Friday, January 10, 2014

Aloha from Hawaii

Hawaii is different than most of the other states in the United States. It is a group of islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it was settled by Polynesians.  There are eight major Hawaiian Islands and we visited four of them on the Safari Explorer, a small cruise ship with only 23 passengers.  

One night we went snorkeling off the Big Island to see the manta rays but first learned about manta rays.  They look like huge underwater bats and can have a 20 foot wing span.  They are very gentle but we were cautioned not to touch them because they have a protective mucus coating that protects them from infection and touching them can remove the coating.  In the water they do flips which are interesting to watch.  They have good eyesight but can’t see behind them so flipping is a way to check what is around them.

Another day went snorkeling off Maui and saw sea turtles. It was
interesting because there places our guide, Jill, called “turtle cleaning stations.”  It was fascinating to watch.  Alga grows on the turtle’s shell so they sit on the sandy bottom and let the surgeon fish eat the algae.  We think it is a great example of cooperation. We also saw many other beautiful fish.  We especially liked the bright yellow tangs and the Hawaiian state fish the humu-humu-nuku-a’pua’a, which is also called the Picasso Triggerfish. 

On shore near one of our snorkeling spots there is a monument to Captain Cook. Captain Cook may have been the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands which he called the Sandwich Island in honor of the Earl of Sandwich. At first the Hawaiians welcomed Cook and his men as gods but things turned bad when one of the crew died which meant that they were not really gods and fighting broke out. Captain Cook was killed.

While we were sailing we saw spinner dolphins, false killer

whales, and humpback whales. The humpbacks whales are amazing.  They spend the summer in waters around Alaska then travel 3000 miles to Hawaii where they give birth to their babies.  We saw a newborn and one about a year old. The humpbacks can be 40 to 45 feet in length, weight up to 40 tons and can eat a ton of food a day. When they jump out of the water and flapped their tail we would all cheer. They probably couldn’t hear us but one day while snorkeling Jeremy, the captain of the skiffs, put a microphone in the water and we could hear the whales singing. 

One of our favorite days was spent in the Halawa Valley on the island of Molokai.  The Halawa Valley is considered where the first civilization in Hawaii began around the year 500. We met with Anakala Pilipo and his family whose family has been living in the valley for 50 generations.  First one of his son’s blew on the conch shell to warn the people outsiders were arriving.  Then we walked
into the village, presented gifts of food and made the traditional greeting called a “honi.”  A “honi” is when we touch foreheads and noses. Afterwards one of the sons, Greg, showed us how to make poi out of taro. It is a favorite Hawaiian food,. 

We loved Molokai because there are no stoplights, no McDonalds, no movie theaters and no malls.  There is a sign that says, “Slow down. You are Molokai.” The Island of Oahu is very busy with many people. It is where we visited Pearl Harbor and learned more about WW II. There is much to learn about Hawaiian history and culture.