And now for something completely different ...

We've have two brief days on Orona Island, and so far they have been action-packed. In our dives so far, I've managed to re-discover an old shipwreck, find salps on a blue water dive with the Madins, check out the "deep" sea with Greg using the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), complete 5 transects of coral cover, coral diversity, and corallivory and observe giant humphead parrotfish (Bolbometapon muricatum) take many bites of live coral. Bliss! (Read more about direct feeding in David Obura's post.)

Left to right: Randi Rotjan, David Obura, Greg Stone and Les Kaufman surveying the Phoenix Islands using a Remote Operating Vehicle (Photo: Larry Madin)

I am writing this post in between dives, and thought it might be fun to relay a few items that I've somehow neglected to write about. Please forgive the oversight, and allow this entry to be a collection of miscellaneous tidbits that I thought you might appreciate.

90% coral cover and fish (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

1) Statistics. It's been 11 days on-site, complete with 33 meals, 37 dives and 89 bruises. Just FYI.

(Photo: Randi Rotjan)

2) Another day, another moray: on every single dive, I've seen no less than 2 moray eels. This means (with 37 dives), that I've seen at least 74 moray eels this trip. Amore? A moray!?

Reef canyon (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

3) We've been close to the equator. But to my surprise, the Southern Cross has only been visible for a short while; it sets really early. We're been too far north at the wrong time of year. I actually haven't seen it while out here. Go figure.

Napoleon wrasse (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

4) Most people on the trip have seen an insane amount of big wildlife--manta rays, turtles, dolphins, sharks, etc. I've seen mostly coral.

Banded humbug on Pocillopora (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

5) On my one blue water dive, I had a "master of the obvious" moment. There's not much in blue water near oligotrophic (nutrient-poor) reefs. That's why they are considered nutrient-poor. Duh!

David and Randi joke about spilling coconut juice all over the boat (Photo: Les Kaufman)

6) They feed us too much on this ship. Have I mentioned that yet?

NAI'A near Orona Island (Photo: Tuake Teema)

7) Orona Island is lovely and tree-filled, with lots of coconut palms. Also, some old Polynesian ruins, and some more recent remnants from a 2003 settlement. The island is currently uninhabited.

Giant clams (Photos: Randi Rotjan)

8) The Orona Lagoon is filled with baby giant clams. They are brightly colored, and in a word: awesome.

Nai'a crew serenading, and helping us with our dive gear and boat transfers (Photos: Randi Rotjan)

9) The crew on this boat are spectacular. They are the most well-educated, thoughtful, strong, helpful and musical group of people that I've come across in a long time. They are definitely members of the team, so I would consider our expedition-group doubled because of the crew. Bula!

Whitetip reef shark (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

10) We've seen a lot of small sharks this trip (which has been fantastic!). We've also spent a lot of time quoting (and re-watching) Jaws. Brian Skerry and Greg Stone are particularly deft at this game--they know every line. Quoth Brian: "You'd like to prove that, wouldn't ya ... get your name into the National Geographic," originally spoken by JAWS character and oceanographer Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dryfus). [Note: Author of the novel Jaws, Peter Benchley, was a close friend of Greg Stone and a prominent supporter of ocean conservation. Wendy Benchley continues to be involved in the Aquarium's global research and conservation efforts.] Speaking of National Geographic, look for a story on this trip (coming soon). Featuring the photographic prowess of Brian Skerry, with Jeff Wildermuth on the assist and an essay by Greg Stone.

(Photo: Randi Rotjan)

11) Did I mention how many cuts and bruises I have so far? Battle scars! Ouch.

David Obura and Randi Rotjan doing coral transects (Left photo: Randi Rotjan; Right photo: Jim Stringer)

12) I've only briefly been on-shore on 2 of these islands. This means that I've decidedly spent more time IN the Phoenix Islands than ON the Phoenix Islands. Cool, huh?

(Photo: Randi Rotjan)

13) As we were completing our most recent dive, it rained for the first time while we were at sea. It was delightful, actually, and a fish jumped into our boat on our way back!

David Obura returning the rogue needlefish to sea (Photo: Randi Rotjan)

14) The NAI'A is 120 feet long, by 30 feet in beam, by 11 feet draft. 240 tons. She is a Dutch-built motor sailor, built in Amsterdam in 1979. She was re-built by Rob Barrel in Fiji in 1992. She's a terrific ship, and this is her 8th trip to the Phoenix Islands--4 scientific expeditions, and 4 trips looking for the remains of flyer Amelia Earhart (mentioned previously by Brian here and by Rob here). We're making more progress on the science. Amelia is still missing, and presumed dead. RIP.

Randi climbs to the crow's nest on the Nai'a (Photo: Captain Jonathan)

Sorry for the random assortment of thoughts, but a well-packaged essay is just not in the stars today. I promise a more thoughtful post following a long, well-deserved nap. But until then, dive on!




  1. Great assortment of random observations. :-) I remember loving the giant clams and all their different colors when I saw them!

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Yes, the clams are really beautiful. Thanks for reading!