We're gonna need a bigger boat...

What do you get when you combine 15 expedition members, 12 crew members, over 50 bags of luggage and one boat? Surprisingly enough, you get an instant family: a group of people and things alike that will be traveling with you for the next 21 days. No additions, and (knock on wood), no subtractions. It's a pretty special feeling, which is appropriate given that we are going to one of the most special places in the ocean. We left Fiji with sunny skies, calm seas and good spirits at around 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Amidst the piles of luggage, we all settled into our bunks and into our new home. This is an interesting trip, with strong scientific representation, but also representation from the media (National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry and videographer Jeff Wildermuth; science writer Kate Madin), from ocean conservationists and stewards (Alan Dynner and Jim Stringer), medical experts (Craig Cook, M.D.), NAI'A owner and operator Rob Barrel, and, perhaps, most importantly, representation from the Republic of Kiribati (Tubaku Teroroko and Tuwake Tema).

This unique blend of representation, interest, and personality is no accident. Every expedition member was hand-picked by Dr. Gregory Stone, who put this trip together in order to further our scientific understanding, our ability to communicate the magic of this marine reserve to you (dear readers), and to solidify the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) as a primary marine conservation player on the global stage. Lofty goals, but I must say: this trip has all the right elements for success.

Our crew on the Nai'a is as colorful as we are, and full of surprises. Tonight, they welcomed us with a traditional Fiji'ian song followed by the obligatory safety speech and boat orientation, ending again with a song. Everyone is wonderful--accommodating, thoughtful and eager to be a part of the team.

The cast of characters is star-studded across the board, and the stories will develop over the next few days as we all learn to live and work together. We're thrilled to have you on board with us, to help us promote one of the most remote reefs on the planet, and to help us achieve our goal of getting your support for PIPA.

All I can say from the first night is that, contrary to the classic Jaws reference, we surprisingly don't need a bigger boat. The NAI'A fits just right.


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