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May 03, 1941 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-05-03

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Page Two



By William Newton

VEN BEFORE I had tried fishing
in Hawaii, equipped with a throw-
net or with a spear and goggles
or a glassbottom box, I could not
understand what pleasure anyone might
find in still-fishing. As a boy six years
old, I had been taken out for a day's
fishing with my uncle--we sat in the
boat-he fished and contemplated Lord-
knows-what; I fished and squirmed.
That was-and is-my basis for judging
still-fishing. I don't like it, I can see
nothing in it and I doubt if I ever shall
like it-especially after fishing in the
Hawaiian manner.
Four and a half years is long enough
to forget nearly anything, and I was a
little skeptical of my skill when Joe
Shim suggested that we go fishing,
spear-fishing. I argued 'a little, pro-
testing that I had forgotten how to go
about it, that I didn't want to make a
fool of myself. But he persisted, and I
gave in-all right, we would go, in the
morning, at low tide-that would be
around eight-thirty.
I was up at eight, a little nervous
about the whole thing as I remembered
that the water off Black Point-com-
plete with sharks, a rip-tide and a nasty
undertow-was Joe's favorite fishing
spot. Between piles of delicately flav-
ored, yellow-fleshed papaya, I struggled
into a pair of ragged, damp swimming
trunks. Joe's automobile horn blared
outside the apartment building, and I
grabbed an old sweat-shirt and ran out,
barefoot and cringing a little as I felt
the sharp pebbles of the driveway under
my soles.
Black Point was only a few minutes
away from the apartment, and I could
feel the sticky salt spray from the waves
which beat against the rugged black-
stone cliffs as we rounded Diamond
Head. Joe parked his car at the side of
the narrow road that wound between
irregular rows of scattered little houses
at Black Point. He handed me a pair of
goggles. a flour sack with a draw-string
of heavy cord, and a sling spear.
I inspected the spear as we walked
rapidly along the rough trail leading
across the field of rough, crazily tum-
bled volcanic boulders that lay between
the houses and the ocean cliffs. The
spear itself was a 3/16-inch shaft of
steel, five feet long, with a fine-ground
barbed tip and a deep notch cut into the
opposite end. A 12-inch piece of cop-
per tubing, a quarter of an inch in dia-
meter, went with the spear, and attach-
ed to one end of the tube were two strips
of old inner-tube, joined by heavy cord
at their loose ends. The spear fitted into
the tube, with the cord slipping into the
Joe stopped at a fork in the trail, and
I came to a halt beside him. In front
of us lay the bright blue. of the Pacific,
with hazy silhouettes of Maui and Mo-
lokai, distant islands, visible on the
horizon. A lone fishing boat-a sampan
of Japanese design-tossed its way to-
ward Koko Head from Kewalo Basin be-
tween Waikiki and Honolulu harbor.
To the left lay Kahala Bay, shallow,
palm-fringed water. A dark brown line,
broken by occasional pasages where
fresh-water streams killed the coral of
the reef, curved gently from the base of
Black Point to the center of Koko Head.
The two old craters rose in dark masses,
making a brown backdrop for the water.
Litile patches of green were evident,
breaking the monotony of the dry moun-
The point jutted into the ocean, black
and heavy, with occasional little waves
breaking against its cliffs after lifting
themselves gently out of the choppy sur-
face of the ocean. Once in a while a

