Voyage to the South Pacific: Pitcairn Islands

Engage your students in a real-life ocean exploration mission!


Photo by Luis Marden/NGS
sailor guides his ship past the rocky cliffs of the legendary Pitcairn
Island, in a photo from the December 1957 National Geographic magazine.

In the next few weeks, two National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Enric Sala and Michael Fay, will travel to a very unique community of islands on the other side of the world: Pitcairn. These four small volcanic islands, officially named the Pitcairn, Ducie, Henderson, and Oeno Islands, are located in the South Pacific Ocean about halfway between Peru and New Zealand. They form a British Overseas Territory and, aside from Easter Island, are some of the most remote locations of human habitation on the planet.

The Pitcairn expedition is part of the Pristine Seas project to explore, survey, and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. The explorers plan to assess the state of Pitcairn’s marine life and to propose recommendations to the Pitcairn community for the conservation of their resources. Because Pitcairn is such an isolated locale, it will be revealing to see what effects human development in other parts of the world has on sea life there, as well what impact the island’s miniscule population of 60 permanent inhabitants has on the environment. Dr. Sala anticipates finding habitats, both on land and underwater, that are abundant with life and rich with biodiversity. While he dives deep beneath the waves off the coasts of the islands, his co-explorer Michael Fay will traverse the dense brush on the three uninhabited islands.

Throughout the Pitcairn Expedition, you can follow the action on a special section of the Nat Geo News Watch blog.  Below is a list of just some of the topics that the team plans to cover through compelling narrative and photographs; many of these will of course be of interest to educators:

-animals, people, and landscapes of Pitcairn
-ancient and modern exploration technologies
-energy use on Pitcairn

We are also inviting educators and students to pose questions about the
expedition right here in the comments section of the Nat Geo Education
During a special live webcast planned for late March, Enric Sala,
Michael Fay, and the crew will answer at least one of our reader

So please: Tune into the Nat Geo News Watch Blog, send us your questions for the live webcast, and share this opportunity to participate in cutting-edge ocean research and conservation efforts with your fellow educators, friends, and family.

“Mike [Fay] will walk and survey the terrestrial side of the islands, and a team of top marine ecologists and filmmakers. We will scuba dive in the shallows and use cutting-edge cameras to explore the deep. We will film using high-definition cameras and a futuristic mini-helicopter built by our remote imaging department. We will share images of this forgotten world to you daily, through this blog [Nat Geo News Watch]”  -Enric Sala

Dr. Sala, originally from Spain, was formerly a professor of oceanography at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography near San Diego, California. He now combines exploration, scientific research, and communications to help protect some of the last pristine places in the ocean. Michael Fay is an American conservationist and ecologist notable for the MegaTransect, in which he spent 455 days walking 3200 miles across the central African rainforests. Fay also conducted the MegaFlyover, spending months flying 70,000 miles in a small plane at low altitude and taking photographs every twenty seconds. Both projects were supported by the National Geographic Society, which produced articles and documentaries about the expeditions.


One thought on “Voyage to the South Pacific: Pitcairn Islands

  1. Hi Mike Fay, just read your blog about Pitcairn Island. Very interesting. Been interested in Pitcairn Island and its history for a long time. But never had seen any t.v. speacials on the subject though. Anyways i have one question. Has anyone try to locate the bones of the mutineers or the polynesians on the island.

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