Column about sea snakes hits a nerve
It was the best of e-mail; it was the worst of e-mail.
On July 15, 2005, I recounted a story told me by a surfer who in 1995 watched a yellow-bellied sea snake slither over his board off Waikiki. That column, posted on my Web site, has had 15,238 visits. Adding the visits to my other columns that mention sea snakes, the count is 22,321.
"Since 2005?" I e-mailed my friend, Scott, who helps me with the site.
"Hold onto your socks," he wrote back. "That's year-to-date, meaning since Jan. 1. Who knew?"
Well, I did, sort of, judging from my e-mail. Still, for only six months, that's a lot of people worried about snakes in Hawaii's waters.
I say worried, because even though that column explains how rare sightings are in Hawaii, I get a stream of mail from people telling me they saw a sea snake here. Often it frightened them so much they left the water and stayed out for the rest of their vacation.
This venom of fear oozes into some people's e-mails: You think Hawaii hasn't got sea snakes? Well, you do. I was there and I saw what I saw.
With one quick strike of a key, these messages die a fitting death.
Once a diver wrote to inform me I don't know diddly about sea snakes, because he sees them regularly off Portlock.
OK, I wrote back, bring one to the Waikiki Aquarium so we can all see it. I never heard from him again, nor did the aquarium.
Most of my snake mail is fun. Visitors ask if I would please identify something they saw while here, and they often attach pictures. So far, all have been moray eels or snake eels.
As far as interest in marine life goes, snakes trump sex. After sea snakes, my second most visited column this year, at 2,996, is about fish sex.
For some reason, Internet communication brings out the worst in some people. After my recent column about the Superferry, I received some nasty comments from people who disagree with me. These messages did not, however, convince me I'm wrong. They convinced me the writers don't have legitimate points. A few local comments resulting from my Superferry column were depressing. I learned that some Kauai residents who support the Superferry are afraid to speak up because they fear violence. Another mood-spoiler is that countless Oahu residents say they now feel unwelcome in Kauai.
The upside of my Superferry column was the many positive e-mails it generated. Writers from the mainland were mostly baffled by local resistance to this ferry.
"What's wrong with ferries?" wrote a Washington state reader. "Our big problem here is that our ferries are getting old and need expensive repairs."
Hawaii readers who wrote were glad to see some positive comments about this alternative means of transportation. One, a Kamehameha graduate currently studying marine biology in Oregon, shared my view that all ships and boats in Hawaiian waters have impact. He wrote, "Your article confirmed that there ARE educated and informed people who realize the Superferry is not the only source of ecological disturbance in Hawaii's seas."
I've been writing this column for about the same number of years before Internet communication, and after. After is definitely better.
As for hostile e-mails, well, that's one great thing about the system: It comes with a delete key.