Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tribute to the Whales Photo Show

 One of my photos that was featured on this blog late last year of bottlenose dolphins surfacing in front of a sugar cane fire smoke plume was selected to feature among other whale and dolphins photos at this year Tribute to the Whales. A very snazzy little gallery was set up in the Ma'alaea Bay Harbor Shops and will be open until March.
  We had the opening a few nights ago and it was great to meet all the other photographers. If you are on Maui you should definitely go check it out, and maybe even purchase one of the photos for your personal collection.
I think my favorite part was getting to sign my photo canvas. The hope is next year I will have many photos in this show. Always hoping...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Whale Watching in Maui

A humpback whale throws its tail at another whale
the beginning of a tail throw
 Being a naturalist with Pacific Whale Foundation has its benefits and as I tell people on the boats, its pretty easy waking up excited in the mornings...even at 4:30am!
 On our whale watches today we had so many humpback encounters that I've lost count. We have also seen every behavior in the book from tail throws, to tail slaps, breaches, head lunges, competition pods, spy hops, and lots of whale songs. These pictures just show a little of what you can see out here during whale season.
A tail slapping whale
The beginning of a tail slap

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Road to Hana w/Mary

Mary fooling around at Twin Falls
The road to Hana is always an incredible adventure. It winds along a scenic coast, hugging the cliff side, and over 51 one way bridges. Waterfalls can be seen from the road but the real treasures lay in wait for those adventurous enough to get off the road and hike up into the hills. Secret swimming spots, cliff jumps, rock climbing, caves, bamboo forest, and waterfalls you can stand under and just a few of the things you can find. And this is what I wanted to show Mary.
Heidi and me atop the infinity pool
Watch out for little crawfish in this pool in the bamboo forest
We had several stops and a plan to camp out somewhere near Hana. Having done Hookipa Beach and Twin falls the day before we went straight to the bamboo forest hike along with Heidi and Ben. This was just a precursor to the bamboo forest we would see later above Oheo Gulch. There is a nice little waterfall to jump off of and a freshwater pool to swim in. Not a bad place to enjoy a couple of Maui Brewing Co. beers with friends. 
Ben trudging thru the bamboo forest
After some sweet camping just outside of Hana we headed to Venus Pool for some 'wake yourself up' cliff jumping. All four of us braved the jump and decided it was an even better way to wake up than coffee.
Next was Heidi and my favorite hikes, the Waimoku Falls hike above Oheo Gulch (7 Sacred Pools). We check out the pools which were very beautiful early in the morning before the crowds show up. And then we started hiking. Along the way we found an infinity pool atop a 200ft waterfall, another thick bamboo jungle, and at the end, a 400ft waterfall complete with rainbow. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park. 
I love this island.

Mary at Venus Pool
The 4 of us at the end of the trail
Oheo Gulch w/out the crowds
The payoff

Monday, January 23, 2012

Venus Pool Magic

I took this picture on a 2 day trip to Hana, at a place called Venus Pool. The ocean is in the background crashing against rocks that were brought down during periods of flash flood. These floods carved out a huge canyon filled with these incredible, deep, freshwater pools.
This picture is of my friend Ben showing us the proper launching spot for a cliff jump into the pool. I thought the way he jumped and the way the camera caught it makes it almost look like he is levitating himself out over the water. The early morning sun rising in the background gives it an even more mystical effect.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Research Finds

The new year has brought back the whales and funding for my research. So a few of us naturalist that crossover as researchers are back in action. Morgan and I have been going on getting more turtle ID photos for our catalog. On todays snorkel at Olowalu we came across many beautiful sea turtles and a couple of rarer finds. This reticulated butterflyfish is very rare to see around Maui. There was a pair but very timid and fast moving so this was the only semi good picture I could snap.
  The blue swallowtail slug at the bottom is the second one I have seen but the first of this color variation. All of this along with the sounds of breaching whales not too far away makes for a pretty amazing laboratory. 

Blue Swallowtail Slug

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Snow Goddess, Frogfish, and Flame Angel

Woah! Nudibranchs, rare fish, and pretty terrible visibility. This is what I remember from our first dive at White Rock in the new year. Ben, Heidi, and I dove looking for nudibranch pictures and found more than we thought. The usual fuchsia flatworm was the first to be spotted but then a tiled plurobranch followed by this beautiful white frilled nudibranch surprised us. We had to do a lot of followup to get the identity of this white frilled nudibranch but after consulting a local nudibranch expert we found out it was our first snow goddess nudibrach. It was being harassed by a fireworm so it looks a bit unusual. After taking a few pictures of these I heard Heidi's tank banger and saw her giving the underwater sign for angel fish (a halo over the head), which could only mean one thing...flame angel! I had to sit motionless for about 5 minutes to get even this glimpse of the angelfish for a picture. Very timid creature. A few more usual suspect nudis and one huge frogfish kept us busy for the rest of the day! It is pretty rare to find a frogfish on the reef but this had to be the biggest and grumpiest one I've found.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hawaii Muck Dive

