Arrival in Honolulu
Photo by Richard Brooks
Today marks the start of our journey. We met up from disparate places in Honolulu last night to catch the once-a-week flight to Kiritimati (Christmas) Island, 1,200 miles due south of here. This morning we meet over coffee to review the expedition plans. Everyone is eager to get underway.
But…not so fast! We just learned our flight from Honolulu to Kiritimati is delayed 16 hours. So we settle in and wait. It’s aggravating but such is fieldwork! Fortunately, our captain, Eric Loss, already waiting for us in Kiritimati, can use the extra time to clear the strict customs and inspection procedures needed before our vessel Sea Dragon can enter the protected Phoenix Islands.
The sailing vessel must be de-ratted and inspected for insects and other potentially invasive species. There is much concern about Yellow Crazy Ants boarding Sea Dragon in Kiritimati for a free ride to the PIPA! For islands as small as those we’re visiting, even a few stray ants or seeds from a foreign plant can be catastrophic to the entire ecosystem. Rats introduced in 2001 had devastating impact on the island bird populations but thanks to much hard work over several years were successfully eradicated. As visitors to these pristine reefs and islands, it is our responsibility to be good stewards, as well as good scientists.
PIPA 2018 Mission
WHOI’s Cohen Lab teams up once again with Pangaea Exploration, this time returning to the remote Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area. The study site is the planet’s largest and deepest World Heritage Site. It’s been three years since a super El Niño wreaked havoc across the Pacific basin, destroying many coral reefs.