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Captain Iain Kerr and Genevieve Johnson spent time with staff and students of Garove Primary School. They discussed whales and the marine environment and although most students were vaguely familiar with whales, they were surprised to hear about the number and variety that are present in Papua New Guinea waters.
Photo: Chris Johnson

March 28, 2001
Anchored in the Flooded Caldera of Garove
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Log Transcript

This is Captain Iain Kerr speaking to you from the Odyssey in Papua New Guinea.

Yesterday we navigated the odyssey into the flooded crater of an extinct volcano called Garove. As we sailed through the narrow entrance where the sea had broken through the crater wall the water depth rapidly sholaled and then dropped off as we entered the lagoon.

This has to be one of the most unique places I have ever visited, with the anchor down and the engine turned off I felt like I had been transported into the movie The Land That Time Forgot. Strange hoots, howls screeches and whistles echoed off the crater wall, except for the narrow entrance this wall rose over 200 meters vertically out of the water all around us. There are 40 volcanoes in PNG 21 of which are active on land and 3 are active below the sea, we have seen gas bubbling up from the caldera in a number of locations I wonder exactly how they define active. Garove is just one of the many small volcanic islands in this area. While we are impressed by the sheer vertical walls what we see is just the tip of the volcano that rise's some 2000 feet from the ocean floor.

The Odyssey anchored in the caldera of Garove Island, is overshadowed by its steep cliffs.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Papua New Guinea is renowned for its formidable mountain ranges that soar high above its rugged coastline. It is not the easiest country to explore. With almost impenetrable rainforests and a maze of treacherous reefs that have spelled disaster for many an unwary ship. As a result, it remains one of the world's last true wilderness areas. Much of the lush display of rainforest in the highlands, along with rivers, reefs and volcanoes are still unexplored and in pristine condition.

Amazing as it may seem there is a small settlement inside this ancient Caldera, so while the rest of crew were engaged in some much needed ship maintenance, Jen, Christina Reb and I went ashore with the hope of giving educational materials to the school and perhaps to talk with some of the students. As we motored towards shore in the dinghy, we watched as a steady stream of children, all waving excitedly ran down the slopes toward the dock to greet us. We could not have hoped for a warmer welcome, nor a friendlier people. We were taken up an almost vertical stone stairway, (with no railing) and when we reached the top, the view was breathtaking. A scattering of small thatched classrooms were spread out across a quarter of a mile square plateau. The next hour was spent with the staff and grade 7 & 8 students of Garove Primary School. We discussed whales and the marine environment and although most students were vaguely familiar with whales, they were surprised to hear about the number and variety that are present in Papua New Guinea waters. Charlie, one of the teachers told us stories of large whales entering the caldera at night, the sound of their blows echoing and bouncing off the steep cliffs

Tomorrow we will resume our search for whales, tonight I will dream of a land that time has forgotten….at least for now………

From the Garove caldera this is Iain Kerr wishing you fair winds, and a following sea.

Log by Iain Kerr & Genevieve Johnson

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