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Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
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Mission Blog: August 11, 2009
Mokumanamana, A Bay Full of Marine Life

By Elizabeth Keenan, Scientist, Diver

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.
Click on thumbnails for a larger image.
The ship is currently at Mokumanana, also known as Necker Island. The island is small, only about 270 ft high and consists of around 45 acres of land. It has steep cliffs on all sides, and very little vegetation. Our first day here at Mokumanamana was very busy. We had technical divers heading off for the deep reefs to the south, a team going on shore to see the Native Hawaiian artifacts and wildlife on land, taxonomists off looking for their specimens, and photographer Wayne Levin and I headed for a little bay. It was the only protected spot anywhere around the little island, and so we didn't have much of choice of where we would dive and snorkel.

We put on our masks and fins and jumped in, and right away saw a beautiful school of tiny blue fish making patterns as they swam by near the surface. Wayne specializes in underwater black and white photography and schools of fish are one of his favorite subjects. We spent some time with the fish and then headed a bit down the wall of the bay. We were rewarded with white tip reef sharks,

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.
an eagle ray and even the rare sighting of a swimming monk seal. We were thinking we couldn't get any luckier when one of those magic moments happened. Suddenly we were surrounded by a huge school of small kava-kava tuna fish and rainbow runners. They were circling us, and more and more kept coming until we were completely surrounded. It was amazing. Unfortunately Wayne only got one or two pictures and ran out of film. He called for our support boat to bring another camera, but by the time he got it... they had swum off as fast as they had come. Wayne was disappointed, it would have been a great photographic opportunity, but we were both just excited to have seen it at all.

We finished up our free diving session and went back to the boat to warm up and eat some lunch before we jumped back in the same spot with scuba. The sea life was just as astounding the second time around, and this time along with our sharks and monk seal, we also saw a friendly old giant sea turtle. He swam right by us and just kept munching on the algae covered rocks. We were just about finished our dive when out of the corner of my eye I saw the school of tuna coming back. I yelled for Wayne, and got his attention just in time. He actually got his second chance to film the school of beautiful fish. And our plan for tomorrow? To go back to the same little bay on Mokumanamana and hope that all of the sea life is there to amaze us again.



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