Kona gear trials trip onboard the Honua


Lisa Munger on the back deck of the Honua, just off Waikiki

By Ali Bayless

At first glance, the Honua is not the most beautiful ship, but after spending a couple of days on board I learned that she has got some real character.  She was built for crabbing, with a giant deck space for landing pots and two cranes for lifting heavy gear.  In a past life, the Honua scoured the Bering Sea for Alaskan King Crab and actually made an appearance on the first season of Discovery Channel’s hit TV show ‘Deadliest Catch’.  She now lives in Honolulu and takes chartered work doing odd jobs.  Last November, the Honua was chartered by PIFSC to complete a series of gear trials.  The vessel remained just outside of Waikiki for the first part of the day to practice deploying and recovering equipment used by NOAA scientists to collect oceanographic and fisheries data.  Then, after a quick crew change via the R/V Steeltoe, the PIFSC 19’ SAFE boat, from Kewalo Basin Harbor in the afternoon, the Honua began its transit to the Big Island.

There were a total of ten people onboard, including five scientific staff and five crew members.  The crew consisted of Mario, the captain of the ship, Nalu the AB/cook, Charlie the quiet mechanic, Alika the youngster and Sage the surfer from Maui.  From PIFSC there was chief scientist Chad Yoshinaga, technician Louise Giuseffi, field party leader Jessica Lopez, and Lisa Munger and myself as acoustic technicians.  We watched the sun go down from the deck of the ship as we rounded Diamond Head and headed into rougher seas.  The first night was fairly bumpy, with 8 to 12 foot seas making it difficult to sleep while free falling in your bunk with every wave.  Come morning, however, as we entered into the lee of the Big Island, the water became calm and glassy.

Retrieving the HARP

HARP deployment

Chad, Nalu, Alika, Jessie and Louise assisting in HARP deployment.

We arrived off of Kona around noon and headed towards our GPS coordinates for the High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package (HARP) that had been deployed there six months earlier. (HARPs are long-term acoustic recording devises used by Cetacean Research Program scientists to record sounds produced by cetaceans.) Using a transducer, we sent an acoustic code into the water to communicate with the release holding the instrument to a series of weights on the seafloor.  The crew patiently waited as the instrument ascended from 600 meters of depth and finally popped up on the surface directly at our stern.  Once the HARP was brought onto the deck, Lisa and I began swapping the datalogger and battery cases with the new ones we brought onboard with us.  With a great deal of help from Chad, Louise and Jessie, we managed to secure the new HARP components, attach everything to 250 pounds of weight and prepare the entire bundle for redeployment.  Then, the captain steamed us back to our GPS coordinates and the crew helped us to crane the instrument over the side of the vessel to be dropped back into the water.  We all watched as the HARP sank rapidly back to the depths.

Retrieving the Ka’aheleale


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) seen from the Honua

The Honua arrived just outside of Honokohau small boat harbor in Kailua-Kona around 2 pm and the small boat was launched with Chad, Jessie, Louise, Alika, Nalu and Sage onboard.  While they were in the harbor acquiring the Ka’aheleale, Lisa and I spotted a small pod of bottlenose dolphins milling around the ship.  There were three individuals that seemed to be interested in the vessel, traveling slowly around us and giving us ample time to capture some photographs.


The R/V Ka’aheleale secured to the deck of the Honua

The crew returned with the Ka’aheleale in tow, a NOAA boat that had been used for field operations on the Big Island by the University of Hawaii for the past fifteen years.  It took two cranes and a lot of patience to get the Ka’aheleale onboard, using giant tires as a cushion for the keel and pieces of wood for support.  Once the smaller boat was secured on deck, the Honua left the Kona coast and began the transit back to Honolulu.


The sun rising over Lanai on our transit back to Oahu

Early Friday morning, as we passed through the island chain, we watched the sun come up over Lanai.  We saw large waves break onto La’au point and heard stories of Chad’s long days in the field searching for monk seals.  We passed through Kaiwi Channel, eventually making our way past Maunalua Bay and finally rounding Diamond Head for the final stretch along Waikiki.  All in all, we had a successful trip and made it home safely with the HARP and Ka’aheleale onboard.

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