Pitcairn Islands Expedition: What We Found

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.
 
duciesharks990-590x442.jpgGrey reef sharks soar above an extensive bed of coral at Ducie atoll. Photo: Enric Sala

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Exploring the Pitcairn Archipelago with Maps

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.

InteractiveMap_WorldPolitical_250x.jpgMapMaker 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.

 

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