Latest News
Expeditions
For Teachers
For Keiki (Kids)
Discussions
About the Area
Residents
Photo Images
Video Images
Maps and Satellite Images
More Info
Partners

You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/journals/Nihoa/

NOWRAMP 2002

Ship Logs
Journals
Interviews
Features

Nihoa (9/9/02)
by Carlos Eyles

Low, gray clouds run with the wind, flashing blue sky. The ocean mirroring the sky in running shadows like great beasts that hover just beneath the surface. A stiff breeze blows out of the northeast bringing a four foot swell coming abeam. The Rapture holds the sea well and made gentle the night passage in what should have been a restful, sleep-filled night. Yet few slept either from the heat in the staterooms or in the excitement for what is to come. Probably both.

The thick, sooty clouds seem to circle the boat. A large squall, dark and foreboding sits like and anvil in the north. We are heading in its general direction. Already it is dumping iron sheets to the northeast and northwest. At nine in the morning the sun is being suffocated by the forward runners of the storm and is quickly becoming a distant memory. We are due to arrive at Nihoa around noon. I wonder if we can land a team on its shores in these seas.

Nihoa IslandDuring a dive briefing by Greg McFall the NOAA dive supervisor, I watch the seas build to six feet and crash against the glass of the salon, almost in defiance of our intention. After the meeting I wander out on the bow and there sitting like a jagged toothed monolith, rising out of the gray/black sea not two miles away is Nihoa. Powerful, it rests in a permanence that defines the word. Sheer cliffs on the east face fall to the sea in the same mind-boggling fashion as they soar to the sky. Team members gather in the bow, one scientist already recounting the age of the gooney birds that seek haven in the ship's radar tower, and the stages of their life cycle. The feeling on the bow is one of awe, as if we have entered into a geographical time warp, and each is preparing in their own way for the shift that is to come. The natural world stands before us seemingly untouched and predominant, clearly evident that it will outlast all the cities and buildings in the world that have ever been built or will ever be built. It stands waiting until the end of time. Waiting as it has always waited in the patience of stone, whose secrets are only slowly revealed.

Aulani, the Hawaiian spearhead of this operation, and who seems to be everywhere at once, feels a spiritual reconnection with all that rests within the nearly impenetrable island. I say nearly because high on the shoreline scarcely seen within the oversized escarpment which diminishes all before it, lies a campsite; tents of researchers that I am told have been here for much of the summer to study the bird life which is considerable. Such isolation is a rare thing to witness. What is more remarkable is their dedication and fortitude.

The plan is to send teams into the sea and on the island after lunch. Nearly everyone, scientists, educators and the documentation team is sorting through their dive gear. Many have been waiting years for this moment and their movements are ridged and appear tense, though I imagine this is due more in anticipation of the dive than of apprehension. Those of us who have spent a lifetime in the water, cannot be out of it for very long. The body/mind understands its need to be nurtured and to cleanse itself from the pollution of civilization, to renew itself in the healing waters of a clean and vibrant sea. The impulse to descend into its liquid embrace, to feel it again, is often overpowering and cannot be substituted for any other experience on earth. Whether sailor or scientist the ocean knows no difference, and embraces all with equal fervency.

Nihoa lies one hundred and fifty miles WNW of Kauai. It is a mile long and a quarter mile wide, and nine hundred feet high on its east end. It was designated a wildlife refuge by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Upon it reside insects, monk seals, two species of land birds, a finch and a millerbird, found nowhere else, and a plethora of seabirds(terns, boobies, petrels, shearwaters, albatrosses, tropic birds and frigate birds), spinning their way up thermo clines perhaps to better observe the strangers.

Nihoa at one time, between 1000 A.D. and 1500 A.D., was occupied by the kanaka maoli. There are 35 sites of shelter within its interior and 15 sites along the bluffs, another 15 heiau sites and some 28 agricultural terraces. Various artifacts have been collected here including fishhooks, sinkers, cowry shell lures, hammerstones, grindstones, adzes, and a coral rubbing stone. All evidence of settlement of some kind, though living here long term would have been difficult. Surveys have discovered only three seeps of water, all contaminated with guano. And while fresh water might come from an estimated 30 inches of yearly rainfall, there is a legend of another water source reported in the Tava and Keale tradition of a spring that provided good sweet, water, but this spring has never been found.

Carlos Eyles swims through a cloud of Nenue.While the island though appearing rather barren save for the birds, is a majestic edifice and the source of a long awaited passion to explore, I seek to dive in its waters, for that is what I know and what I can feel. The ocean for me is the bloodstream of the planet, and what better way to know a thing than to leap into its stream and swim into its heart. At first glance the underwater terrain appears featureless, few fish, very little coral. But as I continue to free dive the sea life begins to reveal itself. A knifejaw fish, which I had never seen before and is found only here and the northern islands, grows to be quite large. We saw several close to thirty pounds. A white tip shark wove its way among us for a time, (it is always a treat to be visited by kamo). At the end of the dive I come across a school of brown chubs, nenue, nearly five hundred in number. And while the school was impressive, it was the manner in which they greeted me. I dove down expecting the fish to gently move away as is their Whitetip reef shark.habit, but these came toward me and circled, enclosing me on all sides, top and bottom, not a foot away. As Mark Heckman remarked" what an awesome moment, that's the way it should be." Indeed, to be included, accepted into the school, was to be accepted back into nature, to become reconnected in a deep and powerful way, to know and feel what perhaps all humans felt at one time.

