Seeing Professors kicking away at footpumps to fill inflatable boats with air in preparation for a science expedition is an entertaining way to start things off. A bit like an academics aerobics symposium in a boat warehouse. This was the illustrious start point to this year’s trip when all the planning and discussions coalesce to action on the ground – in this case researchers blowing hot air into inflatable tubes by a repetitive foot thrust to the floor. On such small beginnings rest grand ambitions and the Chagos Archipelago is a suitable hunting ground for those.
As previous voyages through the outer islands have shown through their results, the natural environment here sets benchmarks globally. Whilst clumping your foot on a wheezing canvas bellows may seem a strange way to get there it is a necessary chore in the pursuit of such exploration results here. In this remote place without making thorough preparation access to the secrets of the reefs of the outer atolls would be unattainable. So pushing your foot to the floor to pressurize an inflatable boat takes on a new significance when it means that you will be well set to cast off a mooring line in a few days time and dive on some of the healthiest reefs with the richest marine life in the world. An outcome any biologist hankers after in their happy daydreams.
The advance party setting themselves to the preparatory chores have gained a taste of the riches that await as we have managed to get out for some local data collection dives in between the various tasks on our agenda. The reef surveys in the waters here have already offered up a host of spectacular and fascinating sights. From the smallest animals, like the colourful Sexy Shrimp (Thor anoinensis), to the largest with the sighting of several silvertip sharks alongside the reef drop off.
Much more of the same is soon to come. So we will redouble our efforts to ready all the stores and equipment in anticipation of the arrival of the rest of the science expedition participants early next week. We have more boats to assemble, a laboratory to furnish, dive equipment to test and fuel and food to replenish. This beneath a tropical sky brightly lighting the beautiful turquoise waters of BIOT beneath which a treasure trove of marine environmental wealth awaits our discovery. An enchantingly tempting view to keep motivation up whilst stamping our feet down on those footpumps!
Check out the 2014 expedition crew's biographies on the Chagos Conservation Trust's website
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