Archive for the 'animals' Category

Oahu 2016

February 09th, 2016 | Category: animals,Hawaii,Hawaii,scuba,Travel

Another work trip, with, of course, a little free time.  Not so much this time – work kind of gets in the way sometimes – but i made the best use of what time I had!  Unfortunately I got sick, some sinus thing, and also was very busy so had to curtail my diving – but I did get to go once.


I’ll put a few images up front with captions underneath.  Click to enlarge. To see them all, browse the gallery below.

The California coast

The California coast over LA


The island of Oahu, seen at last after hours of empty ocean. Kauai is in the background.

North shore Oahu

Oahu’s north shore, near “the pipeline” which has such great surf waves.


A surfer on Oahu’s north shore. A few days prior there were record, 40-foot waves, but on this day it was less dramatic.

north shore beachgoers

Beach goers on the north shore. Those waves are something else! The sea is something to be reckoned with here.


Near Kaena point

At Kaena point, on the northwest corner of the island where the trade winds hit the shore, the scenery is dramatic and, for the foolish, quite deadly.

Near Kaena point

Near Kaena point, to the north.

Near Kaena point

Near Kaena point, to the south. This wave was 30 feet tall, but since there’s no perspective, it’s impossible to tell. You can stand there without seeing one of these monsters for a few minutes, and it can sneak up and get you. If you go, pay attention to the rocks; is there water in the holes? If so, watch out.

Near Kaena point

Look at the water’s color where the sun strikes through this wave.

Kaena point, looking south

Kaena point, looking south. This is a fantastic hike, specially if you go at a time with few people. There was almost nobody there when I went, and it was magical. I have visited a few times over the years, and it always delivers.

Whale breaching near Kaena point

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, whales started leaping out of the water. later they came very close, but it was too dark to photograph. A pod of Dolphins and a monk seal were also present.

Waikiki sunset

Waikiki sunset

Green sea turtle

A Green sea turtle off of Hawaii Kai, on the southeast corner.

Green sea turtle

Note the specialized nostril lips.

Green sea turtle

This guy has a tumor, poor dude.

Moray Eel

Often seen, always enjoyed – a yellow margin moray eel, looking scary.

Moray Eel

A yellow margin moray.


This animal, named the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, is the state fish, and yes I can pronounce this!

Pearl Harbor

At the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center, you can see the Missouri at left and the Arizona memorial to the right. I have visited both of these in the past, but not this time.

Japanese torpedo

A Japanese torpedo, found in the mud in the 1990s. It was intact, but after the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) people finished with it, it was damaged, as they had to blow it up.

USS Bowfin submarine

The USS Bowfin, a highly decorated submarine.

USS Bowfin submarine

Up periscope!

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine’s engine room

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine aft torpedo room

USS Bowfin submarine

USS Bowfin submarine

The 5″ deck gun, used to sink many vessels. DO not forget, if you enjoy this kind of thing – as I do – that these vessels represent not only bravery and performance of duty in the face of hardship, but that also they are the instruments of death, used in a grim struggle. War is hell.


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Hart Prairie Hummingbord Moths

October 26th, 2014 | Category: animals,Arizona

Here’s a post from another visit to Hart Prairie.  A group of friends watched the sunset and enjoyed one another’s company. It’s things like this that really make me love where I live: beautiful surroundings and great people. The most salient feature of this visit were all of the hummingbird moths who were making the most of the late fall flowers. They are enormous plump moths with cute faces.


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Ant Colony Casts

October 13th, 2013 | Category: animals

Blue Ridge Overnight Trip

July 22nd, 2013 | Category: animals,Arizona,Uncategorized

Me & a few Flagstaff friends whipped up a quick car-camping trip to the Blue Ridge reservoir. Incredibly, on a Saturday afternoon there was a single spot open at the Rock Crossing campground, although if it had been full, we could easily have camped nearby in the woods, which is permitted west of the campground.  There is also another nearby place, the Blue Ridge campground. We ate great camp food, had a nice fire, woke up early and went kayaking. It poured on us during the evening, but we were ready, and stayed cozy, playing games and talking.The dogs were afraid though, poor things.

For my friends that don’t know about this part of Arizona, here is what it looks like: no cactus here! The water echoed with the cries of Osprey and herons; duck hens led flotillas of hyper-kinetic chicks and trout jumped out of the water to catch dragonflies.  We paddled down the narrow reservoir for a couple of miles, surveying camping spots for next time.