larger wave would spout up in a cloud
of fine spray through the mouth of the

blow-hole. Off to the right stretched
more cliffs, their chalky-white coral
contrasting with the black of the point's
volcanic rock and the green palm fronds
growing along the cliff-top. Waves were
bigger along there, breaking in long,
steady rolls in front of Kahalawai's
chalky cliffs.
In a moment Joe and I were scramb-
ling down the face of the battered cliff,
to a little shelf on the Koko Head side
of the blow hole. Goggles adjusted,
sacks tied to belt-loops of our trunks
and spears loosely in their slings, we
were ready to start the day's fishing. I
half-jumped, half-dived into the water,
letting myself sink deep and stroking
slowly away from shore. Joe's head
popped up near me soon after I had
come to the surface, and we surface-
dived together, swimming under water
along the front of the cliff toward Koko
As we swam, aided by the pull of a
strong current that made now and then
an eddy as it met the waves caused by
the wind blowing from the seaward end
of Koko Head. I made out the panorama
of the sea-bottom spread out below me.
Sunbeams cut into the depths in slant-
ing columns of yellow haze, contrasting
with the darkness of the water.
I pulled deeper, moving slowly to con-
serve strength and wind. On my left
rose the mossy-dark wall of the cliff,

through on the other side, the kala
twisted, trying to break free. By the
time Joe had pilled himself within
reach of the spear shaft, however, the
fish was just twitching a little. Grab-
bing the spear, Joe pushed off fromthe
bottom, shooting to the surface.
As he pulled the spear free and held
the fish up for my inspection, Joe was
careful to avoid the razor-bladed pro-
jections of thin bone that ran longitud-
inally and horizontally along the side
of the kala near the tail. Joe crammed
the fish into his flour sack, pulled the
draw-string tight and fitted his spear
into its sling. He shouted "good luck"
to me and dived once more.
I started out again, this time swim-
ming along under water back past the
blow-hole toward Kahalawai. I paddled
along the surface and pulled myself
along the bottom, eight to 15 feet deep,
pausing only to come up for quick gasps
of air. I scanned the area around the
point for more than an hour and got
only one shot at a fish. It was another
kala., swimming away from me and
offering a poor target. My spear whip-
ped toward the fish, straight as a plumb
line, and in anticipation I began to
swim forward. But the fish wasn't hit.
The long spear passed an inch or two
above its dorsal fin, and the kala swam
off rapidly. twisting and dodging.
I didn't even see a little Moorish idol

o inifer/J e
A steely heaven lurks horizon-thin
And night has my permission to begin.
The storm is set to break, and I must smile
And count the stars that fail, and wait my while.
The hardest part is watching for a sun
That shines another day, that warms another one.
The cruelest cut is laughing at a joke
That looms too late when one accepts the stroke.
--L. Rich .

without scaring the fish away. I spot-
ted a little mushroom of coral between
me and the fish, only about ten feet from
where it lay dozing. In order to use
this cover, I had to reach it unseen; and
I swam slowly, half-crawling along the
bottom, to the side of the point. There
I kept flat against the wall of black
lava and broke surface for one last
Surface-diving,I swam along the bot-
tom, in the little angle made by the
junction of the cliff and the ocean floor.
Then pushing off from the cliff wall, I
pulled rapidly across the open space to
the mushroom, keeping my eyes ever on
the fish. It didn't move away, an I
took slow aim from behind my cover of
coral. My feet held tight to a little
clump of rough coral. They held my
body steady on my knees, and I leaned
forward, sighting along the shaft of my
spear. The fish was so big that I didn't
have to allow for water distortion in
aiming: I just pointed the long spear at
the center of the fish, pulled the shaft
back tight against the strips of rubber,
sighted again slowly and released the
It shot straight into the fish, striking
it just back of the bony casing that pro-
tected the fore part pf its head. I pushed
off from the clump of coral with a quick
twist of my shoulders and a long quick
stroke as soon as I had loosed the spear.
I caught its shaft just as the fish gave
a lurch, twisted madly in an effort to
pull the barb deep enough into the fish
to cut some vital part. I could feel the
barb cut, but the fish threshed angrily,
yanking at the spear and nearly sliding
it out of my hands. I planted my feet
strongly on the smooth stone bottom
and pushed down with my right hand,
pulling up with my left hand, pulling me
around completely.
My breath began to grow short as I
struggled . My ears were ringing. and
I could feel a mechanical beating in my
temples-as though some great pump
were pounding out a rhythmical beat in
the water near me. Twice the fish turned
me about completely. My feet dragged
stubbornly across the bottom. He yanked
me off my feet, tugging wildly, scrap-
ing, twisting. pulling back and thrusting
forward on it in a constant attempt
to strike some vital spot. Finally, just
when my eyes began to blur and I was
ready to drop out of the fight, the barb
sank far into the fish. Its tip evidently
went in behind the bone-armor of the
head. There was one more twitch as the
parrot-fish died. Then, instinctively and
blindly, I pushed off from the bottom
and to the surface, dragging my spear
with its big load. I just floated and
gasped for nearly a minute.
At length I paddled slowly to the
ledge and pulled myself up into the
shallow, eddying water that covered its
top. On wobbly legs' I walked gingerly
across the mossy coral, jumped the gap
separating the ledge fi om dry stone of
the point and reached the hot rock floor
that was just beyond reach of the waves.
on the spear. The shaft was bent about
-I sat down, trembling a little, and
dropped the fish at my side, still caught
ten degrees in the middle.
I didn't go back into the water for
more fishing that day. Once I swam out
to where Joe had run into a school of
kala-they had been feeding in a huge
mass of 50 or 60 fish instead of split-
ting up into little groups of twos and
threes. He had cornered them, killed
seven before they could escape from
the pocket of the reef where he had
chased the school. I carried my spear
with me, just in case I ran into a shark
or a big squid, but I didn't try to do
anything with it-I was too tired, and
besides any other fish would have been

