Tag Archives: Hawaii

Amusing Monday: Some places on Earth are too dangerous for swimming

For people who love to swim, the allure of water can be overwhelming. Most people enjoy a sandy beach where waves lap gently on the shore. A few demand the thrill of a 50-foot breaker as they ride their surf board on the edge of tragedy.

For swimming, there is a place in Hawaii that has become known for both extremes, depending on weather and sea conditions. It’s called Queen’s Bath, and it is on the northern edge of Kaua˙i. The first video begins with the pleasant waters of this tide pool, once reserved for royalty.

At 1:49 in the video, we begin to see the dangerous side that occurs when big waves crash over the entire area. As the music on the video turns sinister, notice that people are no longer in the picture. The video was produced by HawaiiGaga.Com, which specializes in Hawaiian vacation rentals and provides useful information for visitors.

I first learned about Queen’s Bath this past weekend when my wife Sue pointed out a video that apparently has been circulating for three years with a total of 4.3 million page views. The video — second on this page — is titled: “Dead Pool: See why it’s called the pool of death.” It’s a thrilling video, and swimming is not recommended in this area that has a direct opening to the sea.

Actually, it appears to me that the title needs to be corrected. Queen’s Bath is not called the “pool of death,” according to sources that I would consider authoritative. That title has been applied, however, to another location on Kaua˙i called Kipu Falls. The site, which was featured in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, is on private property. The owners have declared it off-limits to the public following a series of deaths and injuries, according to Hawaii News Now and other sources.

The “Dead Pool” video, while thrilling, was not actually filmed at the Queen’s Bath but at a tidal precipice on the way to Queen’s Bath. The aerial photo by HawaiiGaga.com labels the tide pools and describes the hazards along the way.

“Although the scenery and bath are a pleasant excursion for capable hikers, like many ocean attractions on Kaua˙i the area should be approached with caution,” states the description. “Visiting the Queen’s Bath without appreciating the potential hazards can be deadly….

“Many are confused about the location of the tide pool,” the webpage points out. “There are other areas where it is also possible (but more dangerous) to swim.”

The labels on the aerial photo show two other tidal areas, one near the open ocean that should never be attempted and one mentioned as “a popular spot for locals who like to jump off the 15-foot ledge,“ says the website. “As alluring as it looks, don’t be tempted to swim here. The inlet is subject to massive turbulence and exiting can be difficult.”

There’s another crazy video that shows a boy being washed off the cove’s ledge during a huge tidal surge. After he escaped the raging waters, an interviewer asked what the experience felt like. The boy’s answer: “Like being flushed down a toilet.”

Perhaps the final word comes from a segment featured on Inside Edition (third video this page). Posted in February, the story mentions the death of 23-year-old Lucy Cheng of Los Angeles, who was swept out to sea by a rogue wave last December. Queen’s Bath can be both beautiful and treacherous, as Inside Edition’s chief correspondent Jim Moret describes. Gates to the area are closed by local authorities when the waves become too dangerous, but perhaps Queen’s Bath is one place that some people should never go.

Other videos of beautiful and dangerous places:

Amusing Monday: NOAA’s top photos, videos and stories

A photograph of a tiny orange octopus was the most popular image last year among all the photographs posted to Instagram by NOAA Fisheries, the agency formally called the National Marine Fisheries Service. More than 2,000 people “liked” the picture and many more viewed it from among more than 150 top photographs posted last year by NOAA Fisheries’ Communications shop on its Instagram page.

A baby octopus found on an autonomous reef monitoring structure. (Click to enlarge.)
Photo: James Morioka/NOAA

The octopus photo was taken during a NOAA expedition to assess the health of coral reefs in the Pacific Remote Islands, which had undergone a massive die-off in 2016 and 2017 caused by excessive warm water. The tiny octopus was discovered on an “autonomous reef monitoring structure” used to measure the recovery of ocean ecosystems. For details about the voyage, see NOAA’s story “Research Expedition to Assess Coral Reef Conditions and Recovery from Mass Bleaching.”

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Lights could be creating problems for salmon, seabirds and more

Bright lights that affect the behavior of birds, fish and other wildlife are emerging as a significant environmental concern.

Endangered Hawaiian Petrel
Photo: B. Zaun, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Yesterday, for example, two environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Hawai’i Department of Transportation for bright lights the agency controls at piers and airports. The groups say three species of seabirds on the Endangered Species List have been circling the lights until the birds drop from exhaustion, and some birds have died.

Meanwhile, in Lake Washington and the nearby Cedar River in King County, there is evidence that threatened chinook salmon are at greater risk from predators because of lights on the two floating bridges as well as industrial facilities in Renton.

In Florida, researchers have discovered that female turtles avoid coming ashore to lay their eggs where bright lights are present, and in Virginia salamanders have delayed their feeding efforts in the glare of lights.

The lawsuit in Hawaii was filed by lawyers for Earthjustice out of concern for three species of seabirds: Newell’s shearwater, a threatened species, and Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels, both endangered species.

