Friday, May 05, 2006

Hawaiian Encounter

Not much time for blogging this week - it's month-end close & I've still managed to sneak out of the office at 5 twice this week - Tuesday to go for a paddle (first paddle of the season with no drysuit, just my Mountain Surf farmer jane & my NRS hydroskin top - felt SO good not to have latex clutching at my neck! - and man, we had the BEST sunset - uh, probably because of the smoke from the 5-alarm fire in the ancient warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront, but still quite lovely - I kinda floated home with a happy post-paddle hum), Wednesday to go teach at the 2nd to last class at Sarah Lawrence. Saturday I'll be off to work a couple of sails on the Schooner Adirondack, and Sunday I'm going to pass on the 8 am Breezy Point surf run that the Adventure Squad is going to do, but I might join a couple of friends for a picnic paddle down to Newark Bay (OK, I must admit that Newark Bay doesn't sound like the most promising site for a picnic, but the 11:45 - 6 projected time sounds nice). Yes, spring seems to FINALLY be here. Hurrah. But having all that fun during a close week meant that I had to pay for it with no real lunch breaks on Wednesday or Thursday, and a late night here Thursday. Maybe tonight, too, although I am taking lunch break today. Just had to share a really neat email my dad sent, though! My dad has taken up hiking in his re-retirement (he retired from the Navy & went on to teach math to 7th graders in the Hawaii public school system for another 10 years or something like that - how cool is that? - so now he's re-retired, but clearly not tired) - not that we didn't hike when I was a kid, but he's joined a pretty advanced group that seems to have a great time. Anyhow, they had a sort of special wildlife encounter last week - here's the picture & then I'm just going to paste in the exchange we had about it.

They found this:

up here:

Dad: So do you recognize where I might be from the attachments, and what the close-up shows? That's the first one I've seen alive, and it was the highlight of the hike yesterday. Fortunately we were with people with sharp eyes and who knew how to look for these critters.

Me: Wow, I was thinking that it was going to be a picture of a Hawaiian monk seal but that must be one of those very rare Hawaiian tree snails, right? OK, I cheated a little bit & did a quick Google search, but just looking at the picture brought up the name "hawaiian tree snail" & the idea that these were one of those endemic animals that took a beating from some other animal being brought in. I also see the Hawaiian name "pupu" on the Bishop Museum page about it & that reminds me of singing a song way way waaaaay back in elementary school, "Pupu hinu hinu", I bet this was the shell that song was about...very neat! And I can see why you'd need the sharp-eyed folks to know what to look for! BTW I got two of the same picture so I don't know where you were, except that there were leaves there & they look pretty green & damp so it must be on the windward side (hm, although after your solid month of rain I bet even the driest bits of the leeward side are unusually lush).

Dad: The tree snail part is right on, and rats, and later cannibal snails, brought in to get rid of African snails, brought in to raise for escargot were, I believe, the two main culprits on whittling seriously into the population of tree snails.

Dad (a little later): And with a little more research, "Hinuhinu- Intensification of hinu; bright, glossy, shining, lustrous, glittering, as of polished stones or shells; splendid; splendor." I get the sense that pupu also refers to other shells, but I think it very likely the song had these colorful snails in mind. Within our lifetimes people collected them and made necklaces, etc. because they are so pretty.

Me: I wonder if whatever teacher taught us that told us about that, that was sort of what I was thinking. That was in elementary school sometime, before California - it may have been something my class learned for a Lei Day performance at Pearlridge. I know I took hula lessons from somebody else, too, but I think this one was for school. So was this on that hike that you like in the Kolekole Pass? Looks like it was a beautiful day!
I don't know, I just thought that was sort of neat. It's also a classic example of the problems that endemic species in Hawaii ran into as introduced species started competing (or consuming). The big escargot snails that the cannibal snails were brought in to control are doing just fine, btw, I remember plenty just in our backyard. Mongooses were sort of like that too - some genius decided to bring in mongooses to control rats in the cane fields, only the rats are nocturnal & the mongooses are diurnal so instead of eating rats, the mongooses started in on the native birds - who were also a favorite food source for the rats. You can read more about this here - there are tons of online resources but this is a good quick writeup.

That also reminds me that I never did finish my Hanauma Bay series I'd started on last August...maybe I'll finish that off one of these days.

Back to work now, though.

quick note a little bit later - I'd asked my dad if the "A" on the snail's shell was a tag - he said he & his hiking group agreed that yes, it was an "A", but no one knew the purpose. He's sent out a couple of emails about it, if he gets back anything interesting I'll post it here. I'm imagining this might be part of a University of Hawaii study or something.

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