Pitcairn Islands Expedition: Arriving at Henderson Island

We arrived at Henderson Island at dawn. The island was like a long, low rectangle, with limestone cliffs and lots of green. The sea near the island was picture perfect. It was like the typical view that people in office buildings have on their walls, to inspire dreams about where they’d rather be.

Manu San Felix, our underwater cinematographer, Nathan Lefevre – Manu’s assistant – and I dived with rebreathers. These are closed-circuit diving tanks that recycle the oxygen from the carbon dioxide we exhale, and therefore don’t produce bubbles. This means that we can stay longer underwater, and because we are silent, we can get closer to the fishes. And closer we got.

As soon as we reached the edge of the reef drop off, at about 20 meters, four grey reef sharks came straight to us, and shortly after six yellowtail jacks and several black jacks joined them. The sharks were with us during the entire dive, and followed us to the surface. A shark even cut between Manu and me, dorsal fin out of the water as in the movies. That made everyone on the boat laugh.

This giant coral probably was already alive when Pedro Fernandez de Quirós “discovered” Henderson in 1606. Photo by Enric Sala


Our second dive, in the late afternoon, we descended onto a giant coral colony. This coral probably was already alive when Pedro Fernandez de Quirós “discovered” Henderson in 1606. Underneath the coral were crevices and a short tunnel, full of squirrelfish – a fabulous display of red in motion.

In summary, our first impression of Henderson has been very positive. It is clearly a predator-dominated ecosystem – the best indicator of marine ecosystem health. I hope the next three days will bring many more exciting encounters in this wild marine world.




Meet the Author
Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.