Henry Duffy is an MSc student studying Conservation Science at Imperial College London. For his dissertation project he has been lucky enough to land a trip to the Pitcairn Islands to study fish communities in one of the remotest places on earth! This is his blog as he conducts important research towards a fisheries management plan for the region...
If you had told me at the start of this Masters course that, come May, I would be preparing to spend my summer doing field work on one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands, I would have refused to even imagine the possibility. Last September, I had high hopes that studying conservation science would lead to adventures in distant places, but nothing quite to this extent.
Upon the mention of Pitcairn Island, the reaction has often been a blank or confused look, and indeed I too had never heard of the far-flung, tiny island before applying for this research project. A couple of minutes were required just to find it on a map! It is hard to convey quite how remote Pitcairn is, but the amount of travelling necessary to get there might give you some idea. Firstly, it took roughly 32 hours of flights and changeovers just to get to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, with scenic tours of airports in Los Angeles and Auckland on the way. Whilst in Auckland I had my first experience of a cro-nut, which was incredible, but that’s a tangent I must sadly omit for now. I did not see a kiwi (either the bird or the fruit) during my three hours in New Zealand, a bitter disappointment. However, I spotted some suspiciously invasive-looking pot plants in the departure lounge.
After all this time spent getting to Papeete, I am still not really anywhere near Pitcairn Island. Mercifully I have been fortunate enough to break up my journey with 8 days exploring and diving on some of the stunning islands of French Polynesia, a lush, colourful and vibrant part of the world which I have dreamed of seeing for years. Tomorrow, in the company of two of my supervisors, the journey to Pitcairn will continue with a 5 hour flight to the island of Mangareva, and then conclude with an epic, somewhat intimidating 32 hour voyage on the good ship Claymore II across the rolling waves of the South Pacific. Once we arrive on Pitcairn, we will undertake a 3 month assessment of the coastal ecosystems of the island. I will discuss the science, and some background to Pitcairn itself, in a future blog post once I have staggered off the boat onto this tiny speck of land in the middle of the world’s largest ocean.
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