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.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Rose Atoll, part 1

By Kerry Grimshaw
Photograph by Jean Kenyon
This afternoon we began our transit to Rose Atoll which is about 240 km (130 nautical miles) to the east of Tutuila. It is often referred to as Rose Island or Motu O Manu (meaning “island of seabirds”) and is the only atoll in the US Territory of American Samoa.

Rose Atoll was first documented in 1819 by Captain Louis de Freycinet who named the isle “Rose” after his wife. It was later visited in 1824 by Otto von Kotzebue and in 1839 by Dr. Charles Pickering, as part of the US exploring expedition, who was likely the first scientist to visit the atoll. Rose Atoll has always been uninhabited except for a brief time in the 1860s when there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish a fishing station and coconut plantation by a German firm. In 1920 a concrete monument was erected on Rose Island by the naval governor of American Samoa to commemorate his visit and allow public access to the atoll. Later in 1941, President Roosevelt made the atoll a naval defense area, but it was never used for that purpose. Rose Atoll became a National Wildlife Refuge on July 5, 1973 and a Marine National Monument on January 6, 2009.

Photograph from noaa.coris.gov
The formation of coral atolls was first described by Charles Darwin during his 5 year voyage through the South Pacific aboard the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. An atoll starts with an oceanic volcano in tropical seas. A fringing coral reef forms on the flanks of the volcanic island and grows upward as the island subsides. The fringing reef separates from the island forming a lagoon as the inner part of the reef begins to subside along with the volcanic island forming a barrier reef. The outer edge of the barrier reef continues to grow and remains near sea level. Eventually the island completely subsides below the ocean surface leaving the barrier reef surrounding a lagoon thus forming a coral atoll.

We are looking forward to the diverse ecological community and habitats that an atoll provides. Rose Atoll will be only the 2nd atoll that we've visited on this mission (the other was Johnston Atoll) and it will be interesting to see how the coral reefs of Rose Atoll differ from those around Tutuila Island.

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