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.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Talofa Tutuila

Aunu'u and Tutuila (left to right), photo taken by PIBHMC
By Kerry Grimshaw

After nearly a month into our cruise we have begun our work in the US Territory of American Samoa. We are conducting surveys around the island of Tutuila which is the largest and most populated of all the islands in the Territory. Tutuila has a land area of 141.81 km2(54.75 mi2) which is just slightly smaller than Washington D.C. As the third largest island in the Samoan Archipelago (Savaii & 'Upolu in Samoa are 1 & 2 respectively) it is distinctive in the South Pacific for having a large deep natural harbor.

As one of the most protected harbors in the South Pacific, Pago Pago became a point of contention when the United States gained exclusive use in 1872. However, both the British and Germans also had political and trade interests in Pago Pago. After about a decade of mounting tensions and a serendipitous cyclone, the 3countries negotiated in 1889 where Western (Independent) Samoa was ceded to the Germans, eastern Samoa went to the Americans, and the British were happy with German renunciation of Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Niue.

In April of 1900 eastern Samoa was formally annexed by the USA. Traditional rights were protected in exchange for a military base and a coaling station; however, Samoans became US Nationals, but not US citizens. Pago Pago became instrumental during World War II as the center of the Samoan Defense Group, which was the largest of the Pacific Defense Groups. As the war moved north and west, American Samoa became a strategic backwater. In the postwar era, American Samoa's military importance declined and in 1951, the Territory was transferred to the Department of the Interior, under whose jurisdiction it remains.

Until the 1960’s, American Samoa remained almost entirely traditional. After the modernization era, the subtle and restrained US presence was over. In 1977 the first elections were held for democratically elected leadership, replacing the leadership of appointed governors.

Pago Pago Harbor
Tutuila has a reef area of 36.2 km2 (14 mi2) and is home to more than 140 species of corals. Tutuila's waters are protected by the 0.7 km2 (0.3mi2) Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, as well as by the National Park of American Samoa, which covers the north-central part of the island and approximately 5 km(1.9 mi2) of coastline. Tutuila is also unique because of its extensive banks that occur 1-9 km (0.6-6 mi) offshore. On these banks CRED has conducted camera surveys in previous years and documented the presence of corals and numerous species of fish.

We’ll be working in the waters surrounding Tutuila until March 2nd when we begin our transit to Swains Island. For those of you reading from the island of Tutuila you may see us as you are out and about during this time.

1 comment:

  1. I am a student from Samoana High School in the marine science class. I am interested of joining your crew around the island.