Ends of the Earth, Palmyra Atoll

Where do you need to go to find pristine coral reefs, intact apex predators, including sharks?  One answer is Palmyra Atoll, about 2.5 hours Southwest of Hawaii by charter jet.  I’ve heard for years how wonderful Palmyra Atoll is and particularly, the wonder of experiencing healthy coral, apex predators and sharks.  So we finally landed and it is indeed a mighty remote place!  Our group is invited here by Eric Conklin of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to find solutions to declining coral health and brainstorm how to organize a pacific coral health network using a pristine baseline like Palmyra against which to compare other places. We landed this morning, had our first meeting and by 2 pm, we were geared up and ready for our first dive.

The water is beyond clear—absolutely sharp, vodka clear. As I rolled in, I could see a seascape of healthy acroporid table corals stretching across the bottom. I’m a coral nut, so usually I have eyes only for the corals and don’t notice anything else… but the fish!!  I had forgotten what it looks like to be engulfed by huge schools of herbivorous fish, like the convict tangs in the photos and regularly see beautiful l large fish, like the steep- head parrot. And even sharks… stand by for more since this was just a low key backreef site, not the dazzling fish and coral-filled forereef.

It turns out however, this might not be paradise.  I just walked back to my tiny cabin, enjoying the shocking, sharp, stars in the darkest of night. Except… that there are many, many tiny eyes, at all levels lining the paths through the woods back to my cabin. Those tiny eyes are also lining the path to the bathroom, one might traverse in the middle of the night.  Those tiny reflective eyes belong to gazillions of spiders, and some of them feel as large as a cat.

More soon, Drew

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