Thursday, 24 December 2009

Me, Ed the Bear, in the news

Hi all

As I mentioned earlier I have made a detour to England from the USA to tell people about my experiences with marine litter and make sure everyone takes responsibility for disposing of all that extra packaging from Christmas presents (recycled where possible) and all those extra plastic drink bottles. My buddy Steve wrote an article for the local newspapers about my experiences, about Plastic Free Friday, about the terrible death of albatross and other marine life.

Here is the article that appeared in one of the local newspapers (Shoreham Herald). Unfortunately they did not have space for all of the article and they had to leave some of it out. We did have 12 cm of snow at the time, which is big news for us in Sussex, so we were given quite a lot of space and on page 2 as well! There was still plenty of the message to pass on and the article included my weblog address (which was also on the newspapers website) so hopefully plenty of people were able to follow this and get the full story.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ed's Special Christmas Message

Back home in the UK and I am staying with Bella over Christmas. Its a shame I missed the snow. Bella said there were lots of birds visiting the garden for food, such as this great tit.

I had a chat with my buddy Steve and asked him if he could send some information to the local newspapers about my detour to England and my festive message. I talked about the damage to ocean wildlife I had witnessed, including the terrible death of hundreds of Fred's friends, the albatross in the Hawaiian Islands.

After Christmas Day there will be lots of unwanted packaging and so I wanted to reminder people that we need to make sure that it is disposed of properly and where possible recycled to make sure it does not find its way into the environment and to save energy. Humans also tend to produce more waste such as glass and plastic bottles, food packaging etc during the festive season and so this all needs to be recycled too!

Its great to see Bella again. I have been telling her about my travels with Ron and Fred the Monkey and my trip to Spokane with Methea. I also discussed with Bella my travel plans for next year with NOAA which will take several months. It appears while I have been away I have recieved lots of invitations for visits and I cannot possible visit them all. I have asked Bella if she would like to visit some of these places for me. Bella also loves the oceans and wildlife and I know she will have a great time. Look out for Bella's adventures next year. It looks like me and Bella have a lot to talk about so I will have to say bye for now.

We both hope you are having a great Christmas time sharing with your loved ones. We both wish you a happy and healthy 2010 wherever you are and what ever you are doing. A special new years message for my special friend Fred the Monkey. I hope you are having a great time doing what you do best. Stay safe in your travels

Your friend Ed the Bear.

P.s. Bella says she hopes that she will also get to meet you some time soon, maybe you can come and stay with us later in 2010.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

More from Spokane

Today Methea showed me some of the specimens that she uses to teach her kids about the oceans. Here I am taking a closer look.

These are preserved specimens including crab, shrimp and sea anemone.

This great horned eagle owl died after being hit by a car. It was preserved so that people could see what an owl looks like up close.

Methea said that the great horned eagle owl is one of the regions largest birds of prey. I did not tell Methea that I thought the owl was a bit scary. I don't think I would have turned my back on a live one!

I have had a really great time here with Methea and I have learned a lot about the oceans too. I hope I will be invited back again in the future, hopefully next time I will get to meet the kids too. A big thank you to Methea for looking after me so well.

Oh well, off to bed as tomorrow I will be taking a detour and travelling back to England to tell the people back home about the amazing things I have seen so far. Having seen all the harm that marine litter, especially plastics are doing to the oceans, I feel I need to get back to the UK to pass on this message - including Fred the Monkey's Plastic Free Friday decaration. See my blog entry 25th October 2009 if you missed it. It is a very important message following my work with Fred the Monkey and Ron Hirschi throughout October and November.

I learned a lot from Fred the Monkey and his buddy Ron Hirschi as well. I do miss Fred, I had a great time with him during my visit. Hopefully we will meet up again some time in the future. Fred has been a very busy monkey since we meet. You can find out more about what Fred the Monkey has been doing to save the oceans wildlife from plastic litter by going to project Soar
or by clicking the link on the side panel of this blog.

Christmas is a great time for humans and bears, but the festive season also generates a lot of litter and I need to pass on Fred and my message of Kuleana, Hawaiian word meaning responsibility.

Bye for Now
Ed  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Acid Oceans Experiment


Bella sent me another message, this time about acids and alkali, you may remember we were talking about pH yesterday. As I have talked about on several occasions already, global warming is heating up the oceans causing the polar ice caps to melt. Bella told me that global warming is also causing more carbon dioxide in the oceans which is making the water more acid and over time will dissolve the shells of any hard bodied animal such as coral and sea snails.

Bella suggested an experiment you can have a go at with the help of an adult.
All you need is some chalk and some clear vinegar and a glass.

1. Fill the glass one-half full with vinegar.

2. Add the piece of chalk to the glass.

3. Observe what happens to the chalk.

After a short time, bubbles will start rising from the chalk. If you leave it in the glass long enough, the chalk will completely break apart. The chemical name for vinegar is acetic acid and chalk is made of a mineral called limestone. The acetic acid and limestone form a chemically reaction when put together. One of the new substances that forms in this reaction is carbon dioxide gas. The bubbles rising from the chalk are the carbon dioxide gas.

This is a very speeded up version of what acid oceans will do to the shells and hard bodies of animals with a calcium shell. It will not happen so dramatically as the oceans are less acidic, but overtime the shells will weaken as they begin to dissolve.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Learning about the ocean while helping look after the marine invertebrate tank


Today, Methea asked me if I would help her check out the marine invertebrate aquarium which Methea uses to teach the kids about marine invertebrates and coral reefs. Methea told me it had been several months since she had done a water change on the aquarium which holds 180 gallon (681 litres) saltwater. The tank is home for various invertebrates ranging from tube worms to hermit crabs, and includes corals and sea anemones.

Hammerhead coral

Methea's favourite hermit crab

We began by siphoning out almost 50 gallons (189 litres) of the tanks water. That's a lot of water.

