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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Manta Rays, and Dandelions, A Poem

Graceful swimmers of the tropical ocean, Manta Rays are in trouble

By Lois Barton and Carolann Krohn

Posted on Jul 15, 2006

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How beautiful the weeds
In all their untamed glory.
Designed by God, despised by man
They persist, to the delight of those
With the eyes of a child.

Carolann Krohn
July 2, 2006

Manta Rays

"Snorkel Bob" in Kailua-Kona on the big island provides a snorkel adventure after dark to visit Manta Rays. This snorkeling with Manta Rays is rated seventh most popular adventure world wide.

Son Bill and I joined two friends one evening for this adventure. We boarded a catamaran at dusk and were taken to and anchored in a bay south of Kailua. A large hotel next to this bay had five huge flood lights trained on the bay. The light drew plankton to the lighted area in the water. All the boat passengers, except for me, went into the water wearing snorkel masks when we arrived. At 88 years of age and with almost no snorkeling experience I just came along for the ride.

The Manta Rays soon began to appear. They came to feed on the plankton. Their feeding motion was a rolling thrust toward the surface with their mouths wide open. They rolled on over gracefully with bellies up, then turned down into deeper water before repeating the antic.

Several of the snorkelers had lights with them. The catamaran was well lighted, including a flood light at one side. All that, plus the flood lights from the hotel created good visibility into the water around the boat.

I sat under the floodlight at the edge of the boat about six feet above the surface of the water and thrilled to see a big Manta come up almost to within reach, its mouth wide open. The mouth of a manta ray this size is a circle approximately eighteen inches across. Looking into that mouth just below me I could see the gills through which the plankton-filled water flowed. The Manta whose wings were about three feet wider than I am tall, rolled onto its back gracefully arching to swim down a bit. Before I could catch my breath, there it came on another feeding loop. I could see two other large white shadows in the water several feet below.

Bill, one of the snorkelers, in the water was astonished when a ray wider than his outstretched arms came up on its feeding loop, literally within an inch or two of his face. Those three Manta Rays slowly swirled, looped and soared all around the boat for a good part of an hour. Our mentor on the trip was in the water with a light and a camera, capturing a video of the rays and the snorkelers. When we disembarked she had her pictures showing on a monitor on her car and offered videos in which the snorkelers could see themselves among the Mantas that very evening.

There are several kinds and sizes of Manta Rays in different colors. Perhaps 75 years ago with my siblings I watched a sting ray maybe three feet across and beige in color in a small bay at the edge of Key Largo south of Florida. We were warned that its sting was poisonous.

From the Internet I have learned that Manta Rays grow to 6.7 meters wide, weigh up to 1400 kg and are the largest of all rays. "Manta" is Spanish for blanket or mantle. They are said to vary in color from black to gray-blue to reddish brown on the upper surface to almost pure white on the lower surface. They are found in every tropical ocean around the world.

From the web: "The harvest of manta rays in eastern Indonesia has increased exponentially in just a few years...Increasing pressure on local fisheries has forced fishermen to look to the mantas as an alternative meat source." My memory of those graceful beings in the bay near Kailua makes my mind cringe at the thought of eating them.

for more information visit:
The Manta Ray Network

Copyright © 2006 by Lois Barton

Look for more stories about Hawaii coming to The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte soon!

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 88 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life-long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Those Husky Macadamia Nuts

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Fender's Blue, a Nine Day Wonder

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frannie and the Arrow

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Bhavia's Cambodia

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of the Smoking Chimney

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of Big Oak Stables

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Fishy Story

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Different Peace

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Hal and the Mountain

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Rogue River Adventure

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Obituary for a Country Cat

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife–The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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