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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

July 20, 2017

Ashore in Kanton

Buster Coe, A watch, Oberlin College

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Above: Maddi snorkeling. Below: The reef in the Kanton lagoon. Photos by Claire

Kanton Pier (Phoenix Islands Protected Area)

Sail Plan
hang out at Kanton for the next few days

Clear skies, windy, hot

Souls on Board

Today was our first day ashore in Kanton. We spent the day snorkeling, doing chores around the boat, doing school work, and exploring the island. My watch, A watch, got to go snorkeling an do work/chores today, we'll get to explore the island tomorrow.

The day started with a brief all hands meeting on the quarter deck with a briefing of the day's festivities. We took a few minutes to discuss snorkel safety and our game plan, and then set out on small motor boats towards the reefs. Four of us sat in the boat. We bounced over waves and were sprayed with water. Finally, we were leaving our home, the Seamans, and venturing further into earths last frontier, the ocean. Someone remarked, "I feel like I'm in national geographic." We were explorers and scientists venturing into one of the greatest and most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, PIPA's coral reefs.

Arriving at the reefs, like navy seals we flipped backwards into the water. We saw nothing but blue. Commodore Chris (who was now officially in charge of two boats, hence the title) pointed us in the direction of the reefs. Swimming toward them we saw great dark looming masses in the distance. Approaching, the masses gained resolution, and large ambiguous blobs turned into great fan-like reefs, spreading wide to absorb all the sun's rays. The reefs were mostly beigeish, some greener and some redder than others. In the reef small colorful fish swam in schools and by themselves. Larger parrot fish roamed through the reefs, radiating vibrant blues and greens. To get a better look we took a deep breath and dove closer to the spindly knobs of coral.

Although it was so beautiful, seeing the reefs was bitter sweet, for we knew of the fragility of the ecosystem, and of the impending bleaching events of the 21st century. How long would the reefs last? How many more people will be able to see them before they go? Will they ever come back? First hand, we saw the intensity natural beauty of the reefs, a beauty un-paralleled in anything made by man.

Oh well. I don't want to make this post too depressing.

In the afternoon we did academic work and chores around the boat. While we were doing chores we got to listen to a little bit of music. God it feels so good to listen to music. You don't know what you have till you lost it. For us on the boat, it's the ability to listen to our favorite songs. We can sing and we can rap, but it's just not the same. I've been making a mental list of songs and artists I want to listen to when I get back. It includes: the Fugees, Biggie, They Want EFX, Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, Funkadelic, Parlaiment, etc. Oh how I wish I had the foresight to download more music to my phone!

After my chores we got time to go out onshore and explore the atoll. My friend Claire, who went out earlier, showed me around. The area near the pier was completely abandoned. It was home to a few decrepit tin houses and shells of long unused buildings. There were maybe fifteen buildings in total, all spread out through the overgrown brush and mounds of coral. Hermit crabs scurried about. There was a constant rustling in the leaves. After the pier area, there were only coral skeletons, plants, and beach. We sat on the beach for a while, watched the sun set, then headed back to the ship to heat up leftovers for dinner.

It was an eventful day. Nice to finally be on land. 

- Buster


#1. Posted by Kim McCormick on July 25, 2017

Hi Claire - Loved seeing your underwater shots! Can’t wait to see them all when you get back. Oliver and Sadie say hi >”<



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