Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coral (and what you don't know can hurt you)

The gorgeous white and golden beaches of Hawaii are mostly comprised of ground up bits of coral, along with bits of lava rock, and some nearly microscopic shells. Coral reefs ring the Hawaiian islands forming habitats for sea plants, fish and animals.

Pieces of coral are on this tree branch. There are round white coral pebbles, tumbled by the ocean and also some reddish brown coral "fingers."

Coral is also very dangerous and sharp.  Coral cuts are notorious in Hawaii. If they are not treated properly (cleaned thoroughly, disinfected), the popular belief is that coral polyps can grow in the open wound and cause inflammation and infections.  Even if the coral is not growing in the wound, the cut can develop a nasty and painful staph (stapholococcus) infection that can really spread and cause some very expensive medical visits.

Some coral trivia and tips:
Corals spawn at a certain time of year, releasing sprays of eggs and sperm in the water, that hopefully will connect and find a safe place to anchor.

If you want to kill coral reefs, slather on commercial sunscreen and jump in the ocean. I wish there were brochures telling tourists to use natural sunscreen instead of the commercial, chemical stuff, because it leaves a layer on the coral which can kill it. Other personal care products can also damage coral.

Housing developments along the shoreline also endanger coral reefs, since often the dirt during construction winds up in the ocean, smothering the reefs.  A famous coral reef killing incident happened on the island of Kauai, when mega millionaire Jimmy Pflueger dumped tons of dirt from his construction into a nearby stream that flowed into the ocean and killed a major reef. In 2001, when it happened, hardly anyone on Oahu knew about it but it was a huge deal on Kauai.

Fresh coral – with reddish or pinkish coloration washed up on the beach or in the ocean – is not great to take home with you. It may have living cells or tiny animals alive on it, so if you’d like to take coral as a souvenir, it’s best to select white coral that’s been out in the sun so long that’s it’s become bleached by the sun. You can also soak coral in a tub of bleachy water to kill any bacteria or animals living in or on it, especially because there are laws against bringing foreign organisms out of Hawaii.

A note about black coral. One of the popular souvenirs from Hawaii is black coral jewelry, but the jewelry grade black coral is actually from the Caribbean. It’s beautiful but it’s not from here. There is some black coral from Hawaii, but it’s considered endangered or rare. Sometimes authentic Hawaiian black coral jewelry is sold, but it’s usually vintage (harvested decades ago) and not as fine and smooth as the Caribbean black coral. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter


  1. What a beautiful place to live! I hope to visit some day. Stopping by from A to Z. Thanks for writing!

  2. I spent a semester at BYU-Hawaii, and you're making me miss it!

    Sarah Allen

    (From Sarah, With Joy)

  3. It's so cool that you're featuring cool stuff from Hawaii again this year! I didn't know that about commercial sunscreen killing the coral - I'll definitely be more mindful next time I'm at the beach.

    Hope you’re having fun with the A to Z challenge,

  4. Yes, and hopefully it was helpful too, for a future visit.

  5. Aloha Jocelyn, the Hawaii stuff is fun to share, especially in small doses. Mahalo for stopping by.

  6. Good for you! What a wonderful opportunity to visit Hawaii.

  7. Thanks for the post! Lots of stuff to learn about corals here!

    Deeply Shallow

  8. Thanks, I bet you have lots of coral in Malaysia too.


Comments are important to me, so mahalo for adding a comment! I will try to follow up when I receive one.