Hawaii wary of harmful vog from erupting volcano
Lava and gas pour from a fissure on Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano.
March 9th, 2011
01:39 PM ET

Hawaii wary of harmful vog from erupting volcano

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano is emitting five times the lava and 25 times the sulfur dioxide gas as before a 1.5-mile-long fissure opened on the mountain over the weekend.

Although the lava, which is sometimes shooting as high as 245 feet, currently poses no threat to humans on Hawaii's Big Island, the sulfur dioxide gas could become a problem, reports CNN affiliate KHON in Honolulu.

Sulfur dioxide and sulfate aerosols that Kilauea is emitting at increased levels are two key ingredients in vog: a volcanic fog that can cause "headaches, breathing difficulties, increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments, watery eyes, and sore throat," according to the governor's office.

KHON reports that the state's current northeast tradewind pattern is keeping the irritating gas from populated areas, but any change in the tradewinds, especially if they diminish or shift to a more southerly pattern, could bring vog's harmful effects into play.

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Filed under: Hawaii • U.S. • Volcano
Crater collapse sends lava spewing from Hawaii volcano
Lava spews into the air along the fissure between the Pu'u 'O'o and Napua craters.
March 7th, 2011
05:47 AM ET

Crater collapse sends lava spewing from Hawaii volcano

Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano was shooting as high as 80 feet in the air Sunday after the collapse of the floor of the volcano's Pu'u 'O'o crater a day earlier.

Hawaii Volcano Observatory scientists said the floor of the crater dropped 377 feet over almost three hours on Saturday  and a fissure developed between the Pu'u 'O'o and Napau craters on Kilauea.

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Scoliosis, not collision, likely left whale bent, expert says
Birds in Paradise owner-flight instructor Gerry Charlebois photographed this distressed humpback whale off an Hawaiian island.
February 11th, 2011
10:42 AM ET

Scoliosis, not collision, likely left whale bent, expert says

Experts are now saying a hobbled whale seen Monday near Hawaii's Kauai Island was not injured but suffers from a chronic condition, a local newspaper reports.

The distressed humpback whale probably has scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, said David Schofield, marine mammal response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Gerry Charlebois, owner and instructor of Birds in Paradise Flight School, spotted the whale from the air Monday and suspected the marine mammal had been injured by a ship.

Schofield discounted that diagnosis.

"They're not like cartoon animals," he said, according to the Star Advertiser. "They don't hold the shape of the contusion. Sometimes they'll have like a little imprint, but it's just not too plausible to see that if the animal had been impacted there that the peduncle or the tail shaft would've stayed that way."

The animal's pale, mottled skin and emaciated condition indicate it is in distress, but probably not from a ship collision, he told the paper. Much of the whale's behavior described by Charlebois is normal, he added.

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Filed under: Animals • Hawaii • Science • Whales
Hawaii pilot spots badly injured whale
Birds in Paradise owner-flight instructor Gerry Charlebois photographed this mortally injured humpback whale off the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
February 9th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

Hawaii pilot spots badly injured whale

A humpback whale with an apparently broken back has been spotted in waters near Hawaii, a newspaper reports.

Gerry Charlebois, who takes student pilot/tourists for coastal excursions in ultralight aircraft, spotted the injured whale from the air Monday in shallow water near Kauai.

"He wasn't moving his fluke and was just staying near the surface and sort of limping down the coast," he said. "It's kind of sad to see a full adult whale in that condition. ... It's definitely something he's not recovering from."

"This is one of the most disturbing sights I've ever experienced while photographing whales," Charlebois, the owner of Birds in Paradise Flight School, told The Garden Island Newspaper. "It was freaky. The whale was bent in half. Obviously some kind of blunt force trauma on the side. The poor guy was in trouble."

A large boat or ship must have struck the whale, which hasn't been seen since Monday, he said. Humpbacks normally are pretty agile, so this one may have been old or sick an unable to move out of a ship's way, he said.

Birds in Paradise manager Kirk Johnson said Charlebois and others on the flight first thought they'd seen an albino whale, but when they came around to take another look, they could see that it was discolored instead.

Ed Lyman of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Maui told the paper the whale appeared to be in poor health - emaciated, shedding skin and surrounded by parasites - and there is no established method for euthanizing a large whale.

These big whales tend to die slowly, Charlebois said. When they do, they sink to the bottom until decomposition gases make them float to the surface, where they attract large numbers of hungry sharks, he said.

"It's amazing to see these 15-foot sharks all feeding on a whale," Charlebois said. "You don't want to be snorkeling around there. You don't want to be in that neighborhood."

Charlebois said he and his three other pilots would look for signs of the injured whale again today.

About 2,000 humpback whales live in the waters off Alaska, and many of them migrate to Hawaii's warm waters between November and May, according to Earthtrust.org. Whale watching is a major part of Hawaii's tourism industry. Adult humpbacks range in size from 35 to 48 feet, and weigh about 1 ton per foot.

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Filed under: Animals • Environment • Hawaii • Whales
Elite surfers flock to Hawaii, wait to take on 20-foot waves
Bruce Irons surfs during the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii in December.
January 19th, 2011
12:43 PM ET

Elite surfers flock to Hawaii, wait to take on 20-foot waves

A select group of the world's best surfers was gathering in Hawaii Wednesday in hopes waves on Oahu's North Shore would grow big enough for an elite tournament.

The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is held only when wave heights tower over 20 feet between December 1 and February 28. It has been completed only seven times in its 26-year history, the last time being December 9, 2009.

iReport: Are you there? Share your wave pictures

The biggest waves are expected around daybreak Thursday, event sponsors said.

"We might go, we might not, but we will always be ready for when the bay calls the day," contest organizer George Downing said. "We will do exactly what Eddie and big wave riders have always done through the years - watch the swell developments, be ready, and wake up to see what the day delivers."

Among those invited to surf the "Eddie" this year are Hawaii's Bruce Irons, who won the event in 2004, Floridian Kelly Slater, a 10-time world surfing champion who won the 2002 Eddie, and Californian Greg Long, the defending champion.

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Filed under: Hawaii • Sports
Wednesday's intriguing people
Former "American Idol" contestant Alex Lambert's homelessness has been greatly exaggerated, a rep says.
January 19th, 2011
12:30 PM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Alex Lambert

The "American Idol" Season 9 semifinalist created a buzz Tuesday with a rant on Twitter that seemed to say he was homeless:

"O my goodness yall! I have been crashin behind buidings and sleepin outside but I dont want nobody to feel sorry for me! I'm a grown (expletive) man"

Naturally, people understood that to mean the 20-year-old singer from Texas was living full-time on the streets.

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