2015 Expedition: Nightlife

Aquarium researchers and staff are on expedition to the remote Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) to study the natural history of the islands, surrounding reefs and connecting open water ecosystems. Research on this expedition will directly inform the management and maintenance of this world-renowned marine protected area. Today's post comes from the expedition's chief scientist on land Randi Rotjan.

Being at sea for a month is an interesting and challenging endeavor. Unlike a typical job, there are no nights or weekends; the work goes around the clock. While daytimes are spent diving, snorkeling, and fishing to take data and samples, the nights are full of data entry, gear prep, and sample processing. A busy boat is a thing of beauty; it hums with the sounds of industriousness and productivity.

The science team entering data | Photo: S. Mungubhai
Processing fish samples to study food webs in PIPA | Photo: S. Mangubhai
Cam extracting fish otoliths late into the night | Photo: S. Mangubhai

Chip and Hanny downloading diurnal pH sensor data | Photo: S. Mangubhai

But, for one glorious night on Kanton Island, the work stopped and the boat instead became a place to honor a long tradition of celebration with the residents of Kanton Island (roughly 30 people) — the only inhabitants of the entire Phoenix archipelago.

Kanton party | Photo: S. C. Cook

On every expedition, the New England Aquarium and partners supply Kanton residents with gifts of food stocks, school supplies, and other niceties or necessities. This time, we brought a much-longed for guitar and extra guitar strings, books, calendars, and posters about tropical ecosystems across the world, flour, sugar, cordial, and other supplies.

Sangeeta's selfies with the kids! (Photo by C. Cook)

Can you imagine life on a small Pacific atoll with no guitar? — a very important item! In return, the Kanton Islanders gifted the team with a traditional star shell necklace — a true badge of honor and a souvenir that can only come from PIPA. The residents made a necklace for every single expedition member, such a meaningful gift.

Hospitality at the Kanton party (Photo by C. Cook)

During this evening of cross-cultural celebration, it is also traditional for both teams to make speeches. This year, in honor of 15 years of visits and reciprocal sharing, the Kanton residents shared that they had named their school: "The New England Aquarium School." What an honor.

Liz talking to children from Kanton | Photo: C. Cook

This special honor was announced to the entire New England Aquarium staff back in Boston, and all were very touched and humbled by the gesture. Though across the globe, Aquarium staff, volunteers, friends, affiliates and partners are in deep gratitude to the Kanton residents for this honor.

The party at Kanton Island | Photo: C. Cook

It's a good reminder to us all that we are all connected, and that actions that we take locally can truly have global impact. Not just for the organisms within PIPA, but for the humans too.


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