Methea put a long plastic pipe into the tank and sucked gently until water started to run out the other end. It takes a long time to siphon so I spent some time fishing in the tank while we waited for it to drain.

Me fishing

This was very relaxing, but don't worry, there were not any fish in there to catch - but I learnt from Ron Hirschi from Project Soar that fishing is great fun.

I then helped Methea to mix new seawater to replace what we had siphoned out. It does seem odd that we had to "mix" water.

I thought that sea water was like tap water with salt added, but seawater is actually made up of lots of other things too. These substances include Chloride, Sodium, Sulphate, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Bicarbonate and Bromide which I had not heard of before. Methea said there was also small amount of other substances such as copper, iron and even gold. I asked Methea that if I was to let some seawater evaporate, would I be able to get gold from it. Sadly, Methea said this was such a tiny amount you would not even see it. Oh well, probably just as well, the oceans have enough problems without people trying to turn the ocean's water into gold! Methea told me that all of these extra substances in seawater come from rocks that are worn away by the waves and some are washed down rivers. This means each river has its own particular taste! This is why fish, such as salmon, that return to rivers from the ocean to spawn (lay eggs) can find the river where they originally hatched from a tiny egg all those years ago. They remember the taste.

Spokane is too far from the ocean for Methea to get real sea water, so we needed to put all those extra things into fresh water before we could put it into the aquarium. Luckily we did not have to add all of these different substances one at a time, we used a mixture called Instant Ocean. Just the right amount of instant ocean needs to be mixed to water so that the water is not too salty and not to dilute. It has to be the same as if it had come from the ocean.

After refilling the tank Methea gave me some extra calcium and phytoplankton (plant plankton) to put in the aquarium. The corals and other hard-shelled animals in the tank use a lot of calcium so we not only mixed it in with the new water but we also added more calcium in a liquid solution. These animals need the calcium to build their shells (just like bears and humans need calcium for strong bones).

Next I added the phytoplankton (plant plankton), which is a very important food source for many filter-feeding animals such as tube worms and corals. They catch tiny plant plankton for food. You may remember I helped my buddy Steve run a course on sharks back in September (see blog entry 20th September 2009).

We showed kids how plant plankton is important to all marine animals even big creatures such as sharks, as it is at the bottom of most marine food chains. Some sharks, such as basking sharks and whale sharks actually eat plankton too!

Here are some of the animals that feed on the phytoplankton, including the tube worms, and corals

Feather duster tube worm

Stony Coalhead Coral

 Pink Coral

Torch coral

Once we had the water chemistry in sorted out Methea showed me how to check the tanks filters, pumps and hoses. These filters and pumps keep water circulating around the tank and keep it healthy.

Without this equipment, the water would become stale and the animals would die. These animals may live underwater but they still need oxygen to survive which they get from the water. The water must also be the correct temperature all around the aquarium.

Luckily, we discovered that the filters and pumps were working just fine. Methea showed me the electronic sensors that she uses to monitor temperature and pH.

Close up of temperature graph on the monitor showing how the temperature rises and falls. As long as this stays with a certain temperature range this is fine, well quite natural really.

Water pH is a way of checking to see how acid or alkaline the water is. It’s a bit complicated to explain here everything Methea told me about it so you could Google more facts. Basically pH is an important part of the water chemistry, river fish tend to like water that is a bit acid, saltwater fish tend to like water that is a bit alkali.

Methea and I finished our maintenance of the tank by hand feeding the cleaner shrimp, and hammer head corals which was great fun. These animals not only need phytoplankton but also need these meat and vitamin supplement. The cleaner shrimp scavenges of bits of debris in the tank. The strombus snial helps keep the tank clean by eating the algae that grows on the grass tank.


Phew! That was hard work, but great fun and I learned a lot about the oceans, just as Methea said I would. It’s amazing to think how much work you have to do to keep just a small piece of ocean in an aquarium healthy. All this work the ocean does naturally everyday with the help of ocean currents. In a real coral reef the cycling of the tides and water movement, would keep water quality just right and provide the coral reef animals with a balanced diet of food. In the wild there is a delicate balance between the plankton feeders and the hunters. They all have special ways of catching food and ways to avoid being eaten. So the animals and the water chemistry are kept in a natural balance without any need for interference from humans.

Even with all this careful monitoring Methea said we still cannot keep all the corals healthy all the time. Methea said one of her favorite corals recently died off for unknown reasons.

The brown part is alive and the white part has died.

So Methea’s marine aquarium shows just how complicated the oceans are as they need no help controlling water temperature, pH, salinity (saltiness), keeping the water rich with oxygen, filtering out animal waste and natural chemicals and turning them into harmless substances and much more. All done naturally.

However, this also illustrates that this complicated habitat can be easily damaged by humans. Dumping chemicals in the ocean that should not be there and removing things that should, can only cause harm to the oceans health.

Bye for now, from a very tired little bear.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A message from Bella Bear

I sent a mesage to Bella to tell her it was snowing here in Spokane. Guess what, she replied to say its snowing back in England too. Bella told me that everywhere looks very beautiful and festive.

She sent me a picture of herself in the snow.

Bella said there was 12cm of snow, which is a lot for southern England.

There is even snow on Shoreham Beach, my local beach back home. The pebble beach is covered with snow right down to the high tide mark. The shingle plants that live there are safely protected beneath the shingle, ready to burst into life next spring.

Bye, Ed



Well its snowing here in Spokane. It was very enjoyable watching the snow fall as us bears are well equiped with a thick layer of fur and I also have my coat. Sliding on the snow is also great fun, but it can be dangerous too.

Here I am in the snow, there is something about it that brings out the cub in you. It is quite amazing to think that snow is water, but in a different form. Flowing through Spokane is the River Spokane which flows west and eventually reaches the ocean.

