Barbara Whitman Howell
Barbara Whitman, an award-winning marine biologist, educator and entrepreneur described by Islands Magazine as "famed for her enthusiastic teaching style", has brought her popular business, Under the Sea, from the Caribbean island of Nevis, all the way to Hawaii so she could be closer to family.
Barbara’s work has been in many publications around the world including Islands, American Airline’s Latitudes, and Yachting Magazines;and her work has been filmed for The View with Barbara Walters, Fox TV’s Awesome Adventures and Australia’s popular series The Great Outdoors. Her life was profiled in MORE Magazine.
Once on Oahu, Barbara spent a year exploring potential snorkel spots all over the island looking for just the right places to take her guests. Sites were chosen for the quality of the reefs, the presence of sea turtles or dolphins and the lack of big snorkeling operations. As a result, Under the Sea offers a superior experience. Some snorkel sites may be a little more difficult to reach but the extra effort is well worth it.
Barbara has done research and taught in the temperate and tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean and the tropical Pacific during her 35-year career. Once in Hawaii, she took classes in Hawaiian culture, history, and marine biology to bring her up to speed on local knowledge. Her programs are taught from a global perspective and her practical experience is extensive.
Barbara holds current lifeguard, CPR, and first aid certifications and was an emergency medical technician for seven years. She maintains a perfect safety record over 30 years of field operations in New England, Mexico, throughout the Caribbean, and now in Hawaii. Your safety is always her first concern.
Photo by: It's a Wild Llife Photography, LLC
Hawaiian Culture and Naturalist
Mike Ligsay grew up in Waianae, Hawaii and is of Hawaiian descent. He brings two important aspects to Under the Sea's offerings: authentic Hawaiian cultural knowledge, including a Hawaiian chant asking permission to enter the sea and protection while we are there, and experience in local waters. It doesn't hurt that he has a twinkle in his eye and is a natural-born teacher.
Mike knows the ocean like the back of his hand. Maybe better. No sea creature escapes his keen eye. He can find an octopus that most people will not be able to see even when he points it out. He'll make sure you see things that are hidden in plain sight.
Adding an authentic Hawaiian Chant, or Oli(Oh-lee), to our snorkel trips was no easy feat. There are strict rules which govern the use of chants. The pule, the prayer chant, addressed the gods and the aumakuas. Before entering the sea, Hawaiians asked their ancestors to watch over them and keep them safe.
A kahuna, or master, must approve the person doing the chant and the situation in which the chant is used, and then mentor the student until the chant is right.
As the owner of Under the Sea and a non-Hawaiian, the kahuna had to meet me to make sure that our reasons for including a chant in our program was honorable.
After approving Mike, he then went on to advise Mike's family of the possible consequences and the great responsibility that comes with being selected as a chanter. The pule was and is important in the preservation of the Hawaiian race, and in the survival of the people. The chants were about pleasing the gods and the ancestors, and about accumulating mana by reciting the words. Therefore, recitation followed strict rules. Any mistake, such as breathing before the end of the phrase, or even the slightest hesitation in pronouncing the long list of complicated names weakened the good fortune and could cause the displeasure of the ancestors and gods. If it was done improperly, not following protocol or without the right reverence, Mike's entire family could pay the price. Their cooperation was necessary and a great sacrifice on their part.
Then Mike went through arduous training and practice so that he could share with us the traditions of his Hawaiian ancestors and give us a glimpse of the beauty of the Hawaiian Culture. Many thanks to Mike and his supportive and loving family.