Changing Planet

Mike Fay’s Pitcairn Journal: Attack of the Ferns

By Mike Fay, NG Explorer-in-Residence

9 April 2012

Rained all night and Highest Point was completely soaked again this morning.  I just kind of hacked around in the morning; Bren had school today.  Went over to Gannet’s Ridge just to see how cool it is to walk on a razor-backed ridge in the fog.  Takes all kinds I guess, but it was eerie, like you are suspended in space.  I made my way down to Bren’s place and we decided to go up to the big slide on the north side of the island.  Hadn’t been down in the belly of that beast yet.

We started in from the road up Flat Land.  Immediately we found ourselves (or I should say Bren found herself) buried in this fern called Dicranopteris linearis.  This fern is found all over the Americas and Polynesia.  When you see this plant covering an area you usually think of very poor soil.  It loves soil on which nothing else seems to grow.  This stuff was so dense and tall that Bren just kind of jumped up and fell forward into it to mat it down.  All I had to do was follow in the tunnel behind her.

She stopped and stared.  “Watch out for the wasps,” she said.  You could hear them and they were starting to get worked up, but they weren’t in attack mode.  She was in front, I was still behind.  I daintily went by, no problem.

Down in the slide it looked a hell of a lot bigger than it did from the road.  This slide is immense and it has been here for a long time, maybe over a century.  There was a big new chunk that came out of here on Feb. 4 responsible for the mud the school kids were playing in at the bottom of this drainage.  We hung out gawking at the hole in the ground for quite some time.  When you are down in these slides you are just amazed at the sheer amount of dirt that has fallen out of these mountains.   I took some big panoramic photos and we called it a day.  Tomorrow is fishing day with the long boat.


More From the Pitcairn Islands Expedition

Read All Mike Fay’s Journal Entries

Read All Pitcairn Islands Expedition Blogs

Mike Fay Bio and Other Features

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.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media