Monday, April 30, 2007

Our First Dives at Wake

Our first day of surveys at Wake Atoll was amazing. It is telling when one of your dive partners complains after the second dive that the underwater visibility DROPPED to 80 feet. We started out on the northeast corner of the island and steadily worked in a counter-clockwise direction around the island. On our very first dive we were greeted by a small school of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), a rare fish was have seldom seen. Wake seems to be one of the few areas they still exist in high densities. Large, generally slow-moving and seemingly trusting fish, bumpheads have been particularly vulnerable to spear-fishing. This is especially the case at night when large numbers of the group together under overhangs in the reef where they are easy targets for unscrupulous fishermen. We have also seen a larger number of Napoleon Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) which we also see elsewhere only rarely. Together these two relatively rare species have made up the majority of our large fish observations - a distinctly different scenario.

Topside the weather continues to be beautiful. Clear skies and generally calm seas with a long rolling swell. We are accompanied by sooty turns, masked boobies, and many of our other avian friends who, for some reason, always want to eat the small black cap on the end of our radio antenna. This seems to be the case wherever we are. Northwest Hawaiian Islands, Samoa, Marianas ... the always want to eat our antenna, I have no idea why.

From our vantage point several hundred yards offshore, Wake Island seems flat and relatively desolate. It will be interesting to see if we can go on land latter in the week. We have seen several bunkers, gun emplacements and other remnants of the war in addition to the variety of debris we have encountered below water. Not having seen the island before typhoon Ioke, which struck 6 months ago, it is hard to know what is a result of that and what is simply the island itself. It is easy to imagine the sustained winds of 200 mph with gust to 250 mph could leave and island looking more than a little windblown and disheveled.


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