On the way home, I stopped to take pictures of the infinite field of flowers south of Mormon lake, which has a great view of the San Francisco peaks. There was an infinite number of grasshoppers to go along with the flowers, and also there were clouds of butterflies and harmless bees. The weather was gentle, the wind slow, and there was almost no sound except distant thunder. It was like a scene in a movie where a character goes to heaven.

The dog was overjoyed.  I knew how he felt!

Here is one of the legion of grasshoppers, which rose up in a cloud around me as I walked on the flower-covered dry lakebed.  The seldom touched me; it was like being in a school of fish.

Here is a link with photos taken by others on this trip.


Kauai horse ride

September 13th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,Travel

While “the girls” were all out doing things like getting their toes polished, I went horseback riding with my friend Joe, the groom.  We had a great time!

Because I didn’t get my toes polished,, I looked disheveled and ungraceful at Joe & Sara’s wedding; but I’m used to that by now.

We encountered a paradisaical waterfall and pool and went for a swim.

Joe took a few pictures of me.  Gotta love REI desert-weight convertible pants.; they make a good swimsuit in a pinch.

I look like Sancho Panza.

Here, I ride a unique headless horse.  This horse had very distinct ideas about where and what it was going to do.  They seldom coincided with my ideas; nevertheless, I managed to keep the lid on the situation and it never became an outright rebellion, although constant vigilance was required.  After it was all over I thought we did pretty well.  I can’t wait to ride a horse again!  It is a great way to ride across interesting terrain.





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Diving in Kauai

September 10th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,scuba,Travel

Here are some pictures taken on a recent trip to Kauai.  I always meet such great people when I travel & dive, and this was no exception.  Diving sites were Koloa landing, tunnels beach and some boat diving around Sheraton caverns.

You may notice that the collection is a bit turtle-heavy.  I like turtles.  Deal with it.

Sheraton caverns was by far the most interesting, with lots of life and interesting terrain, but not so far off shore that a long boat ride is required.  Tunnels is a great beach, and near some other interesting things to do on shore, but I found it rather barren for the most part.  This is probably due to the violent wave action that makes this site undiveable in the winter.  The cleaning station in the shallows was fantastic; if you find it, stay there – it’s the coolest thing you’ll find there, I think.  I found the tunnels (rock formations with a lot of swim-throughs) marginally interesting.  I’d probably like them better if I went with just one other diver.  Koloa landing is a good practice/reintroduction site, and a great way to start out a week of diving after not being in the water for a few months.  Although not super awesome like Sheraton caverns, there was a lot of life and it was really easy to get in and out, both in terms of diving and arriving by car.



Here are some Pacific Green sea turtles being cleaned by tangs off of Tunnels beach.

By the way, they are not called green because of their color – which is not really green – but because of their fat, which is green in color (people used to eat a lot of turtles).  Some green turtles are, in fact, green, but this is because of algae.  In true color, they are yellow/brownish-orange.  The color distortion at depth makes them look green in some photos, but this is misleading.  The next two pictures show this effect.

Here is a non-color-corrected image:

…and here is one taken with a flash, to show true color (and algae growth):

These next few images are close to the surface and the color is pretty accurate.  I’ve never seen so many adult turtles in one place.  Like all reef animals that want cleaning, they hang motionless in a slightly head-up position, flippers out.  This body posture is a signal to the cleaners, who come up to do their job.

Some other sights from Tunnels – my diving buddy that day, Carmen M.:

A little whitemouth moray eel found in the shallows.  they are very common in Hawaii.

What it looks like in the tunnels:

A school of bluestriped grunts.  I love to watch when a stationary school of animals rocks gently back and forth in the current.

What you see when you surface at Tunnels reef:


Koloa Landing

This is a rockmover wrasse, but I think of it as the stoned-out-of-its-mind fish:

These nudibranchs (probably Chromodoris vibrata) are mating (I think). They are basically fancy slugs, and they are beautiful and tiny.

Here is another type, the Gold Lace nudibranch.

Here is a rather blurry image of a humuhumunukunukuapuaa (it’s pronounced HOO-moo-HOO-moo-NOO-koo-NOO-koo-AH-poo-AH-ah).

A stonefish.  It’s venomous – very much so, and also common; I’ve found them all over the world.  They are almost impossible to see. Look for the eye, and the mouth to its left.

A flying gurnard.


An injured, sick-looking turtle with a completely algae-encrusted carapace.  If I had seen it in Florida, I would have alerted the turtle hospital, but I don’t know who to speak to about this in Hawaii.  Note the crushed portion of its shell near the left shoulder.

Another green turtle.

A green moray eel, which is really green.

A spotted pufferfish.  these guys are hard to photograph, because they move so rapidly and are shy.



