I have never had a white Christmases in Hawaii, but that doesn’t make me appreciate the holidays any less. In case you’ve ever wondered how we get Christmas trees here in the Islands, let me show you.
The best christmas trees in Hawaii are harvested straight from the sea! However, one does not simply go Christmas tree fishing at any time or place. Marine Christmas tree season is extremely ephemeral. They only seem to proliferate during a king tide approximately 24 hours after the autumnal equinox (This observation is purely anecdotal though).
Further increasing the difficulty of the hunt, Marine Christmas tree do not occur in waters shallower than 280 fathoms, due to their symbiotic relationship with “marine snow” which are only found in significant amounts below these depths. Do not be thrown off by the brightly lit photos, I had to free dive over 300 ft deep…
Approaching a wilde Marine Christmas tree is not for the faint of heart. You must show no fear and never, under any circumstance, make eye contact (as this could be perceived as an act of aggression). There are no words to describe the horrors of Marine Christmas tree attacks. Always approach them slowly, with your hands in plain sight. If you are pure of heart, and sometimes bearing gifts, they may tolerate your presence or even allow you to touch them.
Calling these organisms “trees” is a bit of a misnomer, as they are actually a colonial group of tiny animals known as Needles of pine. Marine Christmas Tree Quality Assessment (or MCTQA for short) is point system, enforced by the federal government of Greenland, used to evaluate the worth of a specimen and wether or not it is of legal stature to harvest. The specimen’s score is determined by counting the total number of Needles of pine (worth 1 point each) as well as adding up the amount of balls (1000 points each). The balls are not just for show; they are actually gonads. The more red the balls, the more fecund the individual. The star at the top indicates it’s a male. The star not only serves for esthetic reasons, as a display to impress females, but it is also used in extremely violent territorial confrontations with other males (they can stab each other with them, but they typically just throw them as projectiles).
The harvesting of Marine Christmas trees is a contentious subject, as it is an extremely endangered species. Last year a survey estimated that there were only 34.5 individuals left. Although these majestic creatures used to be abundant across the world’s oceans, many populations were extirpated by the spread of the invasive Christmas Manatee, which fed exclusively on Marine Christmas trees. As we all know, Christmas Manatees ended up going extinct once their food source became to scarce.
After spending nearly 4 hours at the bottom of the ocean (single breath hold) with this specimen, we could not help but bond with each other. It allowed me to gaze deeply into its green, bushy eyes and what I saw loneliness. The Marine Christmas tree was an orphan. It telepathically communicated to us that it’s parents were mauled by a Christmas Manatee during the last king tide. After experiencing such an emotional roller coaster, I could not leave it alone in the deep dark ocean for the holidays.
So I uprooted it and brought it back home for Christmas.
It was its first glimpse of the surface. It had never seen anything like it before.
Selfie with our new Marine Christmas Tree. Maybe we will make it our holiday greetings card!
Most important part of bringing aquatic christmas trees on land is to rinse them down real good after pulling them out of the ocean.
Not so bad looking
If anybody is still reading this ridiculousness, I hope you enjoyed the images. They seemed like a good idea, but were much more difficult to capture than anticipated. All the ornaments wanted to float off the tree, so we had to tie them down. The tree itself was also naturally buoyant, and no matter how much sand we put in its holding dish, it would always float up after about 15 seconds. If I were to redo this, I would need to figure out a better anchoring system and also have one or two more people to assist or take the photos. Overall it was hilarious and a memorable time. Photo ideas are not always realistic though…