By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) took a major step forward this month in Hawai’i with our first vessel outing in the state's waters.
We’ve been wanting to carryout cleanup dives in Hawai’i for a long time, but could never locate a boat owner willing to take our divers out.
That all changed when Mash Hatai, who is a boat captain for Hawai’i Nautical, told the company’s owner Doug Ewald about ODA.
Without hesitation, Doug offered the use of one of his boats to take ODA divers out once a month to clean up the reefs around Oahu. We are all "onboard" with cleaning the oceans and saving marine life!
More Help Arrives
Back in April, I had given a presentation to the staff and students at the University of Hawai’i (UH) Richardson Law School, and after the talk many of them came up to me and inquired about volunteering possibilities.
Vicki Szymczak was one of those people. She is an enthusiastic diver and is the director of the library at the UH law school. In July, I contacted Vicki to see if she knew any divers who might want to start volunteering with ODA Hawai’i. She sent out emails inviting people to take part in this new opportunity to actively work to protect the local ocean waters, and soon had about 20 people signed up.
The BIG day
It was with great pride that, on September 11th, we pushed off from the docks of Waianae Boat Harbor, on the far west side of Oahu. This harbor is surrounded by a mountain range that dramatically rises to about 2,000 feet. These mountains look like a painter took a brush to them with the most brilliant green you can imagine.
With Captain Mash at the helm, we were assisted by Thea Brown as our dive master and all around dive safety person. This was the first time I met Thea, an employee of Hawaii Nautical. She is a dive instructor and volunteered her skills for the day.
Our divers for the day consisted of: Dan De Haas, Faith Fay, Stacey Gray, Shellie Habel, Eric Klingberg, Oliver Poirion, Sarah-Jeanne Royer, Vicki Szymczak and Bryce Xu. On deck, our photographer was AJ Jaeger. Thanks for all the great pics, AJ!
Since this was everyone’s first time out on an ODA adventure, we did an orientation dive. One of the trickiest things our divers need to do is attach debris to a lift bag, fill it with air, and send it to the surface.
I showed them how to do it and let each diver do it on their own until they became comfortable with the task. Mission accomplished!
They did this while being surrounded by inquisitive tropical fish. We even had green sea turtles swim over to us to see what all the commotion was about. All divers were excited to be able to take part in such a meaningful endeavor, and with huge smiles on their faces, each one asked: “When is the next cleanup dive?”
Our generous supporter Hawai’i Nautical has given us the “go ahead” that we can set up our next dive for early November. Boatloads of thanks to Doug, Mash, Vicki and all of the other wonderful supporters! Because of you and our supporters, we’ll be out there next time pulling debris from Waianea Bay.
Do you live in Hawai’i and would like to be part of this ocean-protection adventure?
Please check out our volunteer page and submit whichever application applies: Diver/Boat Crew Application (for SCUBA divers or deckhands) or Onshore Application (to help with work on land with activities such as outreach and fundraising).
See below - LOTS MORE PICTURES! Click to get the slide show started. :)