
3. Never improperly dispose of oil.
"Hawaii’s Local Action Strategy to Address Recreational Impacts to Reefs (2005) identifies the ways in which marine recreational activities, such as snorkeling, diving and boating, may affect coral reefs. Specifically:
Breakage of coral skeletons and tissue from direct contact such as walking, touching or gear contact;
Breakage of coral skeletons and tissue from boat anchors;
Alteration in the behavior of marine life from feeding or harassment;
Potential introduction of pollution from discharged grey water or sunscreen or transfer of aquatic invasive species (AIS). "
What you can do:
1. Never touch, step on, or otherwise disturb coral reefs - even areas that look dead already to you is an area which in all likelihood is still a functioning and critical part of the reef ecosystem
2. Educate friends and visitors as to the dangers of stepping on or damaging reefs and encourage them to use best practices to avoid stirring up sediment with fins and keeping back from marine life
3. Write or comment to hotel staff where you think improved signage could mitigate unknowing damage by uneducated visitors.
*We at HOA will be going around to various popular snorkeling destinations on the island, collecting pictures of signage regarding not damaging coral (or the lack there of) and writing to those businesses adjacent or profiting from the use of a specific reef to request updated signage or other efforts to better educate their guests, clients, and visitors.
Protect the reefs - Mahalo!!!
Laniakea might be the best place on earth to view these marine reptiles, drawing scores of people each day who want to view and snap photos with these majestic and sacred creatures.
Go to Lani's on any given day of the week however, and you'll see several people who have somehow still not gotten the message that it is not only illegal, but simple common sense to avoid touching these federally and state protected creatures. Disturbing sea turtles can cause changes to their feeding habits as well as their mating habits. Yet, the desire for some wildlife watchers to have that picture for social media with their hand on a sea turtle is almost too much to bear, they reach out and touch (or sometimes even hold on with both hands and ride the turtle, if you can believe that!) and little do they know (or at least let's hope its just an issue of not being educated on the issue) that they are not only harming these protected creatures, but they are tacitly encouraging others to do so as well.
The green sea turtle is currently listed as a threatened species under federal and state law, while the hawksbill sea turtle is on the endangered species list which means it enjoys even greater protections against touching, disturbance, hunting, and/or harassment. Below is the Federal Endangered Species Act
penalty schedule for touching or otherwise disturbing Hawaii's sea turtles.
Not only is it illegal and bad for the turtles, it is also worth keeping in mind that the Honu are considered sacred to Hawaiians who believe them to be 'aumakua, a kind of ancestral guardian spirit. So not only are you committing a crime and harming these innocent and amazing creatures, you are also showing blatant disrespect to the culture and heritage of the people and the 'aina.
Please refrain from disturbing, touching, or otherwise harassing sea turtles. Below are some guidelines for safe, legal, and considerate viewing of turtles and other marine animals from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, and the State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"1. Remain at least 100 yards from humpback whales, and at least 50 yards from other marine mammals (dolphins, other whale species and Hawaiian monk seals.)
2. Observe turtles from a distance.
3. Bring binoculars along on viewing excursions to assure a good view from the recommended viewing distances.
4. Do not attempt to touch, ride, or feed turtles.
5. Limit your time observing an animal to 1/2 hour.
6. Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between boats or shore.
7. If approached by a marine mammal or turtle while on a boat, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass. Boat movement should be from the rear of the animal."
What should I do if I see a turtle in danger?
If you see a turtle stranded or wounded or to report suspected violations, call DLNR: 808-587-0077.
Wondering what to do on a slow weeknight evening with your significant other?
Feel like bringing the kids out on a mini-adventure?
Grab a stargazing chart (and possibly a telescope or set of high powered binoculars), a set of headlamps, a 'Hand Picker 3000', your reusable trash bucket, beach blanket, your camera, and something to eat and drink and head to your nearest or favorite beach on foot or by bicycle and gaze up at the stars, share a bottle of wine or a tea with your partner, and then - when you start feeling restless - do a mini beach clean-up!
HOA went out last night and had a blast finding and capturing pictures of various creatures, staring up at the heavens and studying the constellations, and cleaning up a wide variety of rubbish: some left behind by beachgoers - including lost flip flops, food container waste, and miscellaneous paper and plastic - a wide variety of nets and ropes that washed up on shore, a large section of a broken boogie board, and some black rubber electrical tubing.
Side note and offer: The use of the Hand Picker 3000 in combination with the bucket made cleaning up articles left on the beach easier, cleaner, safer, and more convenient than you could possibly imagine. Not having to bend over or dirty one's hands makes the experience exponentially more enjoyable and we also found it easy to travel by bicycle to and from the beach by putting the handle of the bucket over the handle bars and the HP 3000 across the top of the handle bars horizontally. IF ANYONE WANTS A HAND PICKER 3000, WE WILL MAKE IT FOR YOU AND DELIVER IT ANYWHERE IN KAILUA OR LANIKAI AT COST. Just let us know and we'd be happy to provide you with one. We realize that with many transplants on the island, not everyone has access to tools or the time to get to the hardware store. We are happy to do this for you. Just let us know, promise to use it, and share a pick of you putting it to good use on a star gazing and beach cleaning mission of your own!!!
This trash was collected at Kalama Beach in less than 20 minutes of effort. We've had some heavy rains and swells, and while most of this is ocean-borne trash and not purposeful litter, we need to do a better job at cleaning up and protecting our coastlines and giving back to the 'aina we all love so much. Please remember to take at least three pieces of trash from the beach every time you go. Mahalo!