Monday, January 26, 2009

Endangered species

We went hiking on Sunday - usually a work day, but we had the chance to go out to Ka'ena Point with our friend E and his visiting uncle, so we took it. It was a pretty amazing trip - the walk itself, along a disused section of dirt road, was not so remarkable, but the point is unique in being the only place in the inhabited islands where the rare Laysan albatross nests. It's a threatened, though not endangered, species. Here's an albatross, nesting:

albatross2

They're much more impressive in flight, and one obliged us by buzzing us at very close range: huge, beautiful, graceful, and utterly free, carelessly slipping from one rising thermal to the next. On top of the close up and personal view of rare albatrosses, what looked like a discarded tarpaulin on the rocks turned out to be a snoozing specimen of the spectacularly endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Behold, a rolled tarp on the rocks napping Hawaiian monk seal:

monkseal2

This picture, taken with a zoom lens, is the closest we dared get, as we humans are legally required to stay at least 100yds away from any beached monk seal. However, a previous frame shows a couple of visiting idiots ("Look at that big seagull!" he said to her at one point as an albatross zoomed overhead) getting up close and personal. Lucky the seal only flapped its tail at them and grunted - they've been known to bite.

On the walk back, we noticed an ancient vertical lava pipe eroding out of the cliff face, surrounded with the horizontal layers of lava it had laid down over the centuries:

lavapipe

For sheer geology, it was one of the coolest things we saw all day, but after we fell exhausted into bed, I couldn't get out of my head the thought of what it would be like to encounter one of these holes in the rock that was still enclosed, perhaps concealed with trees and other growth. It's a long way down, is what I'm saying.

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