SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
July 21, 2014
The Island of Kanton
At anchor, Lagoon, Kanton Island, Kiribati
The Robert C. Seamans has now spent two full days at anchor in this beautiful lagoon. The students and crew seem to be adjusting to island life really well. And how could they not? This island is simply magical. Everywhere you look this island is teeming with wildlife. Crabs scurry about like squirrels in North America. As you walk down the path and hear ascampering, it is likely a crab or one of the few pigs the local villagers own. Soaring high above us is constantly a plethora of some really dynamic sea birds. Below the waters, life teems as well, fishes everywhere the eye can see, rays, sharks and turtles all are on the list of what has been seen today.
As usual with island life, students were up early and ready to head ashore. While ashore, David Livingstone and I were privileged to a very special treat. Some of the local villagers had caught a giant moray eel this morning, along with a host of crabs. While visiting with them today, we were invited to join in on their feast. Moray eel is tasty! It has a unique texture, slightly more gelatinous than a fish. The skin is really the best part, with a fantastic blend of salty and smoky flavors. Lunch conversation started with some good natured jokes and laughter, the islanders here are quick to a hearty laugh and a big smile. Soon the conversation switched to their real task, and a daunting task at that, how are 30 some odd people (8-10 of which are school age children) going to successful monitor and manage such a vast area of ocean. One of the men joked with me today that the USA was a giant place, to which I replied so was Kiribati. He nodded in agreement, but said most of it is ocean and only a small fraction of it he could ever even dream to see. It’s ironic when you think that this man is the police office on shore, the man tasked with enforcing the rules and regulations of PIPA. This is the man who should be out there, stopping illegal fishing and protecting this valuable habitat, yet he will likely never see much of it. And how is it to get any different? There is one boat on the island, a small skiff used for fishing, and no fuel to run it. These people are tasked with a seemingly impossible job. They go years without being resupplied, and live with next to nothing. Yet it doesn’t slow them down one bit. They still have a vigor for life and for the protection of our world’s oceans.
After lunch, two groups of students and a few crew were able to experience something really unique. We snorkeled over the wreck of the “President Taylor.” The President Taylor was a steam powered cargo ship, which was fully laden with coral bricks when she sank in approximately 20 feet of water. Now, throughout the wreckage, is a beautiful coral reef, absolutely jam-packed with fishes of all kinds. Students were able to swim through and around the wreck as fishes, rays and turtles darted about. Chief Mate Mac called this dive spot the most fantastic she has ever been. I’m pretty sure the students all agreed with her, I know for sure I did! Swimming over the old engine, you could actually could the number of pistons, as parrot fish or tangs darted out of them. The experience, this island, the villagers and this voyage are completely unforgettable. These memories will last us all a lifetime, and hopefully the work we are completing while here will last for much longer than that.