Pelagic Jellyfish swimming by
Sap Sucking Slug
 Maui has many beautiful reefs, shipwrecks,caves and other places for scuba divers to explore, but many areas covered by sand and silt are left to the hardiest and most determined explorers. This is called muck diving. In places like Indonesia and the Philippines many divers flock to muck diving locations for the amazing variety of rarely seen macro sea life that can be found. On our constant hunt for new nudibranchs Heidi and I headed off to a place talked about only in a few nudibranch enthusiast circles for a exploration dive.
Gloomy Nudibranch
 We drive by sugar beach in Ma'alaea Bay all the time. It is a long stretch of sandy beach and apparently where alot of rare nudibranchs have been seen. Heidi and I headed out into pretty bad visibility, silty bottom, and a very real chance of seeing nothing at all. A huge pelagic jellyfish swam by, pumping its bell as its many tentacles hung dangerously below it. The translucent body made picture taking very difficult.
 Shortly after on some rocky substrate we spotted a very well camouflaged sap sucking slug. We had seen these before on the big island. Then Heidi found the ultimate find, a gloomy nudibranch. The black and turquoise colors creating a never before seen pattern for us. Kangaroo nudibranchs, 7 in total, a swallow tail slug, white margin nudibranch, white spotted nudibranch, and a trembling nudibranch. What a dive!

Swallowtail Slug
Trembling Nudibranch
White Spotted Nudibranch

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012: Year of the Nudibranch

 After living in Maui for a year and really getting into the swing of all that is has to offer Heidi and I have really started to hone in on some of the lesser known creatures of the nearby reefs and other less visited underwater ecosystems. Nudibranchs have fascinated me since coming across my first Spanish Shawl in California waters but I am continuously blown away by the number of nudibranchs, flatworms, and other sea slugs that can be found here in Maui. We have been on three scuba dives and one tide pool exploration and have already discovered 8 new sea slugs previously unseen by us. We have had to dig deep into local resources to find out the identity of a few which has been very exciting.

  These pictures are just from our tidepool exploration in South Kihei. News of a tuberulous nudibranch shown below provided the inspiration to head out one night and we were treated with a Gold Rim Flatworm and two more new nudibranchs pictured above. It looks like this might just be the year of the nudibranch.
Tuberculous Nudibranch,  Dendrodoris tuberculosa
Alot of the nudibranchs we find are very small.. .this one is not!

the gills add even more flare to an already decked out nudibranch

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Review

2011 was a pretty wild year. Ringing in the new year in Vermont looking forward to making a big move to Maui and a new job as naturalist for Pacific Whale Foundation. Once Heidi and I got out to Maui things started happening really fast. We started our jobs with Pacific Whale Foundation, becoming experts at all things Humpback Whale, not to mention all the new tropical fish and reef creatures we needed to know, all while looking for a place to live, cars, and most important, a surf board. 
It all came together. We found a great place in Kihei, after a quick stint in Uncle Dave's kitchen-less back room, and a couple of cars that performed admirably after a couple of rough starts and a smoking radiator. Whales were everywhere and the job expanded into doing sea turtle research as well. In no time I was on the microphone giving whale watches, going to lecture about humpbacks, leading tide pool programs, and getting promoted to team leader on the boats. Somewhere in all the madness with alot of help and motivation from my mom and others I finished a captains class by getting my 100ton captains license. Hurray. 
After a few pay checks and a close encounter snorkeling with a humpback mother and calf with Heidi I invested in a good underwater camera. This brought forth a year full of pictures from the sea and a heightened interest in some of its more colorful inhabitants, nudibranchs! As well as some of the bigger fish, sharks! Hearing a whale's song through my kayak, swimming with whale sharks, shark cage diving in Oahu, the incredible manta ray night dive in Kona, diving through caves and cathedrals, and the hunt for our first frogfish highlighted my underwater 2011.

Above water wasn't too shabby either. I got to see Molokai's famous 3000ft cliffs from sea and air, incredible acrobatic displays from humpback whales and dolphins, visit Vermont for the Stave Island Party, hike all over Maui, sight see the big island, and play host to a bunch of fabulous visitors. Hunter, Rebecca, my sister (twice), Mama Tamarack, Burger, Kendall, Juliette, Laura and Annie, and of course Mark and the Oahu boys. It seems with each visitor I get to explore the island a little more with trips to Hana and visits to the summit of Haleakala never the same twice. 
I worked hard throughout this year at improving my photography and my surfing. There are so many opportunities for both here in Maui. And I want to continue that trend on in to this year. There is a lot to look forward to...but that is for another post.