Many of you have been following our wonderful team of explorers, including the esteemed Enric Sala and our social media savant Andrew Howley, as they conducted a nearly one-month-long tour of research in the Pitcairn Islands of the South Pacific. The object of the research was to better understand the effects of human impacts on pristine seas and biodiversity. Pristine means an environment, such as a coral reef, that is almost entirely unharmed and unaltered by anthropogenic (human) activity. Being located in the most remote corner of the Pacific Ocean, Pitcairn seemed to be a good candidate for such a study. As it turns out, the waters around the various islands are an excellent example of pristine seas, and invoked a sort of reverent awe in the minds of our seasoned scientists and team members.
In the last 3 weeks, Enric, Andrew, Michael Fay, and other vital team members visited the 4 islands of the Pitcairn Archipelago, conducting nearly 400 dives and spending over 450 person-hours underwater. They counted and documented tens of thousands of fishes, urchins, algae, and corals. You can read more about their firsthand experiences and findings, both scientific and informal, here. Aside from his interest in ocean conservation and figuring out innovative ways to mitigate the decline of pristine coral reefs and ecosystems, Dr. Sala is also a talented underwater photographer, as demonstrated below by the beautiful image of sharks swimming over thriving coral heads near Ducie Atoll.
Grey reef sharks soar above an extensive bed of coral at Ducie atoll. Photo: Enric Sala
The majority of the fun in the project is past, Enric says, as the crew
returns to National Geographic and their respective scientific
institutions to analyze and interpret the tremendous amount of data they
collected over the 3-week journey to Pitcairn. Additionally, they will
select footage from the dives to use in a forthcoming National
Geographic documentary. I’m sure there is much more to learn about the
seas, but as long as we have curious and conscientious activists and
scientists like Enric Sala, we can be assured that ecological jewels
such as the reefs that lay below the waters of Pitcairn will survive in
perpetuity for our ancestors to enjoy.
Be sure to check out all of the wonderful blog posts and photo galleries
uploaded by Andrew during their stay on and around the islands (quite a
feat considering that all communication was done over testy satellite
internet connections). Also on that page is an embedded archive of our
chat with Enric and Andrew in the middle of their expedition, complete
with many of the questions asked by over 100 listeners that day.