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Back to Kanton, Briefly

May 29, 2018

Yesterday we had a whirlwind encore tour of Kanton in which we picked up our instruments, took a few water samples, deployed two temperature loggers, and I gave a short presentation to the local community about our work in PIPA. Nearly all the island’s 54 residents turned out and, while the adults were interested in…

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Last stop: Rawaki

May 25, 2018

The last island on our tour de PIPA is Rawaki. We arrived at dawn, greeted by thousands of birds. Rawaki is different from the previous three islands of our trip, as it has no lagoon and no vegetation larger than grass. It also has no rats, ants, or crabs and has thus become host to a thriving…

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Motus and Hoas

May 20, 2018

We had a quick visit to Orona, with only two days in the water to explore the reefs of this atoll. Above water, Orona is larger than Nikumaroro and has a beautiful series of motus (small islands) and hoas (channels) on the north coast that serve as the primary drainage points for the lagoon. A…

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Adventures in Nikumaroro

May 18, 2018

Yesterday we arrived at Nikumaroro, perhaps the most famous of the Phoenix islands, as it is the supposed final resting place of Amelia Earhart. The island came into view at dawn, shrouded in clouds on our first overcast day of the trip. Nikumaroro has much more vegetation than Kanton despite being a smaller atoll—coconut palms…

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A Photoquadrat is Worth a Thousand Words

May 16, 2018
during a photoquadrat survey on Kanton. Here you can see

Part of our mission in the Phoenix Islands is to try to understand how coral communities here were affected by the large-scale bleaching event that swept the Pacific in 2015. Nobody was present in the Phoenix Islands throughout the course of the event, but one way we can assess past changes in coral communities is…

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Setting sail for Nikumaroro

May 14, 2018

Setting sail for Nikumaroro this afternoon left me with mixed feelings, as Kanton has turned out to be such an incredible and beautiful place. After meeting so many of the Kanton residents, spending time talking to them, eating with them and even dancing with them, and then diving on some of the most incredible reefs…

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Current in Kanton

May 10, 2018
Current Deploy

It’s our first day at Kanton, and the work started bright and early. Yesterday we anchored just inside Kanton’s 11 kilometer-wide (6 mile) lagoon after motoring in through a narrow channel. This channel is the only major connection that the lagoon has with the open ocean. As the tide goes up, water rushes in, only…

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Closing in on Kanton

May 8, 2018
Part of the crew

There was something different about the ocean this morning. On the first watch we noticed more birds than we’ve become accustomed to over the past five days. There was increased activity in the water, too—more flying fish, larger fish jumping, and flocks of bird feasting on schools of baitfish. We must be getting close to…

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From Polliwogs to Shellbacks

May 6, 2018
The Boat

Today reached the equator, and the science began. As the trade winds push water west across the Pacific, the movement is balanced by a deeper counter-flow back to the east known as the Equatorial Under-Current (EUC). The current is narrow and deep—it spans just 2 degrees of latitude on either side of the equator and…

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Starting out on the Sea Dragon

May 4, 2018
Photo by Richard Brooks

After landing in the small airport in Kiritimati, we loaded our gear onto a truck own by Timei (pronounced “SEE-may” in I’Kiribiati) and drove down the single road looping around the island. The truck rumbled and jerked as we attempt to avoid the large potholes that scar the road as children run along the sides…

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PIPA 2018 Mission

WHOI’s Cohen Lab teams up once again with Pangaea Exploration, this time returning to the remote Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area. The study site is the planet’s largest and deepest World Heritage Site. It’s been three years since a super El Niño wreaked havoc across the Pacific basin, destroying many coral reefs.


Anne Cohen, Principal Investigator
Tenured Associate Scientist
George Patton Lohmann (Pat)
Lead Diver and Master Story Teller
WHOI Scientist Emeritus
Michael Fox
PhD student Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Post-doctoral Scholar-to-be Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Expertise: Coral Reef Trophic Ecology
Richard Brooks
Nathaniel R. Mollica
PhD student, MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography
Research focus: Investigating climate change impacts on coral reef ecosystems using proxies and models