Hawaii, Day 5

I’ll skip days 3 and 4 for now, as those involved a visit to Pearl Harbor and to the ships on display there, as well as a long ocean trip to snorkel with dolphins and turtles, so there are lots of photos to organize. Today (Wednesday) was a visit to the North Shore, the famous surfing spot of Oahu and one of the most famous in the world.

First, though, it was time to feed the ducks. The rounds: the usual mass of ducks in the canal and the five to ten favorites in the nearby marina.

In the canal a lovely but dangerous bird was on display, a black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). They’re native here, and this one shows its nuptial plumes (males and females both have them). This one, which is named Slaugh, hangs around the canal that itself harbors dozens of ducks, and the species is known to prey on ducklings as well as fish, frogs, and other aquatic beasts. We haven’t seen any ducklings at the canal, and I worry. Here’s the beast trying to catch a fish (it failed):

But we did see ducklings in the marina. Encountering the usual crew of Fergus and his mates, we noticed a female on the marina’s island (yes, like my duck island, but a huge wooded tract) and she had ducklings! After a while she swam toward us and we fed her and her brood. There were ten offspring, and they must have been only two or three days old. I’ve decided they were born on my birthday, and I’ll be feeding them daily during my stay—if they’re around.

Wherever I go there are ducklings! Ten—count them—ten.

Three are yellow and the other seven yellow and brown, like normal mallards. I wonder if there’s some ancestry with domestic mallards here.

Here’s the duck island in the marina (right), which must be about 50 yards or so on a side. The ducks hang around there, and it offers them shelter and safety from predators like feral cats. I think the water is brackish, since it’s contiguous with the sea, and I’m not sure how mallards do in salty water.

The island’s Hawaiian stilts (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), an imperiled subspecies of the black-necked stilt. They eat aquatic invertebrates, but I’ve found that they’re not averse to waterfowl starter chow. (I don’t feed them, but they clean up any spillage.) These ones are sleeping, standing on one leg with their eyes closed and bills tucked in.

And my good friend Fergus, who is almost certainly a mallard/muscovy hybrid, or “mullard.”

After feeding time, we drove north from near Honolulu to a point between Haleiwa (Surf Central) and Pupukea.

First a visit to Waimea Bay, a legendary spot that has up to 50-foot waves. It was tame when we visited, so I haven’t seen the famous monster swells. Plenty of people were sunning themselves, and doing acrobatic mating displays:

Human mating displays on the North Shore apparently involve complete rotations of the body in the air:

Waimea Bay on January 2: pretty tame (my video):

Here’s what Waimea Bay looks like when the big waves come in and the surfers come out. Gnarly!

And then there’s the famous Banzai Pipeline Break, a bit further on in Pupukea, a beach where the waves are a bit smaller but there are jagged reefs below, making it one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world. Many surfers have died here, as they have on many North Shore beaches.

This is drone footage of the Pipeline. After watching a bunch of surfing videos, I’m convinced that it requires both an inordinate amount of skill and an inordinate amount of courage—at least in places like these.

Almost across the street from Waimea Bay is the Waimea Valley, harboring a botanical garden, a much-visited waterfall, and one of the most endangered bird populations in the world. We spent several hours there. It’s very scenic and has been the site of some movie scenes, including “Lost” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”.  It was a prosperous farming and fishing community in pre-European Polynesia, and is considered a sacred site.

And the site is one of the few places in Hawaii to see the Hawaiian moorhen (or Hawaiian gallinule), a highly endangered subspecies (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) of the common gallinule. Only about 1000 individuals remain, but a breeding and reintroduction program is meeting with success. The adults at the park entrance had plenty of chicks:

This one was pulling a worm out of the bank which it then fed to a chick. The birds make a weird barking call, but I didn’t record that.

Some beautiful flowers in the park, a place that I highly recommend for a visit. Please identify them for me!

A bromeliad (pineapple is an artificially selected plant in this group):

An orchid:

Taro, grown on this site by ancient Polynesians:

A Hawaiian demonstrating the traditional way of weaving mats, bracelets, and other items:

The waterfall at the end of the trail. You can swim in the pool, but have to use a lifejacket, and I wasn’t in the mood to immerse myself:

The walk worked up a big hunger, and I knew the destination: Kono’s Restaurant in Haleiwa, famous for its kalua pig (pulled pork, cooked underground).  I seem to be eating a lot of it these days because it’s GOOD! We had it with a scoop of rice and a salad: there must have been more than a pound of the toothsome and smoky pork shreds.

It’s an informal place (almost every restaurant in Hawaii is), and the fare is on a big blackboard:

I had the pork plate lunch, but was so hungry that I finished half of it before I thought about taking a picture. So, no photo.

