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.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jarvis Island

by Paula Ayotte, photos by Jamison Gove

After five days of transit from Pago Pago, we’ve finally arrived at Jarvis Island, the sixth island in the Line Islands chain. This puts us once again close to the equator, about 1,000 miles from American Samoa, 1,200 miles from Honolulu, and 400 miles from our next stop, Palmyra Atoll.  For some of us on board, this is a return trip to this remote island chain. For others, this will be their first expedition to the Line Islands.  Regardless of how many times we’ve been here, how many dives we’ve already done, how many fish or corals we’ve counted, or how many oceanographic instruments we’ve deployed or retrieved, all of us are looking forward with great anticipation to getting in the water and conducting research at Jarvis Island.

The coral reef ecosystem at
Jarvis Island.
On land, this low-lying, arid, warm, lopsided rectangle of land seems unprepossessing, but underwater it’s a wonderland of swirling anthias, curious sharks, and schools of jacks amid an impressive variety of colorful corals. What contributes to the amazing diversity at Jarvis is the remote location and isolation from detrimental human impacts, along with its location in the path of the easterly flowing Equatorial Undercurrent which brings nutrient rich waters upward, enriching the primary productivity of the surface waters surrounding Jarvis.

Though Jarvis is relatively free from human exploitation, like Howland, Baker, Palmyra and Kingman, Jarvis was claimed for the United States under the Guano Islands Act of 1856.  Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands were also claimed by the United Kingdom as British Overseas Territories from 1886 to 1934, and guano mining was conducted by both British and American companies through the end of the nineteenth century, after which guano deposits were largely depleted.  As at Howland and Baker, a small colony of Kamehameha School graduates was established in 1935, which became known as Hui Panala'au (Society of Colonists).  These colonists occupied these islands continually, in three-month shifts of four men per island, in an attempt to help the United States assert territorial jurisdiction over the islands, a jurisdiction crucial to air supremacy in the Pacific. Water and bulk food were supplied from Hawaii. During the period between 1935 and 1942 era; at least 26 trips were made to Jarvis Island by various United States Coast Guard (USCG) cutters. Jarvis Island was evacuated at the beginning of World War II and was unoccupied during the remainder of the war.

A Green Sea Turtle drifts gracefully by. 
Post World War II, there were no attempts to re-colonize the island, and in 1948 the United States Coast Guard began making annual visits to maintain claim to Jarvis. In March 1963, and for the following 2 years, Smithsonian Institution employees made a number of visits to Jarvis Island as part of the Pacific Ocean Biological Survey Program. The island and its territorial seas were transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1974 from the Department of the Interior. This area is now managed as a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System and in 2009 was established as part of the the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

No comments:

Post a Comment