Methea showed me the drain in the grounds. She explained that as the snow melts it will run down drains like these and run to the river where it will flow to the sea. So I may be many miles from the ocean but I am still linked to the ocean via the river. Unfortuantely chemicals from the land and rubbish too, may also get washed into the river and down to the ocean.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Arriving at Spokane


Well here I am in Spokane Community College in Spokane Washington State. The city, Spokane, is named after the leader of the local Indian tribe, who identified himself to fur trappers as Illim-Spokane, which means "chief of the sun people".

Due to unforseen delays in my travel plans I have missed the kids as they have now broken up for the Christmas holidays, or Christmas vacation as it is known in the US. Methea is looking after me during my stay and she says there is still a lot I can learn about the oceans from here. Methea teaches environmental and marine science at the College.

  This is the science and math building

Monday, 30 November 2009

Visiting the S'klallam


I was lucky enough to go along with Ron to the Port Gamble S’klallam tribal reservation. Ron has visiting the S’klallam people to work with them on the book history project. I visited the library with Fred. All libraries are important, but this one is extra special as it is the very first public library on an Indian Reservation in America.

I would have loved to find out more about these people and the way they live, but my visit had to be very short. You can find out more about the Port Gamble S’klallam people by visiting this website  There is lots of information about how they live, their history and culture.

Art and stories are very important part of S’klallam culture. Stories and art can belong to a family and/or the Tribe. I hope one day that I might get to send more time with the S’klallam people and maybe share stories.

Ron has written a story called Seya’s Song which also has come beautiful illustrations by Constance Bergum

Next time you hear from me I will be in Spokane, also in Washington State

Bye for now, Ed

Saturday, 28 November 2009

S’Klallam tribe


Ron told me today about some very special humans, the S’Klallam tribe who I might be able to meet while I am here. Sadly, the S'Klallam people have been displaced from much of their former homeland, but they do still live on traditional place. Ron said that when he travels around the US it is always sad to know of what happened to other original people that were not so lucky.

Ron said there are many tribes, infact there are many living in about a 50 mile circle from his home. There are Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish, Skokokomish, Tulalip, Jamestown S'Klallam, Elwha S'Klallam, Duwamish, lots of tribes. The original people, their culture and the way they live influences the work that Ron is doing. He said “I gather a heck of a lot of why I do what I do from and with them”.

Ron’s told me his family has been close to S'Klallam people for way more than a century and it is fun to look at historic photos and see how his family fit into the lives of the original people here. Infact Ron has been working with them on a history book project for three years now.

My buddy Steve did some work on Amazon Rainforest and got to meet some Amazonian People who came over to the UK because of all the damage caused to rainforests. This was a long time ago before I meet Steve. A main problem is cutting down all the trees, but problems with rainforest are also linked to global warming.

Bye, Ed

Friday, 27 November 2009

Fred the Monkeys' Museum of Endangered Hawaiian and Ocean Animals

Fred is really busy down under. Fred has started a new website called the Museum of Endangered Hawaiian and Ocean Animals. Fred will be placing regular messages about endangered animals

I have checked it out already and it is a great site. This is so much better than a museum filled with stuffed animals that once lived and are now extinct. What is better still is that these animals are still alive - well for now anyway. Its also great to see all these amazing humans that are doing their very best to make sure that these animals are around for future generation. Lots of inspiration. People have gotta help and take responsibility once they have visited Fred's museum.

All I can say is "Fred, just keep doing what you do best"

You can visit Fred's museum at

Bye, Ed

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Severe storms at Marrowstone Island

The weather has been very bad, with severe storms. I was going to go out to the beach with Ron, but the weather was dangerous (especially for a small bear like me. Ron helped rescue a boat that had been torn free of its mooring. On the way home in his car, Ron had to avoid hitting a runaway dog that had been scared by the storm.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Return to Marrowstone Island.


Back in Marrowstone Island with Fred and Ron. Helped Fred with beach cleaning, but he is soon off to Australia. I will stay here with Ron for a while before travelling to Spokane which is also in Washington State.

Bye, Ed

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hawaiian words and culture


Its time to leave Kauai and go back to Marrowstone Island with Fred and Ron. I have had a great time on this most beautiful of Islands with its friendly people with such great hearts.I hope I will get a chance to return again sometime. I have learned so much during my stay here.

As well as learning about the Hawaiian culture I have also learned some Hawaiian words.

Here are a few.
One of the first words I learned was Kuleana, meaning responsibility. The word for Oceans is Kai. These two words together have great meaning for the Hawaiian people, for Fred and now for me also.

Malama i ke kai means to “care for or protect the ocean,” a very important Hawaiian value that dates back over centuries. I hope the children back in the UK will have the opportunity to learn about the respect the Hawaiian people have for the oceans.

Even though the oceans and land seem very seperate they are linked together in many ways, such as the water cycle. The oceans also control our climate. So I have also learned this sentence as well Malama i ke kai ame ka 'aina  which means "protect the ocean and land"

These are also words that I have learned from the Hawaiin people that are also an important part of the Hawaiian culture.

Ha'aha'a (humility)
Lokomaika'i (generosity)
Ho'okipa (hospitality)
Ho'omana (spirituality)
Wiwo (obedience)
Akahai (Kindness)
Ho'omanawanui (patience)
Ho'okuku (competitiveness)
Alaka'i (leadership)
Kupono (honesty)

Hawaiin words are pronounced differently too, not easy for a bear to get the hang of.  Here are the vowels and how they should be pronounced.

A is pronounced “ah”

E is pronounced “eh”

I is pronounced “ee”

O is pronounced “oh”

U is pronounced “oo”

W in the Hawaiian language sounds like the letter “V” in the English language.

Fred taught me some words too. Us bears are always hungry so I also carried a pupu (snack) with me. Fred gave me a lei (neclace) that you can see me wearing in memory of Fred's albatross friends who never got to soar because they died from being fed litter. Lei can also be the traditional neclace of flowers, shells, or feathers worn and given all through the year for many reasons.

Pia means green turtle, Keiki means kid and Wai means water.

