This is blog entry posted from the field during the 2012 Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area (PIPA) Expedition. The Phoenix Islands are an isolated island chain more than 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. They are part of the island nation of Kiribati, which partnered with the New England Aquarium and Conservation International to create PIPA in 2008. Today it is one of the world's largest marine protected areas and a UNESCO world heritage site. This voyage is part of a regular series of scientific expeditions to investigate coral health and study ecosystems and biodiversity.
These images were sent in by expedition photographer Keith Ellenbogen at the expedition's first dive site Kanton Island. The accompanying text was written by Randi Rotjan.
If you're rubbing your eyes and staring at the screen to make sure that yes, there is a paved sidewalk on Kanton, you're not crazy. Indeed, there is quite a bit of manmade structure reflecting it's myriad uses. In addition for being a shipwreck magnet, it has a long history of science, military, and aviation. In 1937, astronomers and the U.S. Navy used the island to observe a solar eclipse (a resulting story was published in National Geographic). Pan Am built a runway on Kanton (!!) and used Kanton as a re-fueling spot to cross the Pacific. Kanton was also a strategic link for the U.S. military between 1938 and 1941. Today, all such uses are abandoned, but the island still contains many of the (now rusting) structures.
books and gifts to the children and their teacher on Kanton Island
Below are two of the caretaker residents - a married couple - who are stationed on Kanton for a while. The scientific expedition is itself important, but the human element of connecting with the Kanton caretakers is always a trip highlight, and a reminder of the reason PIPA is important: the Republic of Kiribati is full of affable, wonderful people who value their unique marine resources and who have the ability to see the importance of PIPA to their own country, and to the world. If I had a Kava bowl right now, I'd raise a shell in salute. :)
More on Kava coming soon...