The Odyssey and some of its crew make front page headlines of the Kiribati national newspaper, the Uekera. From left to right - Rebecca Clark, Josh Jones, Chris & Genevieve Johnson.
Photo: Courtesy of the Uekera
February 14, 2001
Meeting the President of Kiribati
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey, as we are about
to sail out of Kiribati waters and enter the territorial waters of Nauru.
Toward the end of our time in the capital, some of the Odyssey crew attended
a function at the Australian High Commission. Among many high ranking officials
and Government representatives was Teburoro Tito, President of Kiribati. We
were introduced to the president and spoke with him for a while, during
which time we discussed the sperm whales we had found in Kiribati waters, as
well as the eleven other cetacean species sighted--three of which are rarely
observed beaked whale species. We discussed the Voyage of the Odyssey and
the purpose of our global expedition. The President, himself a scientist and
former teacher, was very interested in both the scientific and educational
implications of our work. We explained how we collect data from the whales
and discussed the possible implications of the results.
The President emphasized the strong relationship he and his people share
with the ocean and its creatures, in particular their connection with whales
via several myths and legends. The president told us that he too was
concerned about ocean pollution and human impacts and that he was very
pleased to have the Odyssey working in his waters. He expressed his desire
to hear more
about the voyage and invited us to call his secretary to make an appointment
to discuss the voyage further at his office.
A few days later, Rebecca Clark, Chris Johnson and I conducted a multi-media
presentation at his office for the President and his Permanent Secretary,
Mr. Alex Teabo. The one-hour presentation included a brief on the Voyage of
the Odyssey, a discussion of our science and educational outreach programs,
as well as an exhibit of our website, explaining how we are trying to take
the world with us on our journey. In addition, we presented a video tape of
the whales we have seen in Kiribati waters and a letter written by Roger
Payne, President of Ocean Alliance to Mr. Teabo who accepted it on behalf of
Rebecca Clark, Genevieve Johnson and Kiribati Permanent Secretary, Mr. Alex Teabo.
Photo: Chris Johnson
> Watch an excerpt of the video report on the Kiribati leg of the Voyage of the Odyssey produced for the President and Government of Kiribati.
Real Video 56k
> Read the letter by Dr. Roger Payne to the President of Kiribati to urge the creation of legislation to protect whales within Kiribati.
After expressing our thanks for the opportunity to work in Kiribati waters,
the letter highlighted the economic potential of creating legislation to
specifically protect the whales in Kiribati waters. Currently there is no
legislation in place to protect marine mammals of any kind in the 3.5
million square kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Kiribati. In
addition, there has been no recognition of the possible revenue potential
from industries such as whale watching and documentary filmmaking. Dr. Payne
outlined the possibility of implementing and attracting business for such
markets. The intention of Ocean Alliance is to offer a viable alternative to
whaling in countries where natural resources of high economic value like
whales are usually overexploited by wealthy nations. Whaling is now a real
possibility with countries such as Japan pushing hard to resume commercial
At the conclusion of our meeting, Mr. Teabo acknowledged that the presence
of the Odyssey in Kiribati waters was a newsworthy event. He directed a team
of journalists to tour and document the work of the Odyssey and her crew.
The following morning, a photograph of the Odyssey crew was on the front
page of the National newspaper, the Uekera, with a full report on the voyage
continued inside and accompanied by a photograph of the Odyssey. On the same
day, the largest radio station in Kiribati, Radio Kiribati, did a story on
whales and the Voyage of the Odyssey.
Log by Genevieve Johnson