Mike Fay’s Pitcairn Journal: Departure Day

By Mike Fay, NG Explorer-in-Residence

Rained all morning again, no sign of Brenda.  I went out to do some more plots but they were mostly a bust.  Not sure I really ever found them according to the GPS locations in Noleen’s thesis.  So instead I just headed back up the mountain and walked from one end of the spine of the island to the other.

What they call the “new road” that traverses most of the ridge top goes through the best of the remaining what I called “island live oak forest.”  Of course it is not an oak but a eucalyptus relative that is endemic to the island that the Pitcairners call Rata.  Botanists call it Meterosideros collina.  It is a beautiful tree with long arching branches full of epiphytes including the only orchid indigenous to the island.  You could see that between encroachment of rose apple and guava and erosion, this road is causing one of the best habitats of what used to be a misty cloud forest to lose its grip.

I continued down to the old radio station which also has the weather station.  There was an old HF radio set and the antenna was still poised toward the ionosphere, but the waves were silent.  The only sound here was of two wandering tattlers atop the metal roof and a rooster down slope.

Further on I reached Aute Valley.  This is a nice, big, flat fertile valley where many of the islanders used to have their gardens.  I can easily imagine vast fields of manioc, yams and sweet potatoes here.  Today it is covered mostly in Johnson grass from Africa and a volley ball court.  I went down to a vantage point above Down Rope.  I tried to see step by step how we got down.   It doesn’t look dangerous from where I was now standing, but outright insane.

I started back. We needed to be on the boat by 17:00 and there would be hell to pay if I wasn’t there.  I saw a dying chick on the road and Brenda’s husband Mike tracked me down on the quad.  I said goodbye to this beautiful place. While I was only here for a few days I feel like it got into my blood.  Who knows where life will lead you.

I said a sad goodbye to Brenda and off we went toward our next destination: Ducie, the southern most atoll on Earth, and another few hundred miles further into the empty ocean.


Human Journey

, ,

Meet the Author
Mike Fay has spent his life as a naturalist—from the Sierra Nevadas and the Maine woods as a boy, to Alaska and Central America in college, to North Africa and the depths of the central African forest and savannas for the last 25 years. He has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx since 1991. In 1996, Fay flew over the forests of Congo and Gabon and realized there was a vast, intact forest corridor spanning the two countries from the Oubangui to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1997, he walked the entire corridor, over 2,000 miles, surveying trees, wildlife, and human impacts on 12 uninhabited forest blocks. Called Megatransect, this work led to a historic initiative by the Gabonese government to create a system of 13 national parks, making up some 11,000 square miles (28,500 square kilometers). In 2004, he completed the Megaflyover, an eight-month aerial survey of the entire African continent. He logged 800 hours and took 116,000 vertical images of human impact and associated ecosystems, many of which are now visible on Google Earth. In 2008 Fay completed the Redwood Transect, a new project to learn more about the redwood forest. He walked the entire range of the redwood tree, over 700 miles. Since then he has participated in the 2011 BioBlitz at Saguaro National Park, and is a regular team member of fellow NG Explorer Enric Sala's Pristine Seas Expeditions, recording the life and land above the waves.