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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
July 25, 2014
The Wonders That are the Phoenix Islands
4° 24’ 48.00” S x 172° 11’ 07.20” W
At anchor, Ocean side of Orona Island, Kiribati
Hello world, I (Brendan, a student from C watch) would like to enlighten you to the wonders that are the Phoenix Islands. The ocean holds all sorts of crazy creatures, and today it decided to put on a show. We on the Seamans started our day by anchoring a little bit offshore of Orona, the most recent stop on our trek through PIPA. While we were sitting calmly off the reefs, the local fish and bird populations had a very violent disagreement. We have seen these feeding frenzies before, but the bird presence on Orona turned this into a hurricane of more than 500 sooty terns, brown boobies, redtailed tropic birds and a couple of lesser frigatebirds.
Needless to say, the fish did not have a pleasant morning. Throw in Cam and Tane’s spearfishing “research” (they successfully caught and processed 13 sharks) and many fish probably wished they had overslept. Not all of the wildlife had a bad day however, as two sea turtles were spotted having a grand old time about 50 meters off our port bow, lethargically floating about and clearly enjoying each other’s company very much.
The wildlife was clearly having a ball on the island, and many of us sailors decided that we wanted in on the action. After a lengthy, tense search for a suitable landing point for the small boats, two boatloads of students were permitted to swim, crawl, and body surf their way from the small boats to the shore of Orona. The struggle was worth it however, as a shallow channel between the ocean and the Orona Lagoon was a figurative gold mine of black tip shark pups, arrowfish, mullets, bumphead parrotfish and bar jacks. Much of the coral was dead however, still recovering from a bleaching event a couple of years ago. While the bottom was a murky wasteland, fresh new coral was seen sprouting up all over the place and the reef was swarming with life. Orona has so far impressed with its abundance, and we are excited to continue exploring the atoll tomorrow. I for one can truthfully say I saw one fish, two fish, a red fish, and a blue fish.