THE AMAZING HAWAIIAN MICRO-LOBSTERS!™

CAPTURING THE CRITTERS!
(On film & paper)

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THE HAWAIIAN LEGEND OF
THE WAIANAPANAPA CAVE

               Waianapanapa Cave north of Hana on the island of Maui is the site of an ancient murder. A young chieftess named Popoalaea caught the eye of a powerful older warrior chief named Kakae and became his wife. Over time, Kakae became suspicious that his beautiful young wife was unfaithful and he beat her and made her life miserable. With her faithful female companion, she fled.

                The cave has a pool of water hiding the entrance and it is necessary to dive into the pool to get under the ledge to get to the large lava tube cavern. They hid during days and came out at night to forage for food and figure out how to escape the island. Kakae kept getting angrier as he searched for his wife with a number of his men.

                One day he arrived at the pool where they were hiding and caught a glimpse of their reflection in the water. Kakae and his men killed the two women. It's said that the waters foamed, the women’s blood darkened the rocks in the cavern; and on the nights of Ku when the night is darkest, the waters of the cave turn red. In the spring, the time the tragedy occurred, the gathering of the red opae-ula make the stones of the cave turn even redder.

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                Legends are a way humans explain unusual natural phenomenon. What causes opae-ula to sometime gather in such huge numbers that the bottom of pools turn red? Why do they sometimes totally disappear into the watertable and not a single one can be seen?

                In our earliest days when we were trying to understand opae-ula, no one fed them. I kept them in aquarium tanks with sponge filters and noticed that they gathered very tightly on sponge filters. Later when I observed them with a macro lens, I came to understand that they were always hungry and the bacteria in the sponge filters was a suitable food. We found that they were extremely sociable animals and they would gather in such dense numbers that the sponge filter appeared red.

                This reminded me of the legend of Waianapanapa Cave that I had heard in my youth. So I tried to create such a photo. I obtained encouraging results when I smeared a small rock with spirulina and set it inside of a tank and a few photos were created that way. But the breakthrough came when I brought home a small rock from an anchialine pond that had an especially thriving opae-ula population. When I put it into the tank, within an hour a number of opae-ula were drawn to it and after a day or so it no longer attracted them. They had scraped away and eaten whatever algae that they could.

                So I removed the rock and placed it in a bottle with green nutrient-rich water in the sun for several days and stopped feeding the opae-ula in the tank. The rock began to turn green as algae regrew and it was placed back into the tank under a halogen lamp. At first the opae-ula weren't interested so I went to lunch. When I returned, the rock was red! Under the bright halogen lamp, the algae had an eerie glow. Photosynthesis was taking place and there was a stream of tiny oxygen bubbles! Only one of a large number of photographs came out and it was cropped but not enhanced.

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