And so the sea below reflects the island above in its apparent lack of life, yet as one continues to gaze it revels itself in slow turns, and one has the sense that if time were as abundant as nature we could see more than our eyes could possibly behold.

<<Journals Home


 

Does the area catch your heart, and if so, how?
Lacey (09/18/02)

Does the area up there seem to catch your heart and if so how? I mean, specifically, what?

From a member of the NOW-RAMP Crew

Yes, very much so, it catches all our hearts in different ways. I can relate to you what I feel and what I have heard others say. For me, the incredible wildness of this place catches my heart. Diving with sharks and jacks and a large number of fish instills a sense of wonder in me. The restoration of the terrestrial areas by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unbelievable, especially on Laysan. The sheer, raw beauty of this place, the wild and rugged nature of it is heart warming. It is awesome that places like this still exist, and that what we are doing is helping to preserve it for generations to come. It is also wonderful to hear that people such as yourself are interested in being involved in preserving this place and we hope that you continue to learn.

Was human occupation of Nihoa accidental or on purpose?
Dan in Honolulu (9/11/02)

Is there any evidence, or informed speculation, concerning whether this occupation was intentional or accidential? I imagine that sometimes voyagers were shipwrecked on islands that did not have the trees needed to build a boat to get off the island. Could that have been the case with Nihoa?

From the NOW-RAMP Crew

It appears that this occupation was intentional, and that people came and went. Chants from Kauai tell of Hawaiians coming and going from Nihoa, and other NW Hawaiian Islands. The agricultural terraces on Nihoa, and the housing foundations signify long term occupation, possibly as a fishing camp. But it is difficult for modern folks to theorize what these ancient people did and there will continue to be room for multiple perspectives and theories.

Questions from Kehau Enos, Hauula Elementary School, 9/10/02
Replies and translation by Bonnie Kahape'a

Aloha mai! Pehea 'oe me na po'e 'aukai? Makemake na keiki e maopopo ina hiki ia 'oe ke huli a loa'a/noi'i paha no na pane o keia mau ninau:

1. Aia na honu ma laila? Ina 'ae, loa'a ia lakou na "tumors?"

Are there any turtles there? If so, do they have tumors?

I ka makou ike huaka'I I Nihoa a me Mokumanamana, ua ike makou I na honu nui a me na honu iki. 'Ae, wahi a kekahi, loa'a no kekahi o lakou I ka ma'i. I ka po'akolu, I Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals) ana makou. Ma ia aina no, noho 90% o na honu Hawaii ma laila. Hanau 'ia na honu I ia aina a hele lakou I na mokupuni ewalu o Hawaii a ho'I akula lakou I ko lakou one hanou a hanou akula lakou.

During our trip to Nihoa and Mokumanamana, We saw big turtles and small turtles. And Yes, according to one person, some turtles do have tumors. On Wednesday, we will be going to Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals). On this island, 90% of Hawaii's green sea turtles hatch here, go to the main Hawaiian islands, and return here to lay eggs of their own.

2. Nui ka 'opala i loko o ke kai ma laila?

Is there lots of trash there?

'Ae, ua 'ike makou I ka 'opala ma ka aekai ma Nihoa a me Mokoumanamana a me ka 'opala e lana ana I ke kai. Wahi a ka lohe, e nui aku ana ka 'opala ma na moku e hiki mai ana ma ia huakai.

Yes, we saw some trash on the shore and tidal area on Nihoa and Mokumanamana and trash floating in the ocean. According to what I heard, we will see more evidence of trash as we move up the island chain.

3. 'Oi aku ka maika'i o ke ea i laila?

Is the air better there?

I kuu mana'o, 'Ae, pa maila ma makani o ka moana a hau'oli no au.

As for me, yes, the ocean breezes blow and I am Happy.

4. He aha ke 'ano o na mea kanu i laila?

What kind of plants are there.

Ma Nihoa, loa'a ka loulu Nihoa. Ma ia wahi wale no! Ma Mokumanamana, loa'a 'elima mea kanu Hawaii, o ka ohai 'oe o ka ihi 'oe, o ka akulikuli oe, o ke kakonakona 'oe, o ka 'aweoweo 'oe?

At Nihoa, the is an endemic Nihoa Loulu palm. On Mokumanamana, there are only five plants, all are native. The ohai, the ihi, the akulikuli, the kakonakona, and the aweoweo.

5. Aia na manu HawaiŽi ma laila?

Are there any Hawaiian birds there?

He elua manu Hawaii ma Nihoa. 'O ka Nihoa miller bird kahi manu kaka'ikahi loa.

