Ocean Alliance Vice President and Voyage of the Odyssey Expedition Leader, Captain Iain, returns from filming some
of the ocean fauna of Papua New Guinea.
Photo: Chris Johnson
March 26, 2001
A Year into the Voyage
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Bismarck Archipelago in Papua New Guinea.
The arrival of the Ocean Alliance VP and Expedition Leader, Iain Kerr, coincides with the one-year anniversary of the 'Voyage of the Odyssey'. On March 17th 2000, the Odyssey left the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego for the Galapagos Islands, commencing the first leg of this global voyage.
Captain Kerr talks about the voyage so far…….
It's hard to believe that the Odyssey has been at sea for over a year, and what a year it has been. The Odyssey crew has done an amazing job, with every aspect of the voyage meeting or surpassing our initial goals. Data analysis is underway at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and we expect to publish results before years end.
If year two continues as it has started we will be in great shape. On our second day in the territorial waters of PNG we documented the first ever confirmed sighting of a Sei whale, and a week ago we recorded a previously undocumented species of dolphin for this region, the Fraser's dolphin.
Our arrival in PNG completes the 8,000-mile passage across the Pacific Ocean, during this passage we have encountered a variety of cultures and marine environments. We visited four countries, encountered 26 identifiable species of cetaceans and have burnt over 150 CD's of data, writing a total of 18 scientific reports along the way. Some of the areas we visited were pristine and well protected, while others were suffering badly under the weight of human exploitation.
Finding content for the website has NOT been a problem. With every culture we have had insights into a different perspective on life and the environment. One group of Pacific Islanders applauded us for freeing a trapped turtle while another could not fathom why we did not just eat it. We have encountered both porpoise and shark callers and visited the Island of liars and the Island of mud eaters - the mud eaters by the way were not the ones who wanted to eat the turtle. We have visited Islands that have been preserved as sanctuaries and others with rampant overpopulation.
We have had the opportunity to present a selection of environmental topics related to whales and the ocean environment to a broad audience above and beyond those that connect to our website. Odyssey crew have given talks in schools at almost every port we have visited and have invited a number of school groups, individuals and policy makers to tour the Odyssey. Alerting students to the need to protect their marine environment and encouraging them to become stewards of the ocean planet that they will inherit, has been one of our priorities.
Oddly enough the Odyssey sailed past the position where the whaleship Essex was rammed by an enraged sperm whale, the inspiration behind Herman Melville's classic 'Moby Dick' as Nathaniel Philbricks book "In the Heart of the Sea" a factual re telling of the story, became a summer hit
During our Kiribati leg, while exploring the Phoenix Islands, the Odyssey passed a barren and remote atoll called Howland Island. Although seemingly insignificant at first glance, it was at center stage for another great mystery, the disappearance of, Amelia Earhart. Howland was the last intended refueling stop for Earhart who was attempting to be the first pilot to circumnavigate the globe at its widest expanse, the equator. She never landed on Howland, disappearing without a trace.
Sadly not all news that we have reported on over the last year has been good. The year 2000 saw the addition of two more whale species to the so-called 'scientific research' of the Japanese whalers. Their yearly kill now includes not only Minke whales, but also Brydes and Sperm whales.
The crisis in the Galapagos Islands has continued to escalate. Poaching efforts encouraged supposedly by high paying Asian clientele have spelled disaster for sea cucumber populations and sharks, whose fins are a highly prized delicacy for soup. Violent clashes have occurred between environmental groups and fisherman and currently there is no resolution in sight.
We are hopeful that the information presented on this website along with those we have met along the way has contributed to peoples understanding of the many problems facing our oceans today.
So it has been a great year, we have learnt a lot and made a few mistakes along the way but we are very excited for what the next two years have to bring, stay tuned
From the Bismarck Sea this is Iain Kerr wishing you fair winds…..and a following sea.
Log by Genevieve Johnson