Hawaii – Black & White

More images from the beautiful island chain. Monochrome.

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Along the road to Hilo. Hawai’i

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Lava fields at Volcanoes National Park. Hawai’i

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The forest path along the edge of the crater at Volcanoes National Park. Hawai’i

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Dolphins off Kona. Hawai’i

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 An adult keeps one eye on its young ward & another on me as they come in for a closer look. Hawai’i

Hawai’i presented me with some incredible close encounters. From the dolphins off Kona to the albatross’ at Princeville to the turtles at Po’ipu, I cherish those moments of nearness and quiet communication. The Kona spinners (Stenella longirostris) are curious and amicable. They are so swift in the water, and we so laboriously slow, that rather than them being termed approachable I’d say they certainly approached us. In casual, angled swim-bys that allowed them to check us out with sidelong stares. And sometimes in playful encircling loops, before dashing off into the blue with a trail of bubbles behind them.

The green turtles (Chelonia mydas) around Poi’pu enjoy a more low key, slower pace to things. They swim unhurried and deliberate along the edge where the rocks meet the sea. When they happen upon a rock with a suitable amount of seaweed they stop to feed. This becomes all about good timing – the turtle grabs a mouthful of seaweed just before an incoming wave pulls it inshore, dislodging the seaweed from the rock in the process. It then chews and swallows its mouthful. The water returning to the sea pulls the turtle back to its feeding spot where it flounders about and grabs another mouthful of seaweed just in time for the next wave to help dislodge the clinging plants from their rock. The difference between the turtle and the photographer is that the former seems to treat all knocks, bumps and rattles with the kind of disinterest that only turtles can muster – a luxury the latter cannot afford. And so, in the general flurry of trying to compose a suitable image amidst rushing water, flying sand and rough-edged rocks I occasionally found myself within kissing distance of these beautiful creatures. Upon recovering, I’m grateful for the momentary look of pity and condescension, “No, no. Not to worry at all.  You may go first – you’re soft and awkward” before being shown the same polite disinterest as the rough-edged rock.

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Swimming to stay in the same spot.

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Within kissing distance of a beautiful Green Turtle. Kaua’i

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Coastal trail in Waianapanapa State Park. Maui

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Caves in Waianapanapa State Park. Maui

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Albert Ross – Master of the seaward skies. Kaua’i

Kauai is home to a fair population of Albatross, many of whom have claimed nesting grounds in residential areas along the north shore. While the Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) found in Kaua’i have a wingspan of 6 feet, they are in fact some of the smaller members of the Albatross family Diomedeidae. By comparison, the Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) has a wingspan double that of the Laysan Albatross, with the largest verified specimen cruising the skies on wings measuring 12-feet-2-inches from tip to tip!!

Nevertheless, the smaller Laysan Albatross are a sight to behold, especially as they glide along the Princeville and Kilauea coastline without so much as a flutter of their giant wings. The juveniles, on the other hand, are a slightly different story. Covered in grey fuzz and awkward in gait, the chicks waddle about the grassy lawns between houses, quite unperturbed by the local human residents who, in turn, have assumed a sort of guardianship of the chicks from a respectful distance. It is not uncommon, therefore, to observe Albatross chicks on one’s evening walk through Princeville. And at the right time of year one may even have the good fortune of being spectator to the frenzied mating dances of the adults.

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Baby Albert. Juveniles are grey and covered in fuzz.

One of the many things that is incredible about these big grey fuzzballs is their maiden flight.

By about the 3rd month after they hatch, the grey downy feathers on their bodies is replaced by the white adult feathers. By the time they are about 6 months old they have lost the residual fuzz around their heads and necks and have spent many hours testing their wings. While they don’t actually fly, they beat their wings while standing on the ground and occasionally use the drafts of wind to hover a few inches above the ground on outstretched wings. When a chick senses that the time for its first flight has come, it walks out towards the drop-off at the top of the cliffs looking out to sea and chooses a suitable spot. Until this moment, most of these juveniles have never set eyes on the sea and none of them have actually flown more than an extended hop!! And there is no protective parent bird around to offer support and encouragement in this monumental moment. The adults have long since left for the open ocean, and the chicks know that they must follow. Upon finding its take-off point, the chick stretches its wings out, catches the wind and begins to make practice “jumps”, sometimes hovering a few feet above the ground. And then, with the orchestra playing an unnecessarily intimidating background score in my head, the chick commits itself to a run and a leap off the edge of the cliff. It wavers and wobbles for a few heart-stopping moments and then catches the updraft beneath long beating wings and soars up and out over the water. And I have so many questions for it in this moment. How does it know when the time is right? How does it know where to go assuming it doesn’t plummet to the bottom and crack its skull on the rocks way down below? Does it feel fear? Does it require what we know as courage to leap off that cliff, or is it the same logical progression as the losing of grey juvenile feathers for white adult ones? And lastly, how does one enlist to be an albatross? What I would give to soar over the ocean the way these incredible creatures do!!

And if all that does not seem enough, once an albatross chick lifts off on its maiden flight it will not touch land for 3 – 5 years!! So far, they have only ever eaten regurgitated food from their parents, and so must instinctively begin to look for fish that they haven’t even seen until this day. They will remain at sea and only return to land when it is time for them to find a mate.

Here is a link to a Youtube video of an albatross’ first flight.

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There is a sleek, sparklingly white-bodied adult hidden somewhere in there.

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The beauty of an adult Laysan Albatross in full flight. Kaua’i

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The Kilauea lighthouse. Kaua’i

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A Hawaiian monk seal enjoying siesta on the beach. Kaua’i

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One response to “Hawaii – Black & White

  1. Don’t know which left me spell bound, the pictures or the writing. That goes for all your posts. Finally found your blog. Yay 🙂

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