Pitcairn Islands Expedition: A Timely Retreat

There is silence on the Claymore II – except for the deep noise of the engine, the wind and the rain, and the rolling waves crashing on the side of the ship.

We are on our way back to Mangareva, our port of departure in French Polynesia. We had to end the scientific expedition a full day early because of the foul weather. It was not possible to anchor safely at Oeno. A 4-meter swell was crashing on the southern side of the atoll, and a strong wind was blowing from the north. Underwater, the surge was pushing us back and forth, up and down, making our work very difficult. The most dangerous part was getting the small boats in the water, and getting people onto them. Each small boat swung from the crane of the Claymore II like a wild pendulum, but her expert crew got us in and out safely.

Bigger swells were announced to come from the southwest, and a low pressure system was building north of our position, so things were only going to get worse. Sometimes the sea does not want us, and now it is one of those times. As the saying goes, a timely retreat is a victory.


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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.

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