(c) Chris Wade/Marine Photobank

I have had some great experiences and memories of Kauai which I will take with me, made all the more special by having Fred's friendship and his local knowledge. Sadly, I have also learned how fragile the island plants, animals and ocean life are and how much help they need. The Hawaiian people are working really hard to protect their islands and surrounding oceans, but many of these problems are global ones. There is only one world and we are all linked together by one ocean.
Aloha, Ed

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Hanapepe salt ponds


Fred and Ron took me to visit a very special place today close to where I learned to surf, the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. Ron explained that this was an important, ancient, salt gathering site. Some Kauai families are allowed to work on the small salt ponds. As the sea water evaporates the salt is left behind and is collected.

The Hanapepe salt ponds are more than 1,000 years old. These current day salt makers are preserving a tradition and producing a kind of salt that is unique in all the world. The salt from the Hanapepe salt ponds is considered sacred and is used for blessings and for healing. Ron was gifted salt from one family a couple years ago and Ron has gifted me some. It is very precious and never sold, just given to family and friends.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hawaiian Geese


Me, Fred and Ron visited the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. It is found in the beautiful Hanalei Valley. The refuge was created to protect five endangered water birds that rely on the Hanalei Valley for nesting and feeding habitat: the koloa (Hawaiian duck), the ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), the ‘alae‘ula (Hawaiian moorhen), the ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt), and the nēnē (Hawaiian goose).

I have seen nēnē in the UK. The Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts have a captive breeding programme which include nēnē and they have reintroduced some of these back to the Hawaiian Islands. They are very friendly geese. The nēnē is the Hawaiian state bird.

Nene (Hawaiian Geese) in a UK sanctuary

Ron did a book signing at Kiluaea.They sell Ron's book called WINTER IS FOR WHALES at the refuge gift shop because it talks story about all kinds of things that change through the seasons. Things like how nēnē nest in winter! Fred and I took the opportunity to talk to some of the visitors and tourists. They were happy to find out about Fred's stories and they were surprised to find out that I was visiting from the England.

The refuge is a flatish river valley above sea level and surrounded by steep, wooded hillsides, up to 1,000 feet high. The water from the Hanalei River is diverted into an east and west supply ditch. where it then flows northwest and provides water for huge fields 140 acres of taro.

I was sitting by the edge of a taro field when Fred went over to see some birds. Fred sat down and a nēnē came right up to him to talk.

(c) Ron Hirshi: Project Soar. Fred with a friendly nene

The nene was a bit wary of me, as there are no bears on the Hawaiian Islands. afraid of Ed, not Fred. Nene like the little white berries of Naupaka plant, berries that are abundant in winter all around the edges of the island. Snorklers use the leaves of this plant to wipe on the inside of the mask, making it stay non-foggy. Very use plant.

Aloha, Ed

Friday, 20 November 2009

Swimming in an Underwater Garden

The beaches and forests of Kauai are very beautiful, the island is also known as the Garden Isle. Fred took me snorkeling today and saw the underwater world around Kauai for the first time. The name Garden Isle must also be refering to the sea, because as we snorkelled it felt like we were swimming through a beautiful undersea garden. Corals only grow in warm water, so no coral reefs back home in the UK, except for a few soft corals. The fish here are also very colourful, wrasse, butterfly fish and many more. My relatives are great fish eaters, especially salmon when it swims up river. I don't think even they would eat such beautiful fish  (or maybe they would if they grew bigger). I think they would find them much harder to catch than the salmon which bears catch when the salmon swim up river into shallow water to lay their eggs.

We didn't take any photographs underwater so Ron has allowed me to use this picture below to show you.

(c)  From the book "Swimming with Humuhumu", illustration is by Tammy Yee.

He said that this is the best introduction to Kauai and its underwater world. This is from a book "Swimming with Humuhumu" written by Ron and this beautiful artwork was produced for the book by Tammy Lee. The two children in the picture, Cole and Madison, visit Kauai for the first time and write postcards to their Gramma back home on the mainland. Ron wrote them into this book to help the kids share the wonders of the Hawaiian islands, especially Kauai, with their young readers. The fish on the right is a Humuhumu, (from the title of the book) which is the state fish of Hawaii, so its extra special.

People often think of the land and sea as being seperate, but really islands like Kauai are bits of seabed sticking up above the water. The Hawaiian islands were created as the result of volcano. Now, Ron told me, the land is slowly, oh so slowly sinking into the sea as the old volcano subsides, slipping into earth as has other islands to the north and west. Newer islands, like Hawaii and Oahu, are much more recent volcanoes and eruptions still occur on Hawaii, newest of the main islands.

Aloha, Ed

Thursday, 19 November 2009

More on Marine Litter


Fred the monkey and myself were again helping to clean the beach. It was hard work and so we sat down to have a rest. As we sat we talked about the albatross and then Fred gave me a folded piece of paper with a list written on it. Fred told me to read the list and to guess how many of the plastic items might contribute to the death of an albatross.

This is the list.

Bottle caps
Knife handle
Toy soldiers
Toy animals
Disposable lighters
Shotgun shells
Clothes pins
Drinking straws
Nylon rope

After having a hard look at the list and thinking about which items might be eaten by albatross chicks I chose the following items for my list.

Bottle caps
Toy soldier
Toy animals
Nylon rope
Shot gun shells
Drinking straws

Fred said I had made a good list. Try making a list yourself. How many do you think I got right?

We spoke more about the beautiful albatross and their ocean wanderings. They really are amazing birds. I asked Fred how many on list I had gotten right and he said all of them. I was feeling quite pleased with myself. Then Fred suggested we should get back to cleaning the beach.

                              (c) Ron Hirshi, Soar Project

These nets were too heavy for a monkey and a bear, so we got help from some locals who carried them away. Although the beaches had lots of litter, Ron told us that this was much better than in others years because the local people had been working really hard to tackle the marine litter problem.

