by Ron Youngblood

Moorish Idol

It was the second dive of the morning. The first had been a much welcomed return to Reef's End, that lush garden of hard coral stretching out around one side of Molokini's crater.

Spotted a 'ulae (lizardfish). Wasn't sure what it was so did the "remember this" sign to Glenn. He nodded and told me later on the boat what I'd been intrigued by. A bit later, Glenn ("Let's get wet, see fish") pointed out a juvenile hinalea 'aki lolo (red with white splashes Yellowtail Coris). The old Hawaiians used to use this fish to treat head diseases.

Satisfying dive but it was the second one that day that was the one for the memory files.

The Seadiver II was moved off the Reef's End mooring over to Enenue Point, named for the nenue (brown chub) that liked to hang out there near the surface. The boat was anchored in a sand channel.

The party gathered around the anchor while Glenn hooked a lift bag to the chain. He led us off on what was planned as a circle cruise at about 45 feet. We passed a place where a slash of coral rose from the bunch of coral rubble created by a storm wave in the past.

On a whim, I tried to motion that I wanted to stay put. The anchor line was just over there. It seemed a good time to just lie down and see what would happen. My pantomime wasn't that good. Finally, Glenn offered me his slate. I printed "CAN I STAY HERE?" His eyes smiled behind his mask as he nodded and headed off with the other divers.

I settled down to watch the u'u (nocturnal soldier fish who hang out under ledges in the daytime). The water was still and clear. I had one hand on a rock, lying on my stomach. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kim lead her party off.

I wondered about the u'u. All the books showed them as being silvery red. These were light green. But there was no mistaking their big eyes covered with a black stripe. (It was only later, I realized the color had shifted due to the depth. Duh.)

A munu (doublebar goatfish) came up and set to work plowing the sand near my right leg with its barbels. This was not a lazy fish. It was working hard. A ways behind him there was an stately 'opule (pearl wrasse).

A flutter of lau wiliwili (milletseed butterfly fish) sailed across my vision. Three of them stopped off to nibble at the hair on the back of my hand. Their little mouths tickled.

I kept reminding myself to look around. Off in the distance, above a steep drop off, a kokala (spiny porcupinefish) hovered. Every time I looked, the kokala was in the same spot. Now that's neutral buoyancy.

The fish came and went. It was entrancing. Just when it seemed I might mentally slide off in a zone one of the other divers would come by. Most asked if I was OK and moved away. A couple (they held hands while diving) settled down, wondering what I found so engrossing, before going on.

I checked. The kokala was still there.

I looked back toward the coral just as a humuhumu hi'u kole (pinktail triggerfish) wandered by. The about 10-inch-long, 5-inch-high, quarter-inch thick fish swam from left to right. It stopped and reversed course, swimming about five inches from my mask. About a foot to the left, it stopped again and reversed again. I was enjoying seeing its dark-brown body trimmed with light fins and the yellow rings around its eyes.

The hi'u kole swam back and stopped, right in front of my mask. It turned and stared intently at me, cocking its body first to one side and then to the other.

I laughed. It was the first time I'd ever had a fish ask me what I was and what I was doing.

Sixty-five minutes after I slipped down to papaku, it was time to go, taking with me a movie that would never grown old.

-- Ron Youngblood
Visit the bottom of the Sea (dive #21)