The eradication of rats on McKean IslandLast Updated on 2009-09-17 00:00:00The expedition has been going fast and furious and moments to write blog entries are sometimes fleeting. The deck salon and cabins are spaces with the constant motion of people, dive gear, science gear, NAI'A crew in their blue uniforms doing their part in running the ship, and so on. At this moment, Stuart Sandin just walked by with his wetsuit half pulled up and looking for his clipboard. Craig Cook just came to me and said he was about to set up the hyperbaric chamber again for testing; Brian Skerry walks by with two underwater camera housings with strobes, one draped over each arm like leggy spiders. All is going well as we make our way through the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).
A dive skiff approaching the Phoenix Islands photographed for the National Geographic article about a previous expedition (Photo: Paul Nicklen)
Yesterday, we stopped for nine hours at McKean Island,... More »
Assignment Blog--Brian Skerry: One Fish, Two Fish, Gray Fish, Blue FishLast Updated on 2009-09-17 00:00:00Monday September 14 - I felt like I was in the middle of a Dr. Seuss story on my third dive today at Nikumaroro. Rob Barrel, the owner of our expedition vessel NAI'A, took me to an underwater location he found that was absolutely loaded with fish! I dove late in the day, beginning around 4 p.m. and swam over some huge boulders and reef structure to get to this place where massive schools of fish swarmed. I settled down on top of a massive boulder and wrapped my legs around smaller rocks to steady myself in the swaying surge and began composing images through my viewfinder.
Yellowfin Surgeonfish schooling and feeding in the shallows of Nikumaroro island in the Phoenix Islands. (Photo: Brian Skerry)
The visibility was not great, but it didn't need to be for the type of photos I hoped to make. The fish were not especially shy and I was able to get fairly close. I watched schools of... More »
Searching for invasive species on NikumaroroLast Updated on 2009-09-14 00:00:00Today, after a spectacular series of dives, PIPA director Tukabu Teroroko, Tuake Tema, Rob Barrel, Alan Dynner, Kate Madin, Larry Madin, Brian Skerry, Jeff Wildermuth and I landed on Nikumaroro to check for the presence of invasive species. Invasive species are organisms that do not belong there and were brought by humans. Nikumaroro is uninhabited today, but over the centuries there had been periodic settlements. We were checking for rats, cats, rabbits, and other organisms that can harm the native animals and plants. Kiribati has successfully worked hard on Phoenix and McKean Islands to eradicate rats and rabbits. But Tukabu and I wanted to check for rats here on Nikumaroro. He knew there were cats on this island, but rats are more devastating to the hundreds of thousands of birds that call Nikumaroro home, and if he found strong evidence, he would plan an eradication.
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Assignment Blog--Brian Skerry photographs fish in the Nikumaroro surf zoneLast Updated on 2009-09-14 00:00:00September 13, 2009--After nearly six days of sailing we reached Nikumaroro Island around 10:00 a.m. today. The tiny spec of land turned into a deserted tropical island clustered with palm trees the closer we approached. I had planned to use the days in transit to unpack and assemble all of my photo equipment, but the rough seas didn't allow for this. So, I spent the first several hours today doing this along with charging batteries and prepping my dive gear. I was able to get everything ready in time for a dive in the early afternoon.
Brian Skerry in the camera room getting ready to begin the process of unpacking and assembling photo gear (Photo by R. Rotjan)
I dove on the leeward side of Nikumaroro and from the moment I jumped in, two things were evident. First there seemed to be a lot of fish. Second, the corals here were in rough shape. As I mentioned in my previous post, coral... More »
Going back to the Phoenix Islands after seven yearsLast Updated on 2009-09-03 00:00:00It has been seven years since I last visited the Phoenix Islands and nine years, in 2000, since I first splashed into their beautiful Eden-like coral reefs. The reason the trips are so far apart is that the islands are about midway between Hawaii and Fiji, the two closest major airports/points of access, making the Phoenix Islands an 800 - 1,000 mile commute by boat whenever you want to go there to work. They are the most inaccessible oceanic coral archipelago in the world, but also one of the most special places in the ocean.
The last day of the Aquarium's previous expedition to the Phoenix Islands (photo Greg Stone)
But that isolation has been their saving grace. For millennia they have remained mostly uninhabited and free of local human impacts--like intense coastal fishing, sediment run-off from building structures near the ocean and pollution. Archeological evidence points to a... More »
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