It was then off to the nearby Dole Plantation (“Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience”), a big touristy operation organized around the Dole Pineapple farms, having expanded from a fruit stand opened in 1950. Now it’s a huge moneymaking operation with overpriced pineapple gee-gaws, a pineapple maze, train rides, and pineapple-cutting demonstrations. We were there for one reason only: to get a Dole Whip: pineapple-flavored soft-serve of high repute.

As Bon Appetit notes, Dole Whip is found throughout the U.S. at various Disneyland venues, but I wanted to try it on its home ground. It’s not fancy: the magazine says “the dairy-free dessert is made from a pineapple-flavored dry mix (dried pineapple juice and the key to all silky smooth soft serve: stabilizers) that’s combined with water and pumped out of a soft-serve machine.” I had it in a waffle cone with a fresh pineapple spear. The large serving hit the spot in the hot weather.

Across the street, on the real farm, forklifts were hefting crates of fresh-picked pineapples onto a big rack:

I’ve now had fresh pineapple on Oahu several times, and it’s a gazillion times better than the underripe fruit you get on the mainland. The stuff here tastes of sugar and sunshine.

Finally, on the drive back we passed this famous Army base, and if you don’t know why it’s famous, you’re not a movie buff:



  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Here is a video I took in that area of the North Shore that shows you why you are supposed to respect the signs that tell you not to go on the beach and stay behind the tape.

    You can’t quite see how bad it is – the waves are a lot bigger than they look and they had to evacuate along the coast this year I was there. These people are suddenly overwhelmed with the waves and swell that completely engulf them. They could easily have been dragged out into the undertow.

  2. rickflick
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The Surf from Above footage leaves me wondering how the guys on boards keep from decapitating the ones swimming. With so many in the water at once, it looks like the boards are more of a threat than the surf. At one point it looked like a board zoomed past a swimmer within inches!

    • Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I was wondering that too. There should be collisions, and they should be a major part of the danger.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        So far as I can see from my extensive experience of surfing Youtube, the swimmers keep a lookout and just submerge before a board reaches them.

        But they submerge for another reason too – anyone still sitting on the surface at the point in space and time where a surfer ‘in action’ goes past, is going to go ‘over the falls’.

        I’m guessing, but collisions are probably more of a danger with much smaller waves, where the imperative to dive under is not so great.

        Pipeline looks deadly enough, but the ultimate for surf-breaking-on-a-reef is probably Teahupoo. Like this –

        As a side issue that intrigues me, why are all the biggest surf waves west-facing? Take any Top Ten Biggest Waves list** – Nazare, Mullaghmore, Belharra, Mavericks, Pipeline, Jaws, Teahupoo, Shipsterns, the Right, Cyclops for example – and they’re all, every single one, west-facing (or northwest or southwest). I assume it’s to do with the rotation of the earth and the fact that the prevailing winds are westerly.

        (**I’m not looking to debate which waves should be in or out of the Top Ten, anybody’s list will do for this point).


    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      Slightly off topic, scubadivers in areas where windsurfers roam are advised to inflate a ‘balloonbag’ before surfacing.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 4, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Standard practice is to dive with a diver-down-flag on a float on the surface so that anyone above is aware during the dive.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Great photos and really liked the flowers. Don’t know if they still have it at the falls but back in the 80s they had professionals there that did dives.

    This is logistics info but the main shiplines to and from Hawaii is Matson Shiplines. One of the odd things about this company was most of the containers were 24 feet, an odd size for shipping container. The reason for this size was the pineapple trade. A 24 foot van weighted out with pineapple.

  4. Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I want to see PCC[E] in a different Hawaiian shirt every day!

    Interesting how galinules are often the flightless birds on Pacific or other Islands. I was thinking Gough Island but there are/were others…


    • Diane G
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Very interesting, thanks, Dominic.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    If you could get on Schofield they may still have some building there with bullet holes from the attack back in 1941. The largest army installation on Oahu.

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Is that the base where an American took off in his Curtis Hawk? fighter while still wearing his jim jams ?

      • David Coxill
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Just had a look on the interweb ,it was Wheeler field .

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Wheeler is right next to Schofield. As we know the army air corp later became the air force in 1947. I think Wheeler was kept as part of Schofield and may be used for helicopters. On Oahu Hickem AFB is the primary air base and shares facilities/runways with Honolulu International. The Schofield/Wheeler area is located in the central part or valley of Oahu kind of surrounded by farm pineapple and sugarcane fields.

  6. Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I like movies, but I am not buff on them. So anyone want to ‘splain the significance of the army base?

    • BJ
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      From Here to Eternity.

      I got here before Ken did!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Mebbe so, BJ, but I alluded to it here, in Jerry’s first post about Oahu.

