Saturday, February 28, 2009

#1: Landing in Fiji

Post by Steve Bailey

5:15 AM The humid fragrant Fijian air hits this weary band of divers, now emerging from Air Pacific's 747 Island of Vanua Levu. The simple beauty of the rising sun silhouetting distant volcanic peaks helps us forget about the not-so-restful, 11-hour, overnight flight from Los Angeles. Ahhhh, we're back in paradise.

Those of us who've been on Monterey Bay Aquarium/New England Aquarium Fiji Expeditions on four previous occasions now feel the excitement building. Soon we'll be boarding our impressively outfitted and capable home for 10 days, the 124-foot motorsailer Nai'a. Old, reacquainted friends explain to the 'Fiji freshmen' that within eight hours they will be diving on some of the finest reefs in the world.

The freshmen will be diving with people dedicated a diversity of projects and interests. On this trip, aquarium marine biologists, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Dr. Steve Webster and New England Aquarium Curator of Fishes Steve Bailey, are assessing reef health, tracking changes to diversity and abundance, and as always, having an eye peeled for new species of critters. Keith Ellenbogen, Parsons School of Design photography professor, will be connecting his students back home in New York with the biology and art of Fijian reefs through innovative video/photographic approaches to interpreting life in this incredible habitat.

New subsurface gear will receive important field-testing by Senior Engineer John Larkin of Light & Motion, a California based manufacturer of underwater lighting and camera equipment. Past participants have included scientists such as noted reef fishes expert Dr. G.R. Allen of Conservation International and New England Aquarium Vice President of Global Marine Programs Dr. Greg Stone, as well as proficient filmmakers, photographers, authors and artists.

How do we attract people to these cruises? For one thing, we relentlessly sing the praises of this archipelago's astonishing, aquatic diversity. Our mission is to entice people who can help conserve Fijian waters, mainly by spending their diving dollars in Fiji while observing, learning, and sharing their experiences with others.

10:00 PM A marathonesque but productive and rewarding day is drawing to a close. Most have long since retired to their staterooms and are preparing for a full day tomorrow of exploring the reefs.


Facebook Comments


Post a Comment