Greg Stone and Tukabu Terooko (Photo: Larry Madin)
Dinner plates and pots are clanking in the galley next to where I sit, I can see Larry Madin is staring through a microscope on the other side of the saloon at plankton we collected on our blue water dive yesterday (a dive with spectacular results--despite a very curious six foot gray reef shark that slowed the start of the dive), others are working at their computers; David Obura and Brian Skerry are still out diving and photographing near a dive site we call "satellite beach," but I expect them back soon.
We are meeting our objectives for coming to PIPA: checking on the status of the reefs, sampling for the first time the open-ocean invertebrates, conducting ROV dives to depths beyond what we can SCUBA dive to, conducting land surveys and more. While here at Kanton (the only Phoenix Island with people on it--currently about 30 residents) we met with the residents and discussed PIPA, explaining why we are here and building more complete understanding of PIPA.
Left to right: Stuart Sandin, David Obura, Les Kaufman, Randi Rotjan (Photo: Jim Stringer)
It has made a big impression on the people of Kanton that we have come from so far away to study PIPA. Tukabu and Tuake are on the aft deck as I write with some Kanton residents, and I can hear them through the companionway explaining our work in the spirited, lyrical and wonderful-to-hear Kiribati language.
This morning, Tukabu and I traveled to the small school and met with the eight students and their teachers. We delivered a box of educational material prepared by Emily Mead and others at the New England Aquarium education department; the students were delighted with the influx of new colorful books, puzzles, and ocean curriculum that emerged from the box we carried the 2 miles to the school under the hot equatorial sun. Since all the other islands in this group are uninhabited, it is important to make a connection with people that live here and to thank them for the great contribution Kiribati has made with PIPA, the largest marine protected area, to the world.
We have several more science objectives in the water here at Kanton before we move on to other islands. But we all really like the anchorage here. The Kanton lagoon is large, some 10 miles from end to end, and provides a stable place to keep NAI'A and for us to work from.
-Greg Stone, PIPA Expedition leader