|Coralline algal formation at Rose Atoll,|
Porolithon craspedium (Photograph by
Soshana asks: Whenever you guys visit the Rose Atoll Island, do you discover anything new?
Good question Soshana!
I am not aware of any new discoveries made by us at Rose Atoll during our past visits. Every once in awhile our scientists have discovered a new species and that is always quite exciting!
More often the “discoveries” we’ve made have been documenting natural phenomena such as coral bleaching, sites with internal tides, and range extensions for various species of fish, algae, and corals. Many other discoveries are known to the local population and those living in the area, but may be unknown to the scientific community or to people living in other parts of the world. This trip we “discovered” that South Bank is a drowned atoll. As far as we know, this was previously unknown until our team completed multibeam surveys of the area!
- Kerry Grimshaw
Marissa asks: According to the picture (Photograph from noaa.coris.gov), is there any other possible ways to help save Rose atoll from sinking?
[The picture Marissa is referencing can be found on an earlier blog post]
I’m sorry to report that there is no easy answer to your question, although I like where your heart is! Islands may have many different fates over time and it all comes back to the geologic processes that take place. Fortunately, these processes generally take millions of years to happen, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see much change in the sinking of Rose Atoll during your lifetime.
On another note, the current hot topic of climate change could have significant effects on Rose Atoll in the future, particularly related to sea level rise and ocean acidification.
The excerpt below is from an article posted May 29, 2007 on the BBC website:
The Death of Islands
|Exposed reef covered in coralline algae at Rose Atoll|
(Photograph by Cristi Richards)
- It may be brought up against a larger land mass by continental drift. 40 million years ago, this happened to the island of India, when it collided with the continent of Asia. The resultant crash hasn't finished yet - the Himalaya mountains are the crumple zone, where the folded Earth's crust absorbs the impact of India with the rest of Asia.
- A small island may be eroded by the elements until there is nothing left above water. This was the fate of the westernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, which are now under the sea.
- An island on an oceanic tectonic plate may be slowly dragged under the ocean as the plate collides with another plate and is subducted, that is, is pushed in under the other plate. This is the ultimate fate of each of the Galapagos islands. After they are created over a mid-ocean hot spot, they travel east until the plate they are on collides with and slides under the South American plate. The easternmost islands of the group are sliding back down into the ocean.
- Changing currents in the Earth's mantle can cause a section of the ocean floor to be raised up, and subsequently to sink back down again. The Kerguelen Plateau, in the southern Indian Ocean, is now about two kilometres under the sea, with just a few isolated peaks showing above the surface as the Kerguelen Islands, but 100 million years ago, it was raised up to form an island three times the size of Japan. It is likely that it had animals and plants living on it. Then about 20 million years ago, the mantle currents changed and it slowly sank back down into the sea.
All of these slow deaths take millions of years to come about. In the meantime, islands continue to exert a fascination on mankind.
- Kerry Grimshaw
Valentine asks: Are there any human beings living on Rose Atoll?
No one lives at Rose Atoll and historically it has mostly been uninhabited with the exception of a brief time in the 1860s when the German government tried to establish a fishing station and coconut plantation. They didn’t have much luck as one of the 2 islands is often nothing more than a shifting sand bank!
- Mark Manuel
Oina asks: Are we allowed to visit Rose Atoll on our own or do we have to go with some sort of researchers?
As of now, the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is closed to the public. This closure is to protect fragile seabird colonies, endangered species, and island habitats. Special use permits to conduct scientific research can be obtained from the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex office in Honolulu. For more information see www.fws.gov/roseatoll
With Rose Atoll recently being designated a Marine National Monument there are likely to be more regulations established for the area in the near future as visitor access is often considered in the regulations governing National Monuments. Until those new regulations are in place it is hard to answer your question completely. I would expect that there will be a permit system set up for controlling the work that can be done within the Monument. While it sounds like there may be lots of rules, we are used to obtaining permits for our work within various protected areas such as Sanctuaries, National Parks, Marine National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, and other territorial or commonwealth Marine Protected Areas.
- Kerry Grimshaw