while ahead and to the right the floor
of the ocean stretched, smooth and
weed-covered. It was worn by centuries
of poundink by the waves, but huge
smooth-edged pockmarks showed where
boulders had tumbled about or where
the original coral mushrooms, left loom-
ing up in the haze, pillars of harder
stone unaffected by the eroding force
of the water.
The clearness of detail of objects in
the foreground-made possible by the
tight-fitting goggles-contrasted with
the dimness in which the background
was shrouded. The greater the distance
to a mushroom or little clump of deli-
cately shaped living coral, the hazier
the object appeared. The entire scene
was for all the world like a street scene
in a winter-blanketed city-the forms
of the trees and buildings appearing
ever dimmer in the distance until they
gradually faded into a blank haze of
As I came to the surface, I saw Joe
break water and dive again, quickly.
I caught my breath and swam quickly
-under water to keep from splashing-
toward him. le was stretched out along
the bottom, feet caught against a clump
of rough coral. As I drew near his big
form, I saw his spear streak forward,
shot by the release out the tightened
strips of rubber.
It sank deep into the flat, black side
of a big kala that had been swimming
lazily along the bottom. As the spear
sank into the fish, its point breaking

or a weki for a long time, and I was
about to turn back toward the Koko
Head side of the point when I detected a
flash of bright color between where I
was and the shore. Swiftly I paddled
along just beneath the surface, heading
toward Wana Ledge, a table-like for-
mation of coral that stretched-twenty-
five feet long and ten wide-out into
Kahalawai bay from the base of the
With the tide rising, waves were be-
ginning to form, breaking over the ledge
which was now perpetually covered by
water. The foam from the waves ob-
scured the vision and I could'see nothing
in the deep water. I had begun to think'
I had been fooled by a piece of drifting
seaweed when I saw the fish.
It was a big thing, about three feet
long, nearly a foot in breadth from back
to belly. A great beak, two teeth of
hard sharp bone, formed the mouth of
the fish, and from this and its bright
blue-green color I knew that I had found
a parrot fish. That knowledge alone
was thrilling, for the big fish are rare
in Hawaiian waters. and I had never
seen one before.
The fish lay. mouth open and fins
waving idil'y, about a foot off the bot-
torn, in front of a big pock mark that
dented the face of the ledge's base. Its
side was turned toward me, an area
about three feet square, offering a per-
fect target. From where I was-about
20 feet away-I knew I never could ap-
proach within accurate spear range

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