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Voyage to Kure: Expedition Diaries

<< Expedition Diaries | About the Islands

Day 17: Coral Bleaching

Dr. Jim Maragos
Jean-Michel Cousteau and Dr. Jim Maragos aboard the Searcher.

We now know that there are no reefs that are immune to bleaching, and we have now witnessed these events in all of our 10 refuges throughout the Pacific, from the highest latitudes to the equator.

- Dr. Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuges Division


Pearl and Hermes Atoll

Date: 7/23/03
Location: N27°47.1' W175°50.3'
Weather: 25 knots
Sea Conditions: Challenging 1.5 knot currents

Day 17 is a big diving day, with five teams heading underwater at different locations. One team spends time retrieving a discarded fishing net they’d discovered the day before, in the end hauling 300 pounds of net out of the ocean. Some teams have a hard day due to challenging conditions -- winds and currents prevent them from finding manta rays known to inhabit the area and hinder efforts to reshoot sequences from the previous night’s dive. Yet another team, however, has a great dive, discovering a new ledge and finding many white-tip sharks resting on the ocean floor.

Dr. Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuges Division:

The team enjoys a night of festivities while Dr. Jim Maragos plays his guitar and sings to the crew. Photo credit: Tom Ordway

We thought only the lower latitudes, where we see many human stresses, exhibited coral bleaching [the loss of the pigmented symbiotic algae cells from the coral tissues]. But we were shocked to see the massive bleaching last September [2002] at four of the most northern atolls of the NWHI, with the most severe being here at Pearl and Hermes. We now know that there are no reefs that are immune to bleaching, and we have now witnessed these events in all of our 10 refuges throughout the Pacific, from the highest latitudes to the equator.

What's good

Being out at sea and feeling the rocking of the boat, seeing the crystal blue water surround us, enjoying the sunshine and the birds in a very special part of our planet.

What's bad

Not diving every minute of every day. When we are not diving, I have to sit at my computer and type up my notes from the day.

What's fun

Being a part of this team. It is especially fun during the filming. And sometimes while watching the team perform, I can sneak away and take photos of the different reef critters. It is my first experience with a full film team, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Rest and relaxation activities

I like to have a beer at the end of the day and play my funny little Martin traveling guitar and amuse the group while I enjoy all their participation in singing and even sometimes dancing.

Name three great things from today

Filming the ensemble of the trumpet fish with large lobsters in the background and a pack of endemic squirrelfish hovering above and a few masked angelfish flying by; during the night shoot, watching Jean-Michel and Holly ascend to the ship with a large school of trevallys following them; finding the ledge with a new record for coral: Cycloseris vaughan.