Tuesday, December 31, 2002

One Humongous Blue Marlin of Kona Coast of Hawaii

Continued from the post: Five Oceanic Whitetip Sharks of Koan Coast of Hawaii.

While we were having good time with five aggressive oceanic whitetip sharks, all of a sudden, something else showed up by our boat. A huge shadow like a small submarine. Initially I thought it was a pilot whale, false killer whale or other cetacean kind, but it was swimming with an incredible speed.

Marlin! So I screamed as soon as I saw its rigid, ribbed dorsal fin breaking the surface. It was a humongous blue marlin, Makaira nigricans or Makaira mazara. The fish was about 10-12 feet (3-3.7m) in length, so it could weigh 300-500 lb (136-227 kg)!

free-swimming Pacific blue marlin, (Pantropical blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, or Indo-Pacific blue marlin, Makaira mazara - still debating), and oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

I quickly aimed my camera rig to the monster fish and released the shutter of my camera blindly a few times. The marlin never came quite close to spear my camera rig ;-) but came close enough for my camera's autofocus to work.

As soon as the monster marlin showed up, all the sharks fled into the deeper water. After all, the blue marlin is the king of all the fish in Kona Coast. Blue marlin are the most powerful and ferocious apex predators of Hawaii. No doubt about that.

The beast circled our boat twice and left as quickly as it showed up. Luckily I was able to produce a single rare shot of the humongous blue marlin and a fleeing oceanic whitetip shark in a frame.

Soon after the marlin left the scene, all dispersed sharks came back to us slowly, and we continued on having fun with playing with them.

By the end of the day, we had drifted several miles offshore - quite far from the human society. We are just two of us on a puny 17 foot CC boat surrounded by many sharks in the middle of Pacific Ocean far from the land. The situation we were in was very surrealistic as well as humbling.

It was such a relief when my Honda outboard finally started after stalling for several minutes! It's good to be alive for sure!

Five Oceanic Whitetip Sharks of Kona Coast of Hawaii

Continued from the post: Short-finned Pilot Whale Silhouettes of Kona Coast of Hawaii.

While we were having good time with pilot whales, I spotted an incoming large shark at distance underwater. It was swimming straight at us.

The shark must have sensed disturbance in the water, which we actually created with every fin-kick. I told my partner to go back to the boat before she even realized its existence and got panic. I knew the shark would come swiftly and bump its nostril to us and check us out to see if we were edible.

It was a beautiful oceanic white shark, Carcharhinus longimanus! As anticipated, it bumped me a few times aggressively and kept circling me around like it didn't want to miss any opportunities to bite me.

Since I didn't have underwater strobes with me, I had to go back to the boat and regroup my gears for the shark shooting with dual strobes.

oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, with open mouth, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

As I hurried back to my boat, I created more disturbance in the water deliberately to keep attracting the shark ;-). Such sure distress signals were easily picked up by other hungry sharks in the vicinity as well. By the time I reached my boat, I attracted a couple more sharks. Wow!

When I got ready to shoot them, the number of sharks were increased to five! Now that's really cool! This was the first opportunity to work with five oceanic whitetip sharks at once! I was so excited and pumped up! My partner also looked thrilled seeing those big wild sharks so close.

This particular offshore species of the shark is very aggressive by nature. Oceanic whitetip sharks are usually considered responsible for attacking and preying on humans who became victims of offshore boating or airplane accidents.

oceanic whitetip sharks, Carcharhinus longimanus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Their persistence scares me the most. They follow and hung around their preys forever and don't give up until they get some. Relentless but mechanical by nature. They are the ultimate scavengers of the sea.

I slipped into the water gently and started shooting. Ambitiously I was hoping to snap a shot of five sharks in a frame, but soon realized it wasn't possible to do, at the same time, I started to feel very uneasy about staying underwater alone against five aggressive sharks.

They came in and out from all kinds of direction and bumped me around. Larger sharks came straight at me but most of the other serious attacks (like open-mouth attacks) came from my blind sides.

oceanic whitetip sharks, Carcharhinus longimanus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

It was just impossible to keep all five sharks in front of me and keep my eyes on every shark while I was trying to look through the tiny view finder.

The shooting went unproductive. I had to constantly fend off sharks instead of taking pictures of them. Besides my partner looked uncomfortable watching me and sharks colliding underwater, so I decided to use my remote camera system to just "document" them.

Even with the remote system, shooting five sharks weren't so easy. It was difficult to focus on a shark or two as they went all over the place unlike schooling fish or dolphins. In addition, they got very aggressive as they had been competing to each other for a while. They started biting on my cameras, strobes, outboard engines, etc....whatever they can put their teeth on.

All I could do was to keep two sharks in a frame. The competition was dominated by a couple of larger sharks and smaller ones mostly stayed outside as they were afraid of bigger brothers & sisters.

Although the remote camera shooting was a work,  I was pretty happy with what I got from this shooting.

Continuing to: One Humongous Blue Marlin of Kona Coast of Hawaii

Short-finned Pilot Whale Silhouettes of Kona Coast of Hawaii

It was the last day of the year. I was out with my parrtner for a full day of boating excursion around Kona Coast. Although she wasn't a wildlife paparazzi like me, I wanted to show her something exciting - the best of Kona, the Hawaiian oceanic wildlife!

Soon after we went offshore for several miles, we found a pod of short-finned pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus. They seemed to be in a good "mellow" mood - logging and spyhopping, so we decided to go for swim with them.

Short-finned pilot whales belong to the family Deliphinidae - the oceanic dolphins, but their larger size gives them the common name, "whale". They are second largest dolphin species to killer whales or orca, Orcinus orca. The pilot whale can grow to 22 feet (6.7m) in length.

silhouette of short-finned pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

They are not known to attack other mammals to prey on like killer whales, but I consider them as dangerous animals. I've seen a short scary film footage of a pilot whale and a woman snorkeler in Kona Coast from Ripley's Believe It or Not series, in which a large pilot whale was pulling down the snorkeler's legs by grabbing it in its mouth. Fortunately the whale let the snorkeler go after dove down to about 50 feet, and the snorkeler survived.

Underwater the large 20 foot blackish muscular body looked very impressive, but at the same time, intimidating to get close as I leaned what they can do to a swimmer from that footage. I also knew that they had rows of sharp teeth and they could use them against me any time if they wanted to.

They seemed to be in a good mood today. I dove down and I was able to capture a silhouette shot of two whales resting on the surface against the bursting sun light.

Continuing to: Five Oceanic Whitetip Sharks of Kona Coast of Hawaii