Sheraton Caverns

This area is so named because a) it’s off-coast of a Sheraton and b) there are some lava caves and swim-throughs in the area.  Turtles (yes, more turtles) like to rest in the caverns.  Drowsily perched on the stone blocks, flippers hanging carelessly, they resemble bored people waiting at a bus stop.  Like many reptiles, they don’t have the necessity to constantly respirate like us mammals; the simply stop breathing when water makes it inconvenient.  Lodging themselves in the rocks, they doze off.  It makes me consider the alien lives of other animals.  Can you imagine an existence in which breathing was more like eating – something you needed to do, but could be put off for long periods of time?

It was pretty exciting to drop into the cavern and find it filled with turtles, none of whom seemed particularly concerned with my presence.

Another of my favorite animals is the octopus.  They are very hard to find, specially in daytime; here is one hidden away in its crevice. This one is called the day octopus, for the simple reason that it is a rare type that can be found out and about in daylight hours.  Can you see it?  It is camouflaged not only by color, but by texture; an octopus can change either at will.  It is in the center right, a brown, rough-surfaced object.

Here it is a little more obvious, apparently menacing a banded cleaner shrimp. By this time the octopus has changed color and texture.

Shrimp is definitely on the menu for the day octopus, but either it wasn’t hungry, or it was scared by me, and it retreated into its lair.

Here’s the shoreline during our surface interval:

Back below, some morays: a yellow-margin and a whitemouth, respectively.

A hawkfish;  they are on every coral head.

At the very last minute, while ascending, some white-tipped reef sharks appear.  I didn’t have enough time to go back down after them.

Back on the surface, while the sun sets, some outriggers set out for a brisk row amidst the dashing surf.


Traveling to the North Pole, Part 10: Eclipse, with Wolves

May 21st, 2012 | Category: animals,Arctic,JHUAPL,Travel,Work

In Arizona, this eclipse was annular (ring-shaped) but at these latitudes, we’re so much above the annular effect that the moon’s silhouette only convers about 10-20% of the sun’s disk.  It was very cloudy here, but there was a hole for about 90 seconds, and I was ready:


 While I was busy getting this shot, I kept an eye out for wolves.  Sure enough, at some point I found this guy approaching me nonchalantly from behind:


 He was just doing his job – patrolling for interesting possibilities, but I yelled and stamped at him and he went away.  Earlier, I’d had breakfast with the quarry crew, who are making gravel to augment the runway here.  Wolves hang out in the quarry area more than anywhere else because of the activity and the proximity of the garbage dump, where trash is burned using old cooking grease as an accelerant.  So, the quarry crew is intimately familiar with the wolves, having named each one of them and recognizing them by sight.  They told me that the animals will approach from behind and experimentally nibble on people’s legs and hands, but a good kick will make them understand that it’s not going to work.  They are not afraid of the wolves, but understand that they must be wary of them.  In the past 72 hours I’ve had a few encounters that made me feel the same way.

here are a couple of wolves next to the burning conatiner.  There is a discarded mattress lying there that seems to be a favorite hangout, and I bet it’s warm when the trash is burned!


The dirt road to the quarry is right on the shoreline.  Behind this wolf, the Arctic ocean stretches away to the horizon, to the pole, and beyond:



Traveling to the North Pole, Part 9: Properties of Ice

May 21st, 2012 | Category: animals,Arctic,JHUAPL,Travel,Work

Some colleagues from Environment Canada were collecting samples from a freshwater lake near Alert, and their auger got stuck within the 3-meter ice.  Since we were not able to fly due to weather, we pulled out our spare power auger, loaded up some snowmobiles, and headed out to try to help them.  This was the first time I’d driven a snowmobile, and I found it exhilirating!  It reminded me of a motorcycle.


Freshwater ice is much denser than sea ice; if sea ice can be compared to sandstone, lake ice is like granite.  It may have been years since this lake ice was last melted. Our auger, which was designed for the softer stuff, spun uselessly.

After 45 minutes and a lot of labor hacking at it with various ice tools, we had penetrated only this far:

We gave up and had time to visit our friends at another site, where a second ice auger had also become frozen.  Those things are going to be there for the duration; they’ll try using a hot water melter to get at them, or possibly just tie floats to them and get them some other year when the ice has melted.

Yesterday we flew by the north coast of Greenland.

In places where the ice is intact, such as where I’ve been working for the past several weeks, there are occasional leads (areas of open water) but the surface is composed primarily of flat  plates of ice durrounded by pressure ridges, like this:

But in this location north of Greenland, ocean currents had broken up the ice surface.  It was full of leads, rough unlandable ice fields, and fragile new ice.


