In no particular order:

  1. The first turtle of the season was a new turtle to the project. We nicknamed T151 “Dory” because she false nested four times in four nights at Pohue before finally laying eggs during the day. Very un-turtlelike. Seeing this 180 lbs. mother Hawksbill in the flesh definitely ranks in my top ten.
  2. Our first hatchlings were also at Pohue. We nest-excavated in mid-July and found three hatchlings that we then assisted to the ocean. Miniature versions of the massive adults, their shells have an orange sheen to them that reflects brilliantly off of the setting sun. We always release in the evening when it is cooler. Definitely ranks in my top ten.
  3. My most recent trip at Apua had T155 come up at around 6:30 pm while it was still light out. I raced up to the coral pathway with my camera and planted myself right behind a bush of naupaka, where she would amble right into my scope. We are supposed to keep completely still when mothers come up, in order not to spook them right back to the ocean. We also cover their heads with a towel when we restrain them because it calms them down. This means that there is very little opportunity to actually observe the faces of the Hawksbill, so having her crawl up right into my camera scope during the daylight was definitely a top ten moment.
  4. Halape beach has a slightly brackish pool a few hundred yards inland. Blanketed by trees and high cliffs, this pool is home to a species of large endemic shrimp. Rinsing off all the salt and sweat in “the crack” and cooling off from the blistering Hawaiian sun was definitely one of my favorite moments of the whole summer.
  5. Walking north up the Apua coast, one finds a multitude of natural sea arches. The sea spray often creates brief rainbows, and the lack of trees offers a full 360-degree view of the Volcanoes National Park backcountry. Taking strolls up the coast was definitely a highlight of every backcountry trip.
  6. Hiking of Apua to Halape, we stop to beach check Keauhou. This beautiful beach is home to an even more beautiful coral reef. I snorkeled for the first time ever in these reefs and it took my breath away. Large spherical reefs that looked almost Dr. Seuss-like are home to hundreds of species of fish that I had never seen before. Swimming with them was magical. It offered an aerial view of schools of yellow tang, needlefish, and goatfish, to name but a few. One of my most memorable outdoor experiences ever.
  7. During one of our days off, we drove down to Hilo and visited Richardson beach. In a tiny pool that was sheltered from the waves, we swam with no less than eight Green Sea Turtles. We could have ridden them if we wanted. One was at least 250 lbs. This was one of my most memorable wildlife experiences ever.
  8. On other one of my days off, I drove two hours north with another intern to visit Waipio Valley. It was raining the entire time and we couldn’t even see the valley from the overlook because it was so foggy. We hiked down and jumped into the stormy ocean. Something about swimming in the rain is intensely satisfying, and we were offered ghostly views of barely visible lush-green mountains and tall waterfalls. This was definitely a surreal top ten experience.
  9. When a mother turtle starts to nest, it often takes her twenty minutes, and she goes into a sort of trance. At this point we can turn our lights on and talk quietly around her. We check for tags and injuries, and measure her carapace lengths and widths. Watching a deep hole fill up with over 150 ping pong ball sized eggs under a brilliantly starry sky was easily one of my favorite moments whenever we observed them nesting. 45 days later, hatchlings are breaking out of these eggs. Crazy.
  10. One of the best moments I had here was having 45 hatchlings emerge from a nest at once, and the following day excavating the nest, and finding 88 more hatchlings. We released all of them in the evening. Watching one of nature’s most secretive and exclusive moments was a special thing indeed. I have plenty of other moments, but those are my top ten!


Written on August 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

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Protecting the Hawksbill – Connor Liu

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park