        • BJ
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Damn it. You win again.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, well, just call me “Quick Draw”; that’s what my ex-wife …. er, well, never mind about that. 🙂

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

              I recall you asking if PCC was going to surf Pipeline (was it?).

              In the sea state that he just video’d, I guess he could have done it and come back to tell us about it.


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      From Here to Maternity

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    … this famous Army base, and if you don’t know why it’s famous, you’re not a movie buff …

    Or a James Jones fan, the first in his series of WW2 novels, along with Some Came Running and The Thin Red Line (both of which were also adapted into Academy-Award nominated films).

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      I think they called it a trilogy. Also, didn’t he die before Some Came Running was finished?

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        I was wrong again. The book Whistle is the one he did not complete.

        They say, write what you know about and this guy surely did that.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          Yeah, Whistle was unfinished when Jones dies, and was completed (from Jones’s notes, as I understand it) by his friend and editor, Willie Morris.

  8. Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    What gloriously beautiful flowers – I cannot identify them, though.

  9. Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Those big Hawaiian waves are not a patch on the giant waves in Portugal which some surfers actually ride!

    • Posted January 3, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      An even better video: Surfing the 100ft swell at Nazare in Portugal.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Nazare is the biggest wave on the planet (until someone discovers a bigger one…)

        But it doesn’t break over its full height, it seems to be a wedge that breaks from the top, so the actual breaking height is a lot less. Whether any other big waves match Nazare in breaking height I don’t know.

        The particular danger with Pipeline (and Teahupoo in Tahiti) is that it’s breaking on a reef.

        But my nomination for the most insane wave would be Shipsterns, in Tasmania – see this video at 3:45 when the whole face dissolves into chaos:



  10. Posted January 3, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    It looks to me like most of those flowers are introduced species from other areas. There may be a few exceptions; maybe someone who knows could point out the real Hawaiian natives.

  11. Joe Bussen
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Almost certainly introduced; Hawaii plants are of tremendous botanical interest, but big showy flowers are almost completely absent. There are native hibiscus; the largest and showiest is white; there are smallish red ones and a yellow one that is the state flower, but seldom cultivated. Those red and multi-colored hibiscus behind a woman’s ear aren’t even species; they are sterile hybrids (no seeds).

  12. danstarfish
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    On the flower pictures, I think the second, and fourth pics are kinds of Justicia (shrimp plant). In the third flower pic, the white flower on the vine looks like a thunbergia. The fifth pic looks like it might be an Odontonema. The seventh looks like Pachystachys coccinea. The eighth looks like a curcuma ginger.

  13. Phil Garnock-Jones
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I think your pink orchid is Spathoglottis plicata, common throughout the Pacific tropics.

  14. Roo
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Nice! I wonder if you’ll see a mongoose during your travels, I remember being startled to see them scuttling along some of the paths there. I learned about them on an eco tour (they do some really nice ones in Hawaii, although I assume any touristy tour would be pretty basic for a biologist) and I thought the history of how fast the arrival of various human groups changed the ecosystem was really interesting, if also pretty horrible. Bringing in barrels of mongooses turned out not to be such a great idea.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I use to see mongoose once in a while when I lived on Oahu. I guess the problem was – rats are nocturnal and the mongoose diurnal.

  15. Posted January 3, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could help identify the flowers but I can at least make one suggestion. There are ten flowers, if I counted right, but if I wanted to identify number 6, it would probably help to have it labeled as such so that it isn’t confused with number 7. So number 1, picture, number 2, picture etc. I’ve run into this before when there are successive photos of insects or animals or whatever and you have to keep bouncing around the post to figure out which photo people are referring to.

  16. yazikus
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    The Dole Plantation was my least favorite stop during my last Oahu visit. I did the quick tour and then waited for the rest of the group in the parking lot. The trees were beautiful and I saw more than one lizard while I waited.

  17. James Walker
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ll be interested in hearing your take on Pearl Harbor. I was in Honolulu for the first time in April last year and I found PH an overwhelming experience, especially knowing that the bodies of the men in the ships that were sunk are still down there.

  18. Jean Hess
    Posted January 3, 2019 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    I hope you get to see a nene goose, Hawaii’s state bird. It’s almost like a duck. It is also endangered. I’ve only seen them in crossword puzzles where they are pretty common.

  19. Serendipitydawg
    Posted January 4, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    From Here to Eternity Pah!

    Library book returned in Aberdeen after 40 years

    Mind you, it doesn’t sound as though it was kept because it was great literature.

  20. Posted January 5, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos, Jerry!

    My memory isn’t what it used to be, so I’m still trying to recall most of the plant names. I recognize the bromeliad, the taro and orchid of course. The yellow one is popularly known as a shrimp plant:
    Wikipedia>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachystachys_lutea

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