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Field work in Hawaii

Things started out normal. I got up early to get ready for the flight. Arrived at the Rochester international airport an hour early to confirm my flights and check my baggage. While I was at the check in counter the desk worker got a call informing him that my plane was still in Syracuse with a mechanical problem and that it would not be making its flight today. Fortunately I was at the airport early enough to catch another flight on a different airline. Due to the problems with the plane I was even up graded to first class for one leg of my trip. After the first leg of my plane took off every thing went pretty smoothly.

The first leg took me to Philadelphia; the next leg took me from to Philly to Los Angeles international. The view from the plane window looking down on LA was completely unbelievable. The city was bigger than I could have ever really imagined. Just the vast amount of area that the city covered was the largest concentration of cement and pavement I have ever seen in one place. Then the airport for LAX was just not one building with many terminals; it was five different buildings each of which were a complete with the airplane boarding terminals and many stores you would expect to find in a shopping mall.

I was even stopped by a Hindu monk and now have a book called the Quest for Enlightenment. The flight from LAX to the Honolulu airport was a very long flight and I was getting kind of tired with the mess when we were nearing the end of the flight. I had been awake since about 5:30am in New York. The only reason that I wasn’t feeling tired was that the sun was still out and as long as that were true my body would adjust to it and keep me full of energy and awake. But that all changed when we were nearing Honolulu. As the sun was beginning to set I could feel my brain wanting to shut down.

But I couldn’t yet I still had one more quick-hop from Honolulu to the airport in Maui. Which I slept the whole way through. After arriving at the airport with my journey completed. I called the hotel shuttle and was off to my place of lodging for the night. Jan. 4th 2001 Arrival at the Maui islander. After a very restful night of sleep I awoke with some things that needed to be accomplished. First I had to call home before it got to late in New York. I had to let my family know I arrived safely and every thing was ok.

Then I checked out of my room and went back to the airport to catch a different shuttle to the Maui Islander where I would be staying for my internship. The shuttle ride was very cool. On one side of the van there was the ocean, boats, waves, birds; then on the other side were Maui’s high mountain peaks that lay hidden in the clouds. The arrival at the islander led to some confusion. The room I was to be staying in was not yet ready for any one to be moved in. Then there were some matters that the OMI staff had to contend with as far as accommodations and who would be sleeping in which rooms.

None of this was going to be settled until three o’clock. Looking at my watch it is only 1:30. I decided to go for a walk around town and see what this small town of Lahaina had to offer. I arrived on Front Street to discover a number of shops, mainly tourist oriented, restaurants, galleries of local artists and even a tattoo parlor. I should probably stay away from there lest I may be tempted to give in to the temptation of getting inked before I come home. I wondered back to the hotel around 2:25 and waited around a little bit until things were ready to move into my room.

After I moved in I relaxed, watched a little TV, and at around 7:00pm I decided to go get some thing to eat and have another look around the town. Came back to the room and read my book for a little while and then feel asleep on the sofa bed. Jan. 5th 2001 The internship begins. The day started with a lecture at 10:00am out side so we could get out in the warm air. Dr. Marsha Green and Joyce O’Neal gave turns introducing the staff and then we were given an introduction to research techniques and the equipment that we would be using throughout the course of the internship.

We were divided up into research teams to help with the organization and then were given some examples of how the research we were doing would make an impact on every thing from the legislature concerning marine mammals to the basic information and ideas that would be taught in schools. We were given a lunch break and then groups 1-4 were to meet in front of the hotel at 1:30. We were to go and do some field training with the equipment and help learn the correct jargon to describe the different behaviors that the hump back whales make during their movements through the waters surrounding Maui.

One example of the terms used is the phrase “Blow. ” This is the term used to say that we spotted a spout of water from where a whale had surfaced and took a breath. After one of the individuals with binoculars spots a spout we yell blow and then give the coordinates of where we saw it so that the person operating another piece of equipment, called theodolyte. This piece of equipment was used to get exact coordinates to later calculate the proper distance to the whale from our spot on shore. As well as the distance of the whales from any boats or other pods that are in the area.

Between the times of 1:30-5:00 I was able to witness many different behaviors of the whales such as numerous breaches, tail slaps. And surprisingly the weather was very cooperative. The air had a breeze and the temperature was hot in direct sunlight, but when it dives behind a cloud the temp was perfect. I was one of the individuals manning the binoculars and the view I was getting through the high powered lenses was almost like I was out on the boats right next to them. This is definitely one of the coolest things you could get for your money’s worth. Hey it is even tax deductible.

