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You are here: /main/research expeditions/ 2005 RAMP/9_18_05 Centipede

9/18/05 - Centipede
by David Nichols, State of Hawaii, DLNR, HIHWNMS

Tagging an Ulua
Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology sews up
an abdominal incision on an ulua after having implanted an acoustic transmitter.

During yesterday’s update I mentioned how it takes a dedicated individual to perform research in the NWHI. As an example I would like to introduce Kosta Stamoulis from the State of Hawaii’s DLNR. During his first dive yesterday Kosta placed his scuba regulator into his mouth and began his descent. Moments later he felt the unmistakable pitter-patter of centipede feet upon his tongue. Another moment later he felt the unmistakable pain from one of Hawaii’s most feared and evil creatures. I don’t know if centipedes bite or sting but I do know they hurt like hell whichever end they are using. If you have lived in Hawaii long enough it has probably happened to you. The last time I was “hit” by a centipede it was on the top of the foot and I wanted to cry like a little baby. The pain persisted for what seemed like days. It makes bee stings seem like mosquito bites.

Kosta sat there at the surface (his dive buddy had already descended oblivious to the ordeal). He paused to make sure his tongue wasn’t going to swell – or perhaps to make sure he didn’t pass out from the pain I am sure he was enduring. Having decided that his tongue would hurt weather he aborted or continued, he hit the purge valve on his regulator to remove any centipede siblings, offspring, mates or buddies, then reinserted his mouthpiece and proceeded with his dive. The dive went fine and the pain began to subside by dinnertime when he was able to retell the story. Dedication!

Diving at La Perouse

Matt Craig of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology prepares to enter the water near La Pérouse Pinnacle French Frigate Shoals.

Kosta is a member of the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) Team. Their purpose is to continue annual monitoring of the species composition, abundance, percent cover, size distribution, and general health of the fish, corals, other invertebrates, and algae of the shallow water(<35 m) coral reef ecosystems of the NWHI.

The REA-based long-term monitoring will expand upon the baseline assessments and monitoring conducted during fiscal years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Long-term monitoring of the abundance and distributions of reef fish, invertebrates, coral, and algae will evaluate the status and trends of the health and condition of these remote coral reef ecosystems and allow Federal and State resource managers to better understand the resources under their jurisdictions.

All the teams were on the water early for our second of three days at French Frigate Shoals (FFS). I again went with the shark biologists (Carl Meyer and Yannis Papastamatiou) and the fish biologists (Matthew Craig and lead scientist Randy Kosaki). Today was spent redeploying the receivers that were collected yesterday. Carl spent the previous evening downloading the data that would indicate how frequently previously tagged and released fish had been in the vicinity. We spent a portion of the afternoon collecting (trolling) some large ulua and uku and implanting acoustic transmitter tags prior to their release. Now information is recorded every time one of the fish passes near a receiver.

Between the apex predator work we were able to get in the water to collect reef fish at several locations throughout FFS. This was all possible due to the amazing boat handling skills of the Hi'ialakai HI-2 Coxswain, Merlyn Gordon. Merlyn was able to maneuver this 8-meter vessel through the maze of coral heads flawlessly. At every dive we were always greeted by large (and fearless) ulua. I am talking about the size you see on the cover of Hawaii Fishing News. These guys are big. It is pretty exciting to look one of these creatures right in the eyeball as they swim by to check things out (or steal your fish specimens).

Tomorrow this team plans to set out some short bottom longlines in hopes of catching various species of sharks to implant acoustic tags. It should make for another exciting day in this amazing ecosystem.

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