When we had finished we had collected a lot of plastic items. I said to Fred that at least the plastic litter we had collected wouldn't be harming any more albatross or other marine life. Fred asked me to remember the items on he list he had shown me. He said I had done well with my list but actually all the items in his list can contribute to the death of albatross. The adult albatross pick up food items from the surface of the sea to feed their chicks, but they also collect plastic litter without realizing. The items that are found most to have killed albatross chicks are plastic bottle caps and disposable lighters. There are also many unidetified pieces of plastic found inside the dead albatross chicks. And of course, this litter also kills many other marine animals as well. Fred said, this made him very sad.. I agreed.

Fred said that he was glad that I had visited with him and that he hoped I would take his message back to the UK, which I said I would.
The Hawaiin people have a very powerful word we should all remember, "Kuleana" which means "responsibility". We all need to clean our teeth, and plastic bricks and plastic animals are fun to play with but when we don't want them anymore we have Kuleana to make sure they are recycled or disposed of safely.

Aloha, Ed and Fred

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals


Today I saw 2 monk seals. They are similar to the common seals we have back home in the UK, but these seals are a bit bigger. Fred’s buddy Ron took a photograph of this monk seal when walking along the beach. It just came out of the water and plonked itself down onto the beach near where Ron was walking,

Copyright Ron Hirshi Soar Project

You may remember I told you about the common seals back home and how their population had dropped by over 50% in recent years. Well sadly, these seals are even more endangered and may even become extinct. Many biologists are working really hard to stop this from happening, including friends of Fred and Ron. Fred told me that these seals are declining at about 4% a year in the North West Hawaiian Islands. However, Ron says that more show up in main Hawaiian islands, so there is some hope. The 2 seals we saw swam past at Salt Ponds near Hanapepe where I learned to surf.

The monk seals that once lived in the Caribbean Islands are now extinct. There are still some monk seals in the Mediterranean. A friend of my Buddy Steve, Nicky, used to work on a project to help protect the Mediterranean Monk seals. Fred asked me if there were still monk seals living in the Mediterranean sea. So I e-mailed my sister Bella and this is what she sent me.

Hello Ed and Fred, or should I say Aloha.

There are a few hundred monk seals left in the Mediterranean and these are even more endangered still. The species is classed as Critically Endangered by the 2000 IUCN Red List. These monk seals are particularly sensitive to human disturbance, particularly from coastal development and tourism pressures which are driving the seals to live in unsuitable habitat. In some pupping caves, pups are vulnerable to storm surges and may be washed away and drowned. Although the monk seal is legally protected, it is regularly killed by fishermen who consider it a pest through competing for fish stocks and damaging nets.

Maybe you will get a chance to check this out when you travel to Europe!

Love Bella xxx

Thanks Bella very useful information.

Aloha, Ed

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ed finds out about the Laysan Albatross

I have had lots of fun on the island but my stay is tinged with sadness. One of my reasons for coming to Kauai, apart from meeting Fred and Ron, was to find out more about the tragic deaths of hundreds of Laysan Albatross. You may remember Fred gave me a leg band from an Albatross chick to wear, like the one he wears, in memorial of the death of albatross chicks in Hawaii.

Strictly (c) Ron Hirsch Projet Soar

We travelled to Kiluaea National Wildlife Refuge to see albatross, but they had not arrived yet. We did see some friends of Fred, red footed boobies who he met out on Pihemanu. Some were at Kiluaea along with Nene, some shearwaters, and some tropicbirds too. Fred told me that Laysan Albatrosses nest on Kauai and on other small islands in the North West Hawaiian Island chain. They are not present on other big islands because of the dogs, cats and mongoose that have been introduced to the island. Luckily there are no mongoose on Kauai, (which eat birds eggs) so albatrosses can nest along the northeastern shores like by Larson's Beach and even around where people live and play golf at Princeville. A lad we spoke to said if you want to see an albatross up close, visit Princeville after 16th November.

Fred told me more about the Albatross. Firstly each pair only lay one egg and raise one chick. Scientists have been studying the Albatross because we know very little about them because they spend most of their life soaring above the waves.

(c) Claire Fackler

I wondered why plastic was such a problem as it certainly did not look very appertising to me. Fred explained that the albatrosses die from plastic litter because they feed by landing on the water and picking at stuff. They look for squid and they search too for flying fish eggs. Fred told me that the eggs often stick to things like netting and pieces of fishing line. So, the birds snatch floating egg masses and any plastic object that is about the size of a squid (brush, lighter, toothbrush, bottle cap, lego, toy soldier, fragment of plastic bucket, etc) and fly on back to the babies and feed it to them.

The adult Laysan Albatross might fly roundtrip over a thousand miles on any one of its weekly trips away from the nesting island. The young albatross die when plastic tears the wall of the stomach or they die when they are not able to cough up the bolus (pellet) that naturally forms in their stomach to get rid of bones or other hard parts of their food like the beaks of squid. This is their one chance of getting rid of the plastic they have swallowed too. The young birds eject one bolus before attempting to fledge. If they are unable to do this, they die from starvation since the plastic fills the stomach to capacity. This made me feel really sad and we sat there for a while not saying anything.

We went back to look for Albatross again, but they still had not arrived.

                                           Strictly (c) Ron Hirsch Project Soar

This is a Laysan Albatross that Fred got to know more personally than any others. Fred said there are about a million albatross on Pihemanu. The little ones stay in the same place for about six months prior to attempts at fledging, so it is easy to get to know birds. This young one is testing the wind and its wings. The birds fledge by entering the water of the lagoon. They swim out to the edge of the atoll then fly off.

Fred said he would show me the Hala Hala plant which is a native Hawaiian plant. Shearwaters often nest here, hiding their baby and themselves from any harm within the stiff tent-like structure at the base of the plant. It also makes a good sun shade for them to shelter from the hot sun as well.

Fred said that much of the lowland vegetation in the main Hawaiian Islands is non-native. Native plants are gone from the lowlands and those in higher elevation rainforest are often threatened or endangered. More species of plants and animals are on the endangered list in Hawaii than all the other 49 states of the US combined. This is a huge amount when you think how big the other states are. We hear a lot about Hawaii back in England, but mainly about how it is such a friendly place and how beautiful it is. It’s rather shocking to hear how much trouble the island's plants and wildlife are in.

Our search for shearwaters in the Hala Hala plant turned into a game of hide and seek.

Later we discussed the problem of extinction further. Fred's buddy Ron says that islands are particularly vulnerable to introduced species as the animals that live there have no defense against them. Being a small island they can’t more far away to avoid the dangers either. Like other islands, species here become extinct and endangered because of introduced species (ground nesting birds are disappearing because of introduced rats and pigs. The local plants and wildlife also find it difficult to compete with these introduced species as they often have no natural predators here. Surf boards here were originally made from the spongy wood of the wili wili.

In earlier times, Fred would have gotten to surf on boards made from the spongy wood of the wili wili. but there are few wili wili trees around. But Fred now refuses to surf on any plastic board and is awaiting his very own traditional Alaia board, being shaped for him by an Australian surfer and board maker!

Aloha, Ed

Friday, 30 October 2009

Fun in Kauai


As you can see I am still here in Kauai. As well as meeting lots of animals I have also met lots of Hawaiian people. They are very proud of their culture and heritage, but they are very friendly too. I found out that Papahanaumokua is Earth Mother. Wakea is Sky Father. They gave birth to all the Hawaiian islands, beginning with Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). This is where Fred started his journey of exploration and teaching about ocean at the very birthplace of all the islands he loves so much. This is also where his new best buddy, Barack Obama, was born too.

I also meet lots of children (Keiki) and they were very friendly and I learned a lot about how Hawaiian's think about water and the oceans. Water is Wai (Vie) and the word Wai also means wealth, so it is obvious how much value they place on water. It is also very clear that they also see oceans as fun. Water fun means going fishing for papio from the shore, swimming, going out in boats for ahi (yellow fin tuna) and going out surfing. Ahi also means fire in Hawaiian. In olden times Hawaiians went fishing for tuna in outrigger canoes and the line would go out so fast over the side that it would make smoke.

Fred seemed rather amused by the fact that I had never surfed before and he said that you can't visit the Hawaiian Islands without learning to surf.

According to Fred, Barack Obama invented surfing. However I did a bit of reading in a really great book which Fred's sister leant to me. It is THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO SURFING by Andrea McCloud. According to Hawaiian legend, surfing was invented by Pele the volcano goddess and she taught her sister, Hi'iaka. Surfing was not merely a pastime for the leaders of old. This sport served as a training exercise meant to keep chiefs in top physical condition. The arrival of missionaries in the late 18th Century changed many things for the Hawaiian people and their culture and surfing was banned. But not for ever, as surfing is again an important part of the Hawaiian culture. Surfing spread to California, Australia and even to the UK.

So what can I say, when Fred and some children offered to teach me to surf I couldn't say no. It was great fun althought I don't think I was very good. Fred said I did very well. So below is a photo of me and fred surfing with a local keiki (kid) out at Hanapepe on Kaua'i.

I had a great time with locals at the beach and had so much fun, this boy wanted to take me home with him.

In earlier times, Ed and Fred would have gotten to surf on boards made from the spongy wood of the wili wili. but there are few wili wili around. But Fred now refuses to surf on any plastic board and is awaiting his very own traditional Alaia board, being shaped for him by an Australian surfer and board maker.

Later we had good times at the Farmer's market where he met people growing lettuce, big avocado cilantro, and other vegetables. Us bears like our meat and fish, but as omnivores I am also partial to some berries and plants too.


Ed the Bear

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Aloha from Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands

Hi all or should I say Aloha

I have just arrived on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai with Fred and Ron. Wow, what a beautiful place.

I had heard that the Hawaiian Islands were stunningly beautiful but even so I did not expect this. I always wondered what the expression "takes your breath away" means. Now I know.

I e-mailed my sister Bella to see if she could find out some information about Kauai for me. This is what she sent me.

Kauai is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands - these islands make up the 50th State of the USA. Kauai is home to Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on earth, meaning "rippling water" or "overflowing water. This mountain rises up 5,028 feet (1524 m) above sea level but much of it is hidden behind the clouds and the whole mountain can only be seen about 20 days a year. The slopes are covered with stunning mountain rain forest which is not surprising as about 460 inches (1168.4 cm) of rain falls here each year. This rain feeds the source for all of the rivers, many of the waterfalls, and a lot of the streams that can be found on Kauai. No wonder it is also known as the Garden Island.

I came here to find out more about the albatross and the dangers that they face from plastic litter. Bella tells me its not just the albatross that are threatened. There has been a great loss of native plants and animals, in fact more species are endangered in the Hawaiian islands than in all the other 49 United States combined. It is likely that many species remain to be discovered in the fragile rainforests of the uplands, some people say they may be the most endangered rainforest on earth.

I have arrived too late to see the O'o bird which disappeared in about 1991, this little bird lived in the surrounding rainforests. Like many other native Hawaiian birds, the O'o is extinct because of habitat changes, introduced predators, and disease. Bella tells me that the Kaua'i O'o, was the smallest of the honey eating birds in the Hawaiian Islands, measuring only 20 centimeters long. It was black (or grey) with yellow markings on the legs and underbelly and used to sip nectar from the flowers of local trees on the island, its favorite being the Lobelia tree. O'o would also eat insects and flowers as well.

It is said that the Kauai O'o made beautiful song, with its musical, flute-like calls. Both males and females sang, and the sound was said to be truly touching. It must be a sad lost. We have blackbirds back home which I enjoy listening to. Their song is also described as flute-like and I would certainly miss their beautiful song if they were to disappear.

Bella, who is a bit of a movie buff has also discovered that scenes from many movies were filmed on Kauai. Maybe I will get to see where they were filmed. While I am here I will be staying with Fred, Ron and his wife Brenda, in a little secluded house down an old dirt road, sounds perfect.

Well since I arrived I have been helping Fred to collect sand samples to check for micro-plastics. Fred took me to collect sand at Moloa'a where Gilligan's Island was first filmed and Papaa Bay where the crash scene and encampment of Harrison Ford and Ann Heche was filmed in Six Days and Seven Nights. Bella will be so jealous! King Kong, Jurassic Park, and other movies were also filmed around the island because of its spectacular land and waterscape.

You may remember me mentioning micro plastics before. These are tiny pieces of plastic, the result of larger pieces of plastic litter breaking down in the oceans, which are then eaten by fish and plankton. These tiny pieces of plastic often absorb pollutants making them doubly dangerous to animals that swallow them. And of course, when the plankton and small fish are eaten by larger animals, they get these pollutants too. we are checking for these tiny pieces of plastic in beach sand samples.

Guess what, while Fred and me rested on the beach we were joined by one of Fred's friends Pia.
She is a beautiful green turtle, Fred told me that honu is Hawaiian for green turtle. Pia has been coming up on this beach on the sunny south shore for about ten years. Turtles are very long lived animals, and Pia said that at one time the ocean was not always full of rubbish. She says she comes ashore to rest because she gets so tired of getting bonked in the head by plastic bottles and poked in the eye by plastic toys and lighters and pens and stuff like that. Pia told us that her ancestors used to come ashore right here in this very spot to nest. Honu can't do that anymore because the sunny south shore is filled with tourist places. Last time her auntie tried nesting here on the sand, the keiki (little ones) all got out of the nest and went up to the lights shining from the human tourists buildings, being confused by what had not been there before. She guesses they thought the bright city lights were the light of the moon on the waves (nalu) which newly hatched turtle follow to find their way to the sea. We sat and chatted for a while and then Pia went back in the sea.

Bye for now

P.s. Bella says that Eki means Ed in Hawaiian (don't know if she is right)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Plastic Free Friday

Hi all

While Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets to discuss global issues with other countries, Fred the monkey has organised a meeting with representatives from different animal "nations" to find a way that we can protect animal life from death by plastic. Fred told me he has been in contact with president Obama. He said the president wants Fred to talk story with as many animals as possible, getting the unbiased accounts of the earth's environmental problems.

The meeting included myself, Shark from the Open Ocean, Humuhumu from the Big Island, Monk Seal from Kauai, and Fred's buddy Redfooted Booby who snuck back with Fred from Pihemanu out at Papahanaumokuakea, we decided to do this for our friends the Albatrosses.....

As you can see in this photo at our high level meeting at the beach, Fred is wearing still more leg bands from albatrosses who died young due to markers, toothbrushes, toys, bottle caps, lighters, water bottles, and other plastic entering the sea daily by the tons. The result of our meeting, PLASTIC FREE FRIDAYS which is our way of saying no to plastics.
We ask you to avoid buying any drink in plastic bottles, any food wrapped in plastic, and any toy or other thing you might use made from plastic this, and every Friday.

You can find out more about Fred and this declaration of PLASTIC FREE FRIDAYS on his own weblog
Check it out and see what you can do to promote plastic free Fridays and find out what else Fred has been up to.

Bye for now


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ed meets Fred


I arrived safely and I'm now here on Marrowstone Island. No time to rest though, I got straight to work with Fred the Monkey to help clean up Marrowstone Beaches. It was a big job since there was a storm last night and it washed up all kinds of plastic bottles, caps, a broken frisbee, some tires, and even a toothbrush. I told Fred about UK Oceans and the beach clean work I do back home. I explained that often nearly half of the litter is left behind by beach visitors and so if we can stop that we will have halved the problem.

Fred also introduced me to some of the ocean wildlife nearby. It appears that many of the marine animals realise something is not right. We exchanged stories with some surf scooters just down from Alaska. They say that every year they lose more and more of their friends and relatives but they don't know why or where the other birds go to. We talked to ONE western grebe, all we could find. She said her kind is disappearing from earth. Don't know why.

Humans often don't realise that many of us animals can understand each other quite well. I can't talk to all animals though. For example mice are too quite and ants talk to each other using special smells. I watched a crab once doing a strange dance on the sand and clicking his claws, but I don't really know what he was saying either.

I saw some furry little otters swim by and they said they had big trouble because their kelp forest home was disappearing here on the island. We don't have sea otters in the UK. There used to be many river otters in Sussex but now most have disappeared because they were hunted for their fur and in more recent times their habitat has been damaged. The otters didn't hang around for long though because all of a sudden whoosh! 40 or more killer whales appeared. I have never seen a killer whale before, they were so beautiful and graceful. They didn't hang around for long either before they swam off majestically, diving and spouting at the surface.

And then, guess what, Fred gave me a special gift. You may remember me telling you that Fred wore a leg band from an albatross X310. Fred gave me a leg band of my own, from another albatross chick that did not live long enough to fly. Fred asked me to wear the band in memory of the albatross X360 and to remember the Pacific Ocean animals. I hope that the people back in the UK will be as touched by the sad tale as I was when I first heard about the reason why Fred wore a band with the number X360. (see my previous report below). I hope I will get the chance to find out more about these amazing birds and see them doing what they were born to do - fly.

Thanks Fred for such as special day.

Bye for now


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Next stop, Washingtion State USA

Hi all

I am on my way at last, next stop Marrowstone Island in Washington State to visit Fred the Monkey and his mate Ron Hirschi.

This is my route (in red) from the UK to Marrowstone Island in Washington State

Fred has been doing some fantastic work raising awareness of the damage cause by plastic debris to wildlife and the environment. In fact he wears a leg band X310 from an Albatross from Pihemanu in Hawaii. The band was attached to the leg of a beautiful albatross chick by scientists hoping to find out more about the lives of these amazing birds.

Adult albatross fly more than a million miles in their life time but sadly, this albatross chick didn't even survive long enough to fledge. She died from swallowing plastic litter.

Sadder still is that X310 was not the first chick to die from plastic and she will not be the last. I thought we had a big problem with plastic back in the UK, but the death of these birds is a tragedy. Worst still, most of the plastic debris floats to Hawaii from other countries.

I plan to find out more about this terrible problem and learn more about these magnificent albatross. Hopefully Fred will also be able to show me around his beaches too and compare what marine life lives there.

Bye for now


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Beach Clean Event

Here I am back on Shoreham Beach to help out at a litter clean event organised by the Friends of Shoreham Beach. Litter is a big problem on many of our beaches and Shoreham Beach is sadly no different. Not only does this litter make the beach look very messy but it is also very harmful to wildlife.

This is Joy introducing me to all the volunteers who have come to help clean the beach.

As you can see there were a lot of volunteers, (50 in total) a mixed group of helpers of all ages. They worked really hard cleaning up the litter. My legs are very short and it was a bit hard for me to keep up, walking on all those pebbles, so two girls, Eva and Alice carried me for a while in their back pack.

We collected almost 30 bags of litter in total, phew! This is us all having a well deserved break.

Out of all the different types of litter found on the beach the most common material is plastic. This does more damage to wildlife, in and out of the water, than any other type of litter. A million sea birds and 100, 000 marine mammals around the world die each year from being entangled in, or by swallowing, plastic litter. About 30 - 40% of the litter found on the beach is left behind by beach visitors. This means that if we could encourage people to take it home instead of leaving it on the beach this would make a big difference.
Better still, people can take their litter home and recycle it along with the rest of their household rubbish. Removing all the plastic rubbish in the ocean is impossible. We can all help though by making sure no more plastic ends up in the ocean. Recycling can also save oil, as this is used to make new plastic items.

At the Eco Schools conference we took part in all the participants (including ourselves) were given a bag like the one below.

It may be hard to believe but this bag was made from recycled plastic bottles. I hope you all recycle as much of your household rubbish as you can.

Bye for now


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Ed takes part in eco schools conference

Today I took part in an eco-schools conference run by Brighton and Hove City Council attended by local school teachers planning to make their schools more sustainable. Steve and I took along a stand about my intended worldwide travels to raise awareness of the damage humans are doing to the oceans. Schools are making a valuable contribution to tackling global issues by making changes that save energy, run recycling projects, develop their grounds for wildlife etc.

Our stand included information and pictures about my local beach at Shoreham, its rare vegetated shingle habitat and the concerns that sea level rise and other global issues may damage this fascinating beach.

There were also pictures about some of beautiful marine life and the locations I am planning to visit, including my US Tour starting January 2010. There were also pictures showing the damage being done to wildlife. About 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals die each year when they swallow or become entangled in marine litter. Global warming is causing corals to die and food webs to be disrupted.

There was a lot of enthusiasm and interest from many of the teachers and we have given them the address for this weblog. Hopefully the teachers and children will be able to follow my adventures.

Leave me a message in the comments about the things you are doing to save energy or reduce litter.

Bye for now


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Seashore Strandline

My travel plans are almost complete and I hope to be on my way soon. It was a nice sunny day today so I took a stroll along the strandline on the beach.

This is the area of the beach where all the interesting seashells and other natural debris is washed ashore. Sadly, as mentioned in my earlier blog, marine litter is washed up to.

These natural objects give us fascinating clues to the animals that live just off the beach or further out to sea. Here are some of my favourite objects that I collected from the beach.
There are many egg cases washed ashore. The most common are the whelk egg cases (below)
Empty whelk shells are also washed up on the beach.
These are the type of empty shell that hermit crabs sometimes live in as they don't have a hard shell of their own.

Dogfish egg cases are one of my favourite. Its amazing that a baby fish spends 9 months growing inside it before they hatch.

The dogfish is actually a small type of bottom living shark.

This is what they look like inside the egg case. You can sometimes see them in public aquariums.
Rays, are related to sharks as they both have skeletons made of soft bendy cartilage. This is the same as the bendy parts of your ear and the tip of your nose. Go on, give it a wiggle and see.

Steve once found an egg case after a storm which had a dead baby ray inside.
Steve's favourite eggs washed up on the beach are cuttlefish eggs, which look like a black bunch of grapes. This is because they are often still alive and can be rescued.

He hatches them out in a fish tank and then returns them to the sea. When they hatch out they are miniature replicas of the parents.

They can change colour to camouflage themselves and squirt ink as a defence. You can also find the white internal shell of cuttlefish, usually called cuttlefish bones.

This is the dried remains of a pipe fish washed up on the beach.

These are oyster shells (above). The oyster has two halves to its shell and lives on the seabed filtering tiny bits of food from the water. In the UK, over 100 years ago in the Victorian period, oysters were very popular to eat. They were so popular that the Victorians collected too many of the oysters and so they had to find some more to replace them. They collected oysters from the east coast of the USA and released them in the English Channel.

Unknown to the Victorians, another seashell was living on the oyster shells. They are called a slipper limpet (picture below, underside view and top view).

The oysters did not do very well, but the slipper limpets survived and multiplied. This is because there was plenty of food (they eat plankton) and they had few natural predators because they had moved to the UK waters. The slipper limpet shell is now one of the most common seashells washed up here on Sussex beaches.
This is a spider crab shell (above). When they are alive, spider crabs disguise their shells using seaweed and sponges so they can hide on the seabed. Like all crabs they shed their shell as they grow. So when you find a crab shell on the beach it does not mean the crab died.

Out of all my collection, this sea urchin shell is my favourite shell.

It is very delicate and it is unusual to find one that is in one piece, they usually get broken on the beach.

I am hoping to bring back some interesting shells and egg cases for my collection from some of the beaches I visit during my expedition.

Bye for now