About the Expedition
On January 21, 2010, scientists from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (CRED/PIFSC), along with visiting scientists from the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego State University, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and local agencies in American Samoa, departed on a three month expedition to Johnston Atoll, Howland and Baker Islands, American Samoa, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef aboard the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. This is the fifth biennial Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) expedition to American Samoa and the seventh to the Pacific Remote Island Areas. The expedition is sponsored by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and is divided into three segment sequentially led by Chief Scientists Benjamin Richards, Rusty Brainard and Jamison Gove.READ MORE...
The strategic goal of this research is to improve scientific understanding of coral reef ecosystems throughout the Pacific, and serve as the basis for improved conservation and resource management. The recent designation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument highlights the importance of this research.
With their extremely isolated location, many of the Pacific Remote Island Areas host a vibrate marine ecosystem. Previous Pacific RAMP cruises have documented relatively high coral cover and diversity; and high densities of large-bodied reef fish including large numbers of apex predators such as Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and Scalloped Hammerhead sharks (Sphyraena lewini). Many of these apex predators are rare near human population centers. AS in previous years, this Pacific RAMP cruise will perform a suite of standardized multi-disciplinary methods which include Rapid Ecological Assessments (REA) for fish, corals, other large invertebrates, and algae; towed-diver surveys for large-bodied fish and habitat composition; and oceanographic studies, which include the measurement of conductivity, temperature, and density of the water column (CTD casts); water sampling; and deployment of sea-surface temperature (SST), subsurface temperature recorders (STR) and acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP). Scientists will also be deploying Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs) to learn about changes in the presence and activity of marine mammals, fish, crustaceans and other sound-producing marine life when researchers aren't there to record it otherwise. Autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) will also be deployed as part of the CReefs project. ARMS are simple, standardized collecting structures designed to roughly mimic the structural complexity of reef habitats. They allow for the identification of small, hard-to-sample, but ecologically important cryptic invertebrates. ARMS are being utilized throughout the Pacific and globally to systematically assess spatial patterns and temporal changes of biodiversity. Use of the EARS and ARMS are an exciting addition to RAMP data collection efforts.Follow along below to learn more about where we are going, what we are seeing, and what we have found ...
Monday, February 1, 2010
A Little About Howland
photographs courtesy of the National Archives and US Fish & Wildlife Service
Howland Island, a low, flat, sandy bit of an island with a narrow fringing reef, positioned some 50 miles north of the equator and 1,600 miles southwest of Honolulu. Uninhabited and vegetated only by grasses, vines, and shrubs, the island provides important nesting and roosting habitat for hundreds of thousands of seabirds and shorebirds.
The American Guano Company claimed Howland in 1857 and guano mining began in 1861. Guano was mined by companies from both the US and Great Britain, and both countries claimed it as sovereign territory. All told, an estimated 85,000 to 100,000 tons of guano were removed between 1861 and 1890! Evidence of the mining remains today as large excavated basins and mounds of low-grade guano. When the guano deposits were exhausted, Howland was abandoned.
In 1937, an airfield was built in anticipation that the island might eventually be used as a stop-over for a commercial trans-Pacific air route. Most notably, Howland Island was the scheduled refueling stop for Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on their flight between New Guinea and Hawaii. Though Earhart’s radio transmissions could be heard from Howland, Earhart and Noonan were lost en route. What exactly happened to them remains a mystery to this day.
In 1941, Howland entered World War II with a Japanese air attack on December 8, 1941, that killed two of the colonists and damaged the airfield. Two days later a Japanese submarine shelled what was left of Itascatown’s few buildings and a single bomber returned twice during the following weeks to drop more bombs on the rubble. The only two survivors of the attacks were finally evacuated at the end of January 1942. In 1943, Howland was reoccupied by the US Marines and became known as Howland Naval Air Station until May 1944. All attempts at habitation were abandoned after 1944, which was probably just fine with the multitude of sea birds that come to Howland. Howland Island was established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1974. Visitation to the refuge is by special use permit only. As with Johnston Atoll (our previous stop) and Baker Island (our next stop), Howland Island and it’s environs are part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Marine Monument, established in 2009 by President George W. Bush.
Like at Johnston, our US Fish and Wildlife Service partners will be camping on Howland Island during our 3 days there, surveying the land while we survey the surrounding waters.