The Hawai’I Department of Transportation has failed to protect the birds, as required by the Endangered Species Act, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Āina, Conservation Council and the Center for Biodiversity. Because the lighting is injuring and killing listed species, the state agency must obtain an incidental take permit and initiate actions to minimize harm, the lawsuit says. For details, see the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief (PDF 1.4 mb).

Lights at airports and harbor facilities have been documented as the greatest source of injury and death to the seabirds, which migrate at night and become disoriented by the artificial lights, the complaint asserts. Some birds crash into buildings, while others end up on the ground where they may be struck by vehicles or eaten by predators.

Since the 1990s, the Newell’s shearwaters have declined by 94 percent and the Hawaiian petrels on the island of Kauai have dropped by 78 percent.

“Our ancestors depended on the ‘a‘o (Newell’s shearwater), ‘ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel) and ‘akē‘akē (band-rumped storm-petrel) to help locate schools of fish, to navigate from island to island and to know when the weather is changing,” Kauai fisherman Jeff Chandler was quoted as saying in a news release from Earthjustice.

According to the news release, the Department of Transportation dropped out of talks with state and federal wildlife agencies that are developing a habitat conservation plan to protect the seabirds. After Earthjustice filed a notice of intent to sue, the agency rejoined the talks.

“That’s a good start, but talk alone will do nothing to save these rare and important animals from extinction,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “It’s long past time for the department to take action, not only on Kauai, but everywhere in the state that its operations illegally kill seabirds.”

Lake Washington chinook

As for the lights on and around Lake Washington, I have not heard of any proposed lawsuits to protect the threatened Puget Sound chinook, but concerns continue to simmer.

Lights on the Highway 520 bridge
Photo: Washington Dept. of Transportation

Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz, salmon recovery manager for the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed, told me that the next regional chapter of the chinook recovery plan will call for further study into the effects of lights on juvenile chinook migrating down the Cedar River and through Lake Washington.

“The technical folks have identified light as a potential emerging issue,” Jason said. “We don’t have a good handle on what the impacts are.”

Lights on Lake Washington may be creating a double whammy for young chinook, Jason said. First, the lights attract the fish, which slow down their migration to Puget Sound. Second, the lights keep them visible to predators at night, so the fish may be eaten 24 hours a day.

“Juvenile salmon don’t have a nighttime respite,” Jason said. “At least that’s the hypothesis.”

Nonnative predatory fish include bass, walleye and northern pike. Native predators include cutthroat trout and pike minnow. Predatory birds include the western grebe and great blue heron.

An updated chinook recovery plan for the Lake Washington region is under review and could be finalized this fall. Predation is getting some additional attention this time around, Jason said, and the issue of lights is something that needs more study.

Experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have identified potential concerns with lighting along Lake Washington in a series of studies going back more than 10 years. It still isn’t clear, however, how much the known problems with predators are exacerbated by bright lights. That’s why more studies are needed.

Following complaints from residents of Laurelhurst near the Highway 520 bridge, the Washington Department of Transportation reduced the amount of illumination coming off that bridge, and further investigation is underway. Check out the King-5 News report below.

Other species

With regard to other species, lights are known to have a variety of effects. Reporter Sharon Guynup outlined the problems for birds, turtles, amphibians, mammals and even insects in a revealing story in National Geographic News, April 17, 2003.

A group of British researchers from the University of Exeter compiled a list of the known effects of light on various species while considering the role of artificial lighting. See “The ecological impacts of nighttime light pollution; a mechanistic appraisal” in Biological Reviews.

Unique ‘tropical oceanic’ orcas still traveling west

UPDATE, Dec. 7

I have received word from researcher Robin Baird that the last remaining transmitter tracking the “tropical oceanic” killer whales stopped working on Nov. 26, six days after this report. The transmitter presumably fell off. I’ve attached a map provided by Robin in the comments section at the bottom of this page. It shows the whales’ last 10 days of travel. They kept on moving southwest.
KW 2013NOV1-19_WM

“Tropical oceanic” killer whales, which were tagged near Hawaii and tracked by satellite, have now moved about 860 miles west.

As of yesterday, they were approaching Johnston Atoll, seen just to the left of their last known location shown on the map above, according to Robin Baird of Cascadia Research Collective, based in Olympia.

Initially, three orcas were tagged in this first effort to track the unique breed of killer whale, which travels in the open ocean. For a description of tropical oceanic killer whales, including their varying diet, review the entry in Water Ways on Nov. 12.

Two of the three transmitters attached to the whales have stopped working, presumably because the barbed tags fell off the animals. One transmitter, attached to an adult female, continues to send out information about the location of the four whales, assuming they have stayed together.

After traveling northwest through the Hawaiian Islands, the whales have taken a pretty direct path toward Johnston Atoll, slowing down a few times along the way. It will be interesting to see where they go next.