Hikianalia Science Report | May 30, 2015
The Polynesian voyaging canoe Hikianalia is on a 2,400 mile journey from Aotearoa to Hawaiʻi. Crewmembers will be sending frequent updates so that educators and students can track her progress in conjunction with the Worldwide Voyage Tracking Map.
Crossing the equator has brought us into light winds and calm seas. The sunsets have offered an array of blues, pinks, oranges and golds. The waxing moon glitters off the gentle waves, providing the night watches with enough light to give their head lamps a rest.
The last few days the crew has had some interesting visitors. A small pod of whales were spotted off the starboard side Thursday afternoon. The entire crew waited in anticipation for the next blowhole spout and tall black dorsal fins to break the surface. The pod seemed to be making their way south and showed little interest in us. Late Thursday night, two small birds flitted around the canoe, circling the sails and calling to each other with these distinct chirps and songs. Although we couldn’t exactly identify them or their calls, their small size lead us to believe they were a type of tern. On Friday night, a small pod of dolphins graced the canoe with their presence early in the 6 to 10 watch. The soft puffs of air and small hops breaking the surface by the bow let the crew know they were there. The bioluminescent plankton provided evidence of their movement under water. Later, the 10 to 2 crew got a repeat performance from the pair of singing terns.
This morning, as we celebrated our crew crossing the equator, a small black and white bird, possibly a sooty tern, put on a fantastic display of beautiful agility all around the canoe. The likes of which many of us had never seen. We were amazed at how the bird danced gracefully across the surface of the ocean, gliding, flying, and flitting from wave to wave. At times, the bird even appeared to be skipping and hopping along the ripples. The show lasted all the way through the equator ceremony.
Later in the day, the persistent light winds and small swell provided a perfect opportunity for a plankton tow. These waters are so rich and abundant with microscopic life that 2 minutes in the water filled the net with more specimens than could be sampled. Many of the organisms were visible to the naked eye, including several types of copepods and larval shrimp-like creatures. There was also a plethora of fish eggs, diatoms, zooplankton and copepods. However the major find of the day was this amazing arthropod, that looked more like a tick or flea than a creature of the sea. Its long segmented legs and antennae wiggled and jerked as it moved around the slide. We took turns making guesses as to what it could be, and what it was doing so far out in the middle of the deep ocean.
All in all, the range of life of life at the equator is diverse and beautiful. We are reminded and reassured of the presence of Kanaloa by the mana and spirit in all life we can not see and the life that is larger than us.