By Volunteer Crystal Gray
Editor’s note: In addition to penning this article, Crystal also served as our underwater videographer on this outing. Be sure to check out the video we’re including below. Thank you to Crystal for the video documenation and for writing your first-ever dive report!
Sunday morning greeted our volunteer crew with overcast skies and the threat of torrential downpour suspended over the Koʻolau mountain range.
A balmy 82-degree day gave way to a brisk breeze and choppy surface conditions, slapping against the northwest pier wall that would soon serve as our launch point. We donned our wetsuits just in time for a pre-dive soak.
One by one, the dive team leapt in armed with tools of the trade: trauma shears, dive flag-mounted torpedo buoy floats, and of course, abundant compressed air to carry out our task.
As we descended into the turbid, below-average-temperature water and scanned the ocean floor, our purpose was clear: extract the line we had long lamented. This task was previously deprioritized due to the overwhelming quantity of chemical-leaching tires scattered in all directions along the pier's edge, this was our opportunity to work on a micro (yet mighty!) scale.
Windward winter weather conditions presented unique challenges. With a front approaching from the northwest, surface waves churned up silt on the shallow dive site, resulting in a mere 10' visibility at best. Light faded fast the deeper we dove, but our experienced team came prepared with lights rigged to illuminate their delicate work areas.
Be sure to click on the photos below to really see what we were dealing with:
One of the most jarring experiences underwater was encountering life amongst the line-laden, damaged rice coral. A small school of juvenile moorish idols, unphased by beaming video lights, glided, or perhaps guided, along a short stretch of coral as if to say, "take it all in — or what's left of it." At only 12 - 15' deep, the branching coral projections are incredibly susceptible to entanglement and breakage at this popular fishing spot.
After six physically and emotionally taxing clean-up efforts at He'eia Pier, ODA's Oʻahu chapter has made tremendous strides in large-scale debris extraction. To date, volunteers have removed a remarkable 364 tires weighing nearly 14 tons!
This dive marks our seventh site-specific initiative, and we were encouraged to find just a few tires remaining in the immediate area. This Sunday, divers successfully removed approximately 1500 feet of fishing line, lead weights, several bait boxes and rod holders. An assortment of aluminum cans, knives, plastic forks, glass bottles, sunglasses, goggles, and a vape pen — likely lost accidentally during recreational use of the pier — were also collected.
Big Mahalos to:
The passionate ODA clean-up divers and topside volunteers for their tireless (no pun intended) commitment and Kaizen approach to healing Heʻeia Pier (meaning employing continuous improvement through small incremental changes):
Harbor Master Tanya Borabora for boat traffic and access coordination
Glenn Roberts, Temple Liebmann, and Gary Liebmann for clean-up dive coordination
Ed Sisino for gear & approach logistics
Temple Liebmann for topside photography
Michael Dal Pra
...and don't forget Mascot Ki'i!
Check out Crystal's video and you'll see the horrible tangles of line AND some wildlife: