By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
Update: We were featured on the 6pm news on KHON2. Check out their report on YouTube.
Aloha from the Island of Hawai’i, otherwise known as The Big Island (see the island in the lower right of the map).
Since my last visit here in July, we have been focusing on finishing up a big project we started back in 2017. That’s the year that I got together with the staff at Jack’s Diving Locker (JDL) to collaborate on doing some underwater cleanups. Teri and Jeff Leicher own the shop and charter one of their dive boats to ODA whenever we could afford it so we can take our volunteer divers out to debris sites around the Kona coast.
On one of those trips, I was talking with one of their boat captains, Matt Bogdanovitch, about what he thought about diving in the Honokohau Harbor to see if we might find items to remove down there. He thought it would be a good idea to check it out. So, a few of us jumped in the harbor with our scuba gear and promptly removed several tires. I think we found our calling!
Fast forward to Sunday, November 13th, and we hosted our 9th underwater cleanup of the harbor. It was a typical Hawaiian day, gorgeous, nary a cloud in the sky, and good underwater visibility inside the harbor.
ODA’s Hawai’i Island Chapter Leader Sarah Milisen and I have been strategizing about this cleanup for months. The staff at Jack’s Diving Locker have been great too, especially Katelyn Kenworthy. Sarah, Katelyn, and Co-Owner Teri Leicher made sure all the gear, sign-in sheets, info tent, haul out lines, and a slew of other items we need to have these events go as smoothly as possible, were ready and in place before the big day.
We asked the volunteers to show up to the site at 9am. Many of them got there a little early to sign the waivers and pick up a scuba tank, for which Jack’s generously waived the day’s rental fee. Tanks a lot, JDL!
Sarah and I gathered the volunteers to talk about the logistics of getting the divers in the water, then how to get a haul out line down to them when they found something to be removed.
Shortly thereafter the divers started jumping in. Bob Jensen was the first one in and showed his exuberance by doing a complete summersault. You should try out for the Olympics, Bob! (see the full series below in the photo gallery!)
After that it was non-stop action for the next two hours.
Because we were working in the area that is the funnel point for boats coming into and out of the harbor, we had two people stay at the surface to make sure that if a boat came too close, they could dive down to alert the diver to the boats path. Can’t thank those people enough, they got none of the glory, but several times they kept those divers safe from passing boats.
We had all manner of marine debris coming up: PVC tubing, pipes, carpets, dive masks, fishing poles, some kind of trap cages, lead fishing weights, mono-filament line, and of course the ubiquitous tires, tires, and then more tires.
A few of those tires were so big and full of mud that we had to take small shovels and scoop the mud out in order to lighten the load. One specific tire was just too cumbersome to haul out using people power, so a bunch of people who were there from Blue Ocean Mariculture (BOM) took matters into their own hands and wheeled something like a crane over to the edge of the water. I had never seen a machine like this before and struggle to know what to call it. Something like a forklift on steroids? As you can see from these pictures, it’s got an arm that can extend something like 30 feet from the machine.
Even though I didn’t get any pictures of that tire coming up, here it lies before being sent to its final resting place (out of the ocean waters!).
BOM offers their employees credits if they do volunteer work, and we had about 15 of their employees show up for the cleanup. Several of their folks are commercial divers and a few of them had that tire hooked up and laying on their flatbed truck before I could say: “What the heck is that thing?”
While the BOM divers were doing that, they found an engine block on the bottom. It probably weighed 300 pounds, so it was going to have to be hauled out by the machine as well. After about 10 minutes of securing a heavy-duty rope to it, it was hauled out and placed in one of the dumpsters.
After witnessing that I was walking around looking to see who was doing what, I found two ladies working with three divers that had found a hot spot for tires. Just in the short time I was there, they had hauled up eight tires…Nice work, gals!
It was fun walking around and hearing how happy people were to get the opportunity to do something like this. For over half the volunteers this was their first time out with ODA. One lady who was part of the dive team, loudly exclaimed, “That was FUN!”
A couple I had met the day before on my flight from California to Kona, showed up and pitched in, too. Who would do that on the first day of their vacation? Thank you, New Friends!
Not only did we succeed in removing several tons of debris, we also enlightened a lot of people to the damage that this marine debris causes. Many of them wanted to know when the next cleanup was going to be. Some hoped it would be the next weekend!
Not the case this time, but we will be back. Stay tuned!
ODA wants to thank a few more people for helping make this day such a success:
- Jill from BOM for getting all their skilled people out on a Sunday to an event they had never been to before.
- Jame Schaedel of the Harbor Masters office. He made sure all the boaters in the harbor knew about the cleanup and to be cautious when in that part of the harbor. He also made arrangements with another company to take the tires and dispose of them properly. They also waived the disposal fees!
- Apryl Sasaki at Pacific Waste, Inc. who waived the fee for the use and delivery of the two waste bins that we filled up.
- Alison Keith, for making the arrangements with Pacific Waste to get the bins delivered on time and to the correct location in the harbor.
Lastly, thanks to the over 50 people who gave up one of their precious Sundays to make the waters of Hawai’i cleaner and safer for our finned friends.
We removed about 3,500 pounds of debris and 46 tires, for a grand total of 6,720 pounds. That’s over 3 tons!!
Mahalo Nui to all!!
If you want to see more tons of debris removed from coastal waters, your partnership from wherever you are will make it happen.