Eventually we found some better-looking ice and performed our last two sample collections before coming back to Alert for the last time this season.  There were some fantastic, mind-bending blue colors in the ice. 


There are not that many pictures of me on my blog, so every now and then I suppose I must post one:


Traveling to the North Pole, Part 6: Wolves!

May 13th, 2012 | Category: animals,Arctic,JHUAPL,Travel,Work

I’ve been looking for wolves whenever I have had a free moment, and have finally seen some!

They were down by a shipping container that is used to contain cardboard fires (which is how cardboard is disposed of).  The disposal people use old cooking oil to get the fires started, and the wolves like the smell; I’d been told they often hang out near the container. For the last two weeks, although I’d seen their tracks, I’d not seen the animals.

First one came out to investigate my footsteps, then another, and another, and another.  To my surprise, the first one was bold and trotted right towards me.  It got so close, I had problems focusing on it.  I knew that I first had to pay attention to the situation at hand, and worry about photos later, because it wasn’t happening the way I wanted.

Anticipating a distant viewing, I was carrying a monster 400 MM lens, and wasn’t at all prepared for the more initimate circumstances presented by this animal.  While it came to within 6 feet of me, another one slipped behind a rise and started to flank me.  “Oh no you don’t” I thought, and started to casually back up.  Bold guy followed me, but the one behind the ridge eventually came back into sight, and not in the scariest location – behind me – that I had worried about.  Eventually, when it realized I wasn’t going to give it any food – or whatever it was expecting – bold guy flopped down and huffed, just like my dog.

Speaking of my dog: I have often heard the remark that my dog looks like a “snow wolf.”  Now I know exactly how similar he is!  The wolves are more vulpine, and have bigger feet – huge feet, with furry tops larger than the footprint of the pads – which are large enough:

but the comparison is apt:

I wasn’t comfortable being surrounded by a pack of wolves, so I kept moving away.  They followed me for a couple of hundred yards, but at a more respectable distance than the first encounter.  Every time I stopped, they stopped.  Every time I moved, they moved.  I took a few pictures but was uncertain of how to handle the situation; I wanted to get more shots of the wolves interacting but every time I showed interest, they came closer.  It wasn’t really what I wanted, because I had no nearby shelter.  To my knowledge, they’ve never attacked a person here, but I’ve heard stories about people’s hands being nibbled.  How dangerous are these particular guys, anyway?

Eventually, they all lay down and started howling.  It sounded just like my dog! Other, unseen wolves returned the howl.  After a while, they all got up and walked out of sight, sometimes playing with each other and bounding in a recognizable play attitude, as at a dog park.  I am not fooled by appearances though – these are wild animals – and I was both glad that they were away and dissapointed that I didn’t get to observe them longer.


Traveling to the North Pole, Part 4: An Excursion and a Hare

May 09th, 2012 | Category: animals,Arctic,Travel

There is a big, slow-moving storm hanging over us, so all air operations have been suspended.  This gives me some free time for much-needed sleep and some R&R.  A few of us decided to take an excursion using tracked vehicles.  Although I’m too suited up to be easily identified, that’s me. 


We were planning on going to “Crystal Mountain,” a local ridge where there are deposits of quartz crystals that are particularly nice, but there was an almost complete white-out and we had to turn back, because we couldn’t see the road or the terrain. The little dot in the next picture is the sun; although you can’t tell, there is a horizon and mountains in this image!

Such conditions are disorienting.  Even when it’s bright and sunny in the Arctic, distances are hard to gauge accurately, because when everything’s white and there are no familiar objects for scale, it is hard to tell how far away things are.  In conditions like these, there is simply nothing to see at all, except the occasional rock that is close by and sticks out of the snow.  Bouncing around in the vehicle, it was easy to imagine becoming motion sick; I tried not to think about it.  My eyes strained to find something to look at, without success.

Last night, when the weather was better, my friend Jeff and I went out looking for animals.  Can you see the critter in this next image (click to enlarge any image)?

Here it is, a little larger:

Earlier in this trip there were a lot of sunny days that exposed some soil and the plants that cling to the rocky surface.  Although it’s hard to believe, things do grow here: lichens, mosses, and grass.  The Arctic Hares can be found wherever this stuff has been exposed and there isn’t too much human activity.

Here’s a composite of all the things I watched the hare do: eat, dig, sit, and run.  Its “circle of fear” was about 20 feet.

One word comes to mind when seeing this plush, cute, cottony hare: Bunneeeeee!



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