Two weeks ago, we announced the latest and greatest National Geographic Pristine Seas Expedition to the Desventuradas Islands. Located 853 kilometers (530 miles) off the coast of Chile, the Desventuradas are one of the most mysterious and unknown places in the Eastern Pacific. Very little scientific information is known about this (essentially uninhabited) “blue spot” on the map. In fact, the area surrounding the Desventuradas … Continue reading Update: Expedition to the Desventuradas Islands
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. —André Gide You may have heard the old adage about the “white spots on the map.” This month, forget the “white.” We here at National Geographic are seeing “blue.” Did you know that 98% of the ocean remains unexplored? There’s only one world ocean, but there’s more than one … Continue reading Forget white, we’re seeing blue. Join us.
Many of you have been following our wonderful team of explorers, including the esteemed Enric Sala and our social media savant Andrew Howley, as they conducted a nearly one-month-long tour of research in the Pitcairn Islands of the South Pacific. The object of the research was to better understand the effects of human impacts on pristine seas and biodiversity. Pristine means an environment, such as a coral reef, that is almost entirely unharmed and unaltered by anthropogenic (human) activity. Being located in the most remote corner of the Pacific Ocean, Pitcairn seemed to be a good candidate for such a study. As it turns out, the waters around the various islands are an excellent example of pristine seas, and invoked a sort of reverent awe in the minds of our seasoned scientists and team members.
In the last 3 weeks, Enric, Andrew, Michael Fay, and other vital team members visited the 4 islands of the Pitcairn Archipelago, conducting nearly 400 dives and spending over 450 person-hours underwater. They counted and documented tens of thousands of fishes, urchins, algae, and corals. You can read more about their firsthand experiences and findings, both scientific and informal, here. Aside from his interest in ocean conservation and figuring out innovative ways to mitigate the decline of pristine coral reefs and ecosystems, Dr. Sala is also a talented underwater photographer, as demonstrated below by the beautiful image of sharks swimming over thriving coral heads near Ducie Atoll.
Grey reef sharks soar above an extensive bed of coral at Ducie atoll. Photo: Enric Sala
Pitcairn is a small island in the South Pacific Ocean at about 25° South latitude, just a couple degrees away from the Tropic of Capricorn (23° S). It’s approximately 130° West in longitude, a line of longitude not shared with much land–except parts of Antarctica, the Pacific Northwest, and Arctic regions of Canada many thousands of miles north. In fact, there’s not much other land around Pitcairn and its tiny island neighbors. This small island group–including Pitcairn, Ducie, Henderson, and Oeno–is remote, but remote does not mean insignificant. Pitcairn has a rich history and is currently the site of an expedition being conducted by NG Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala as part of the Pristine Seas project. Want to explore the geography of Pitcairn? Here are a few National Geographic Education mapping resources to get you started.
MapMaker Interactive: Use the National Geographic MapMaker Interactive to zoom into Pitcairn (25° 04′ 36” S, 130° 06′ 06” W) and explore. Zoom back out again to get the larger context of the geography of this remote archipelago. Use the measure tool to calculate the distance between Pitcairn and some of its closest yet distant neighbors, including Easter Island and Tahiti.
TUNE IN!…to a live interview with National Geographic Explorer-in Residence Enric Sala onNG’s Facebook page tomorrow, March 28 at2:30pm ET.
Facebook Live Special Event: Your Questions for a Deep-Sea Explorer For
the first time ever, National Geographic Facebook Live will host their weekly
interview not from National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C.,
but from the remote Pitcairn Islands nestled in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean. Miles from any other inhabited island,
Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala will join us by satellite phone to
give an update on a month-long expedition to Pitcairn and reveal
stunning photographs–straight from the field–of the island’s rich
We first announced the Pitcairn Expedition to the Nat Geo Education Blog audience in early March. At that time, we asked students to submit their questions for Enric and his team, which also includes National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay. The team has agreed to answer at least one of the student questions during the live chat on March 28. Keep reading below to see some of the questions our readers submitted!
Marine ecologist Enric Sala (foreground) examines an enormous lobe
coral on Kingman Reef in the South Pacific’s remote Line Islands. This
coral is 500 years old, but the species was unknown to science before
Sala’s discovery. Such finds aren’t shocking at Kingman, which is one
of the world’s most pristine reef ecosystems. The site shows scientists
how much has been lost at reefs found closer to human habitation. Photo by Brian J. Skerry.