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Mission Blog: September 27, 2009
A Special Place, A Humbling Place

By Hi'ilei Kawelo

Today we arrived at Kapou (Lisianski Island/ Neva Shoal). We were greeted by Kanehekili (Kane of Thunder ) and Kanekauilanuimakehaikalani (Kane of Lightning). My thoughts are all over the place. I've seen Nihoa, I've seen Mokumanamana (Necker Island), then on to Onu Nui and Onu Iki (Gardner Pinnacles), we left Ka Moku o Kamohoali'i (Maro Reef) yesterday after spending the last four days there and we find ourselves now at Kapou.

Frosting on Puhahonu.

(Photo: Hi'ilei Kawelo)

Every place we visit is so very different from one another. What is my function? A question that runs through my head always, but much more often in this place. I'm fortunate this year to have along with me my dad; who gets to experience this place with their father? My function is to maintain our ancestral connections/ reconnect with this place, Papahanaumokuakea, the Kupuna Islands, whatever name you choose to call these atolls, shoals, islands, reefs, this place is a place of our kupuna.

Opihi Photo Quad.

(Photo: Hi'ilei Kawelo)

Our team is called the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Team. We consist of myself and my dad (Hi'ilei and Gabby Kawelo), Nakoa Goo, and the Opihi Team (Chris Bird and Matt Ramsey). A day for us is a day of sub-surface marine and intertidal observations. Of interest to me is the ecological balance that occurs in the Monument. These waters provide us a look into the past. What were our kai resources like in our Main Hawaiian Islands, i ka wa kahiko, and what sould they be like?

A common theme that occurs here is that this place that deserves a great deal of respect. This is a place of many unknowns, a place where we are not incharge, but mere visitors. We take what is given in the way of 'ike and no more.

Opihi Photo Quad.

(Photo: Hi'ilei Kawelo)

On Nihoa, Mokumanamana and Gardner Pinnacles, we primarily assisted the 'Opihi Team monitor 'opihi, but were able to get in the water at both Mokumanamana and Gardner. What we observed there was deep water where predatory fish such as Ulua, Uku, Kamaunu, Kawakawa, Kahala and sharks reign supreme. Our experience at Ka Moku o Kamohoali'i (Maro) was an excersize of respect for us, three out of our four days were spent on the ship. I think the name for the submerged reef speaks for itself... but we did get in the water on the first day. Now we're at Kapou and just returned from a short 2 hour snorkel. The visibility was not that great, about 10 ft. or so, but we were in the shallow reef area, so it wasn't too bad. We saw the normal stuff, Enenue, Manini, Pualu, Maiko, Hou, Ulua, 'Omilu, 'Ula, Hinalea, etc., all the while being followed by a rather curious Monk Seal. Dad was down looking under the ledges for 'Ula, I followed, but as I was surfacing, I turned my face to the right and found myseld face to face with the Monk Seal. That was the closest I've ever been to a Monk Seal, I was completely startled. What I gathered from this event was that we were doing the exact same thing that the Monk Seal was doing, looking for food.

This place is a special place a humbling place.

 

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