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Voyage of the Odyssey - Republic of Kiribati : October 2000 - February 2001

The Odyssey surveyed the seas of the Republic of Kiribati. Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribass") consists of three island groups in the central Pacific - Kiribati (including Banaba, formerly Ocean Island), the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands. The 33 islands, scattered across two million square miles of the central Pacific, are low-lying coral atolls with coastal lagoons.

Relive the experiences of the crew and scientists on this epic research leg.
Click on each image to see a larger photo and the written transcript of the log.

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February 17, 2001
Politics of Whales
"When we left Kiribati a week ago, there were a about thirty large crates on the dock, addressed to Kiribati Fisheries from "Japan Aid"-obviously a gift to Kiribati from Japan to help them develop their fisheries. In addition, there is a new commercial fishing market being built on the Kiribati dock to which these crates were destined. This is a familiar pattern: Japan makes a major investment in the fisheries of some small country like Kiribati, then gets that country to support them in the international whaling commission."
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February 14, 2001
Meeting with the President of Kiribati
"Some of the Odyssey crew attended a function at the Australian High Commission in Tarawa. 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."
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     February 12, 2001
Leaving the Whales of Kiribati
"Last night, at about 2:00 am, Bob heard a series of sperm whale 'codas' on the acoustic hydrophone array. Codas are repeated patterns of clicks thought to be social vocalizations used by sperm whales as signitures to identify themselves to each other. The pattern is short and is more complex than the monotonous click trains that sperm whales make most of the rest of the time."
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February 8, 2001
Ambergris
"One of the most unusual and mysterious byproducts of the sperm whaling industry was ambergris. It is a grayish, waxy, buoyant substance, associated only with the sperm whale. It is believed to form around the beaks of squid to avoid irritation in the intestine."
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February 6, 2001
Blacklip Pearl Fishery
"Fishing in the sea is comparable to hunting on land, it is easy to overharvest populations of wild animals. As a result, populations of many wild fish and shellfish are rapidly declining, while production of aquaculture is increasing. Aquaculture is the farming of marine and freshwater species in captivity."
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February 2, 2001
Odyssey Preparations for Depature
"During our last leg to the north of Tarawa, the seas were extremely rough. High winds and a strong current caused a consistent 3 meter swell that made the trip fairly uncomfortable. As a consequence the Odyssey requires some maintenance work while in port."
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January 31, 2001
Global Warming
"The islands making up the nation of Kiribati, are low lying coral atolls, which, in the not-too-distant future, may well attain the much unwanted notoriety of being among one of the first countries to be affected disastrously, or destroyed entirely by the unavoidable rise in sea-level which scientists believe global warming will bring."
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January 26, 2001
Onotoa Family Celebration
"Today, we were invited to share a meal with a family on the outer island of Onatoa, who were celebrating the return of a long absent family member."
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January 23 & 24, 2001
Whale Lengends of Kiribati: Part I & Part II
"I-Kiribati tradition has always been strongly linked to the ocean environment. Historically, whales played a vital role in not only the survival of the people, but their legends and beliefs."
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January 19, 2001
Abemama
"Abemama is probably about as remote a place as one can get. It is one of the outer islands of the Gilbert Island group here in Kiribati. Setting foot on shore is akin to stepping back in time, it is a place little disturbed by outside influences."
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January 17, 2001
The Peace Corps in Kiribati
"More than 150,000 Americans have served in over 100 countries as Peace Corps volunteers... Today we invited a few members of the Peace Corps to spend the afternoon aboard the Odyssey"
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January 15, 2001
The Battle of Tarawa
"We are currently in Betio harbor, southwest Tarawa, which was the scene of one of the bloodiest American landing assaults during the World War II, Pacific campaign."
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January 10, 2001
Paths to the Sea
"Although it has been over a century since Jonathan Slocum's epic three year circumnavigation, there are certain parallels between the beginning of his story and my own." - Rebecca Clark.
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January 8, 2001
The Amazing Pufferfish
" This puffer is relatively uncommon and rarer still to see during this golden phase. At least 21 species of puffer fish occur here in Micronesia, and the crew has encountered them frequently on our numerous diving and snorkeling trips, but this is our first golden puffer."
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January 4, 2001
Guided by Dolphins
"Tarawa came into view just after sunrise this morning. Upon entering the central lagoon of the atoll, an escort of bow riding Spinner dolphins marked our arrival."
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January 2, 2001
Celestial Navigation
"The basic process of celestial navigation is to measure the height (or altitude) of a heavenly body (certain stars and planets, the moon and our own star, the sun) above the horizon and record the time at which this measurement was taken. This is a process known as taking a site or shooting a star."
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December 25, 2000
Holidays and Whales
"We are spending our Christmas holidays on the oceans of the equatorial pacific with a large party of sperm whales."
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December 22, 2000
How We Find and Track Sperm Whales
"To find and track sperm whales we use a hydrophone array (two underwater microphones housed in a 30 foot, oil-filled tube and towed behind the ship from a 100 meter-long cable). Alone, this acoustic array gives us very good stereo sound from the sea surrounding the boat."
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December 20, 2000
Jarvis
"We have a wonderful new crew member in our lives: Jarvis, he has has more charm than a duck.... He is in every sense a most superior, most accomplished, most lucky crustacean."