Jan. 6th 2001 Day off… sort of. Today started with a lecture like yesterday from Dr. Marsha Green. Dr. Green again gave us examples of whale behavior as well as relayed experiences she had in the field. Lecture lasted from about 9:30 to 11:30. Today, since I had already underwent the field training yesterday, was my day off. Teams 1-4 were able to do their grocery shopping and any of the tourism stuff they wanted as long as they were at the 7:30 meeting. I decided to take this opportunity to get aquatinted with some of the local historical sights here in Lahaina.

One sight is a restored whaling ship that now acts as a floating museum. The ship’s name is Carthaginian II, and she sits in the harbor daily with the tall masts and numerous riggings jutting into the sky. It is quite an impressive sight to see all the rope and rigging used to help the ship harness the wind in its sails, and the massive anchors used to keep the boat in place near shore. Then there was the foundation of the first brick, or english style, house to have been built in Hawaii. English convicts from Australia who landed on the island of Maui constructed it.

They were commissioned by the king to construct the house for the king’s favorite wife, who never actually stayed in the house for she preferred an airier house that was near by. Another pretty cool sight I saw was the Banyan tree. Originally it was just one tree planted in the center of the park. Now the tree covers nearly an entire block. The unusual thing about this tree is that it grows out and not really up. The branches run parallel to the ground and have roots that drop off of them seeking to plant into the ground and grow another support trunk so the tree can keep growing out from the center.

This is truly a massive tree with the central trunk is at least 15 feet in diameter and towering over 3 stories high! Jan 7th Our first attempt at research on our own. Today team 4 was scheduled to go out and do data collection in the after noon. We were scheduled to go back out to the point where we did our equipment training the first day. I really like this group of guys. They are all oddballs; they helped pass the time between surfaces of the whales quite well. Before the day was over we all had nicknames from the movie Top Gun before we left the hill.

I drew the name of “Ice Man”, I guess it was because I was little quiet. Even Gretchen our group leader wasn’t able to escape with out a name. McGregor point is a small area of one of the high way about 20 min south of our hotel. We set up our equipment near the cliff ledge to get a good view of the water and so the lighthouse is out of our way. From our spot on the point we are given nearly a 180-degree field of view on to the ocean. The water was calm today, little to no wind. Spotting the whales on the ocean today was pretty easy thanks to the calm waters.

The only problem is trying to find a pod of whales that wasn’t currently being impacted by a pod of whales. Since McGregor point is located right near the mouth of a pretty large port it was pretty hard with all the boat traffic around. What we are suppose to do during one of these data collection trips is to try and find a pod that is not in the presence of any boats and try to record their natural unstressed behavior for at least 20 min before a boat closes in on them. Then we are to record the whale’s behaviors while the boat is with in a mile of our focal pod.

After the boat leaves we are to record the whale’s behaviors and take note of any changes in down time or in speed of travel. This was a very hard situation to accomplish with all the major traffic in the area. We will really find out how well we did when the calculations and map are completed. As far as seeing any of the more interesting behaviors, it was pretty much a quiet day. The whales just swam, dove and blew. There was nothing really extrodinary today. Today is our first journey to Olawahu, or the hill.

This location is a little closer to the hotel but actually farther from the shore. This hill is inland from the coastal high way by about a a mile. Each team has to hike up the hill it’s self carrying the equipment since cars are not allowed. The supposed reason is that the hill is home to an old Hawaiian temple and people are usually not suppose to be up there. The only thing on the hill that I actually saw was rather modern and new cement well. The higher elevation of this place provides a great view of the ocean.

The only problem is that the distance from the ocean its self makes finding pods very difficult with the naked eye, and since binoculars provide such a narrow field of view, the chances of missing things are pretty high if you are looking in the slightly wrong spot. During our scan of the area to figure out how many pods are around and how many are in each group. Team TG (short for Top Gun, our new official name) spotted about 12 different pods around that area ranging from single whale pods to larger, more active, fighting male pods.

One thing I found rather amusing is that once we are done with our scan all the pods we charted seemed to have disappeared. There would be numerous pods in nice and close to the shore that would look very promising. They seem to know when we want to pick one of them, and they just disappear. We have to settle for a pod that is farther out and harder to pick out against the hazy background. Although today turned out to be pretty fruitful. We gathered a good six pages of data, as well as catching a few good breaches right square in my binoculars.

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