SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
July 27, 2018
The birds of the Phoenix Islands
4°30.8’ S x 172°13.7’ W
Ship’s heading and speed
at anchor at Orona
Sunny, clear skies!
Hello people! My name is Jessie and I am here to talk to you about some insane PIPA experiences and BIRDS (my research project, yaaaay!).
We have been in PIPA for 11 days now and have already seen 3 of its islands: Enderbury, Kanton, and now Orona. Orona is where we currently are, and the number of birds on this island is extensive! Now you might be reading this and think, 'hmm extensive...must have been a couple hundred birds'. I am here to tell you that you are wrong! There were probably around 500,000 terns flying around us today on the island and we got too see a large number of them nesting as well. Thankfully none of us got pooped on (although one person did earlier in the voyage by one of our stowaway boobies, but that is another story).
Seabirds are super important indicator species for marine ecosystems, and PIPA is a haven for 19 nesting species, including the endangered white throated storm petrel, and the phoenix petrel. I am excited to do more research on them, and appreciate everyone's help on board for helping with bird observations. It truly is difficult when you are trying to identify 100+ birds in one observation period and I am grateful for your enthusiasm
Apart from seeing an absurd but wonderful number of seabirds, I have also been able to explore Kanton and Orona. The snorkeling has been incredible, and exploring the islands is breathtaking (and not only because of how hot it is, although that does play a part in taking your breath away). I think my favorite moment so far was getting to know the people of Kanton. I am so grateful to my WoodsHole roommate and now great friend, Moamoa, the Kiribati observer on board, for being so willing to share her culture with me. Because of her kindness and welcoming nature, I couldn't wait to have her introduce me to some of the people on Kanton. This introduction consisted of playing a card game called 1,2,5. The first day I sat there watching them play for two hours trying to learn it, and just got around to playing when we got called back to the boat for an all hands dinner. I told Moamoa that I would be back to play again and came back the next day to the same group of young men playing under the trees by our boat.
I am happy to announce that I won the card game twice, which is no small feat (I got two stars next to my name on the scoring sheet). I had a lot of help from Moamoa and one of the locals there, Tauriki. Well really it was 75% Tauriki,15% Moamoa, and 10% me but still, it was my name that got the stars. After working really hard on board for the past two weeks it was really nice to relax on Kanton, play some cards with new friends, and lie on a hammock listening to them sing and play guitar for you in between games. I will never forget any of the incredible moments that I am blessed to have experienced thus far and cannot wait for what is yet to come.
- Jessie Panton, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Shoutouts: To my family and friends: Hey guys, I miss you all! Mom I want you to know that I have not gotten sunburnt yet. I have though, gotten quite seasick. I believe I was the one who had it the longest on the boat too so eww to that but I am doing great now! Also funny story: I was on lookout a week or so ago and I was like hmm I miss my family. When I got relieved from lookout I took the helm and while I was steering I was looking at the compass. This was probably one of the first times I was relatively comfortable steering so I wasn't deadpanned on the heading of the compass but instead was looking at the handiwork of the compass and lo and behold: it was made in Pembroke! (My hometown for anyone reading this that is not my family). Anyway I thought that was pretty cool, like something out of a movie and it made me happy. I thought you would think that was cool so there you go. I can't wait to tell you more about my experiences here. Love you guys, see you soon!