Wildlife & Wild Places

Pitcairn Islands Expedition: Atolls From the Air

After beginning our journey to the Pitcairn Islands with a stop in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where the Bounty anchored befored its legendary mutiny, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala and team boarded a small plane and took to the air to reach our next destination: the island of Mangareva in the Gambier Archipelago.

Both Mangareva and Tahiti are part of the island group of French Polynesia, and between them are dozens of high islands and atolls, and we saw many from the windows of our plane. Despite working for National Geographic, I myself was in the dark regarding how these different kinds of islands form, and was happy to have one of the team scientists, Alan Friedlander next to me to explain the geology behind these delicately beautiful land forms.

In the gallery above see some of these islands from the air and the surface, and discover the fascinating story of how they came to be.


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Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. He is currently beginning a new role as communications director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish.Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010.He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history.
  • Christian Feliciano

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