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December 18, 2000
Gray Reef Sharks
"The other day, the crew took the dingy out just seaward of a deep drop-off by a spectacular coral wall, and turned off the engine. They were immediately surrounded by gray reef sharks."
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December 15, 2000
The Battle for Tarawa - Rainbow Runners: Part V
"So who does own this reef? Is it the resident fish, the newly arrived fish, or the humans?"
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December 13, 2000
Do Fish Sleep? - Rainbow Runners: Part IV
"One of the things we can now answer thanks to this remarkable voyage of nearly a thousand statute miles with rainbow runners by our side is that fish don't need to sleep. Or if they do they must be able to sleep while swimming hard and keeping pace with a boat..."
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December 11, 2000
The Rainbow Coincidence - Rainbow Runners: Part III
"I have felt relieved all day that they are still with us. For if they had left last night just as we were having our meeting to discuss their fate."
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December 8, 2000
Rainbow Runners: Part II
"My theory is that they find the Odyssey useful for two things: we provide cover when large predators appear, and we are a fixed point of reference-a place around which they can collect, and when they fan out and come back they will always find other rainbow runners here."
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December 6, 2000
Rainbow Runners: Part I
"They were always there, tirelessly swimming, never resting, never varying, always keeping pace, never deviating, never slowing, never speeding ahead, always at Odyssey's heel, hour after hour-our tireless companion fish."
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December 4, 2000
At Howland Island
"We have arrived at Howland Island. It would be hard to imagine a smaller, flatter, more featureless place. It's kidney shaped, with its longest axis only 1 miles, and an average height above sea level under 25 feet."
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December 1, 2000
The Sounds of Night
In the pilot house, Roger Payne listens for sperm whales using the acoustic array, an underwater microphone towed behind the Odyssey.
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November 29, 2000
Roger Payne visits Hull Island
The Sooty Tern uses its body to cast a shadow in order to protect its young chick from the blazing equatorial sun.
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November 27, 2000
Enter the Coast Guard
A U.S. Coast Guard Hercules C-130 plane passes over the Odyssey. It was reassuring to see the coastguard so far from even the remotest hint of civilization or human presence.
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November 24, 2000
Sperm Whale Contact
Dr. Roger Payne joins the Odyssey for the next month as we make our way from Christmas Island to Tarawa in the Republic of Kiribati continuing to search for sperm whales.
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November 22, 2000
A Visit from the School Children of Christmas Island
Genevieve Johnson, the Field Education Co-ordinator aboard the R.V. Odyssey, gives a multimedia presentation to groups of school children of Christmas Island.
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November 17, 2000
A Tour of Christmas Island
The crew of the Odyssey all agree that Christmas Island would be a great place to be marooned for awhile.
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November 15, 2000
The Land Hermit Crab
When a hermit crab locates a shell, it slips its abdomen out of the old shell and quickly into the new one.
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November 13, 2000
New crew join the Odyssey
Marsha Coates and Mike Roden have joined the Odyssey for the crossing to Tarawa.
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November 10, 2000
An Encounter with a Moray Eel
The moray eel must keep its mouth open, constantly take in enough water to supply its body with oxygen, which is extracted as water flows over the gills.
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November 8, 2000
Beaked Whales
Beaked whales are mysterious, elusive animals that are notoriously skittish and shy of boats. Usually the best that one hopes for is a passing glance at a beaked whale.
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November 6, 2000
Making a Difference
Tom Tilas, Chairman of the board at Ocean Alliance, joins the Odyssey Captain, Bob Wallace, at the helm.
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November 3, 2000
Kim Marshall-Tilas joins the Odyssey
Kim Marshall-Tilas has worked closely with Dr. Roger Payne and Captain Iain Kerr over the last 9 years, during which this voyage has been in the making.
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November 1, 2000
The Giant Clam
The giant clam is the world's largest bivalve. This smaller species of giant clam have exquisite iridescent blue and green mottling on the mantle.
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October 30, 2000
Manta Rays
Brian Hall, the Odyssey's science intern swims with a magnificent manta ray!
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October 27, 2000
The Fairy Terns of Christmas Island
Fairy Terns are considered by some to be the most beautiful of all sea birds.
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October 25, 2000
Snorkeling a Surge Channel with Sharks
The white tip reef shark is commonly found in the tropical reefs of the world. Experience and encounter with the crew.
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October 23, 2000
The Formation of a Coral Atoll
Atolls are found in the open sea. They are formed by a prolific group of animals called corals, which when concentrated in masses, form coral reefs.
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October 20, 2000
The Not So Elusive Flying Fish
Everyday, the crew encounter flying fish , scattering in a frenzy in front of the bow, flying into the pilot house in the middle of the night or caught in the scuppers.
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October 18, 2000
The Search for Sperm Whales Continues
The crew discuss possible routes for a coming research leg based upon a wide range of data, from historical whaling records to updated satellite images showing sea surface conditions.
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October 16, 2000
Coming of Age
The children screamed with delight as Odyssey cameraman, David Day, danced with one of the locals at a traditional Kiritmati ceremony.
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October 13, 2000
Returning to Sea
A fisherman's hut overlooks the inner bay of Christmas Island. Palm mats are laid out to dry seaweed hand collected from the bay.
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