Nihoa has two endemic land birds. The Nihoa Miller bird is very rare.

6. Aia na "non-native" mea ma ka 'aina ma laila?

Are there any non native things there? Ma ka mokupuni o Mokumanamana, 'a'ohe mea 'e ma laila he wahi nani loa a maoli no.

On Mokumanamana, All the plants and birds are NATIVE.

'O ia wale no i keia la...na ke Akua e ho'opomaika'i ia 'oe me na 'aukai 'e a'e. A hui hou e ku'u tita! :) kehau me na keiki o ka papa alaka'i.

Aloha e na keiki mai ke ala polohiwa a kane! He maika'I wale keia huaka'I. Ua pa ia ka naau I ka nani o ko kakou kupuna. E lekauila hou mai ia'u! Ke Akua pu me 'oukou.


Talk About It!

Turtles with tumors

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
Aia na honu ma laila? Ina 'ae, loa'a ia lakou na "tumors?"

Are there any turtles there? If so, do they have tumors?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
I ka makou ike huaka'I I Nihoa a me Mokumanamana, ua ike makou I na honu nui a me na honu iki. 'Ae, wahi a kekahi, loa'a no kekahi o lakou I ka ma'i. I ka po'akolu, I Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals) ana makou. Ma ia aina no, noho 90% o na honu Hawaii ma laila. Hanau 'ia na honu I ia aina a hele lakou I na mokupuni ewalu o Hawaii a ho'I akula lakou I ko lakou one hanou a hanou akula lakou.

During our trip to Nihoa and Mokumanamana, We saw big turtles and small turtles. And Yes, according to one person, some turtles do have tumors. On Wednesday, we will be going to Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals). On this island, 90% of Hawaii's green sea turtles hatch here, go to the main Hawaiian islands, and return here to lay eggs of their own.

Lots of trash?

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
Nui ka 'opala i loko o ke kai ma laila?

Is there lots of trash there?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
'Ae, ua 'ike makou I ka 'opala ma ka aekai ma Nihoa a me Mokoumanamana a me ka 'opala e lana ana I ke kai. Wahi a ka lohe, e nui aku ana ka 'opala ma na moku e hiki mai ana ma ia huakai.

Yes, we saw some trash on the shore and tidal area on Nihoa and Mokumanamana and trash floating in the ocean. According to what I heard, we will see more evidence of trash as we move up the island chain.

Air quality

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
'Oi aku ka maika'i o ke ea i laila?

Is the air better there?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
I kuu mana'o, 'Ae, pa maila ma makani o ka moana a hau'oli no au.

As for me, yes, the ocean breezes blow and I am Happy.

What kind of plants are there?

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
He aha ke 'ano o na mea kanu i laila?

What kind of plants are there?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
Ma Nihoa, loa'a ka loulu Nihoa. Ma ia wahi wale no! Ma Mokumanamana, loa'a 'elima mea kanu Hawaii, o ka ohai 'oe o ka ihi 'oe, o ka akulikuli oe, o ke kakonakona 'oe, o ka 'aweoweo 'oe?

At Nihoa, the is an endemic Nihoa Loulu palm. On Mokumanamana, there are only five plants, all are native. The ohai, the ihi, the akulikuli, the kakonakona, and the aweoweo.

Are there any Hawaiian birds there?

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
Aia na manu HawaiĎi ma laila?

Are there any Hawaiian birds there?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
He elua manu Hawaii ma Nihoa. 'O ka Nihoa miller bird kahi manu kaka'ikahi loa.

Nihoa has two endemic land birds. The Nihoa Miller bird is very rare.

Are there any non native things there?

Asked by Kehau from Hauula Elementary School on Sep 10, 2002.
Aia na "non-native" mea ma ka 'aina ma laila?

Are there any non native things there?

Answered by Bonnie Kahape'a on Sep 11, 2002.
Ma ka mokupuni o Mokumanamana, 'a'ohe mea 'e ma laila he wahi nani loa a maoli no.

On Mokumanamana, All the plants and birds are NATIVE.

Does the area catch your heart, and if so, how?

Asked by Lacey on Sep 18, 2002.
Does the area up there seem to catch your heart and if so how? I mean, specifically, what?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 19, 2002.
Yes, very much so, it catches all our hearts in different ways. I can relate to you what I feel and what I have heard others say. For me, the incredible wildness of this place catches my heart. Diving with sharks and jacks and a large number of fish instills a sense of wonder in me. The restoration of the terrestrial areas by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unbelievable, especially on Laysan. The sheer, raw beauty of this place, the wild and rugged nature of it is heart warming. It is awesome that places like this still exist, and that what we are doing is helping to preserve it for generations to come. It is also wonderful to hear that people such as yourself are interested in being involved in preserving this place and we hope that you continue to learn.


Home | News | About | Expeditions | Photos | Video | Maps
Discussions | Partners | Teachers | Keiki | More Info | Search
Contact Us | Privacy Policy
This site is hosted by the
Laboratory for Interactive Learning Technologies
at the University of Hawai`i