Expedition Launches to Rapa Iti and Marotiri

The southernmost islands of French Polynesia have long been a haven for nature, remote as they are in an already remote region. Inhabited only relatively lightly by Polynesians throughout most of history, they have been free of the intense fishing and development that has altered other areas so dramatically in recent centuries.

While Marotiri is entirely unpopulated, the current inhabitants of Rapa Iti have taken notice of the ecological treasure their home contains. They have also noted that protecting this area from fishing and other extraction will go a long way toward helping reach the goal—set by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy—of protecting 20 percent of France’s waters around the world.

The outline of Rapa Iti resembles a fractal curve, calling to mind the seemingly endless levels of biological complexity in these remote islands and their surrounding waters.

This is where National Geographic’s Pristine Seas team comes in. This October and November, expedition leader Paul Rose will take the veteran scientists and filmmakers to this remote region to give the people of Rapa the data and imagery they need to make informed decisions about the management of their resources.

Working together with Pew and CRIOBE (Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de L’Environnement), the team will explore the waters around Rapa Iti and nearby Marotiri and report back on the numbers of species and individuals present in the shallows, at the seafloor, and out in the open ocean.

Divers will examine sea life including big sharks, small reef fish, and creeping algae up close with their own eyes, while engineers will send unmanned cameras to the deep and adrift, which will record footage and then send out signals so they can be retrieved and their video analyzed by experts dry on board the main vessel.

With new data and visuals in hand, people around the world will be able to know for themselves the beauty and value of this remote and barely touched region.

Follow along as our explorers and scientists report live from the expedition with stories and photos as they are lived and captured.


Read All Posts From the Rapa 2014 Expedition

Learn More About Pristine Seas


The Pristine Seas expedition to Rapa is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
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. In 2018 he became 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. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.