The Waitt Institute is pleased to announce that we are again hosting a National Geographic Pristine Seas1 expedition supporting the research of Explorer in Residence, Dr. Enric Sala2. It was just over a year ago that Dr. Sala and his fellow Explorer Mike Fay led the enormously successful expedition into the waters off Gabon. That effort culminated in a visit to the ship by the president of the country whom we were able to put in the pilot’s seat of the Waitt Institute’s Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon was so impressed with the importance of the ecosystem he was finally able to observe first hand that he promised on the spot to help lead the fight for protections of the area.
Fresh off his successful work in Franz Josef Land, Dr. Sala will join the Waitt Institute to lead the expedition into the crystal blue waters of New Caledonia, a small island nation slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey, located in the South Pacific, about 750 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. Enric will again be bringing his elite international team of scientists and divers aboard the ship provided by the Waitt Institute where they will partner with the local Institute de Recherche pour le Developement (IRD) to explore, survey and film remote reefs in the region.
Taking place from November 1st-21st, Enric’s team will complete two legs during the expedition and will be working from the port of Noumea. They will be performing dive surveys, make use the Institute-provided ROV for deeper explorations. At the end of the expedition, they’ll hold a reception in order inform local stakeholders of their results. The data they gather will be used to inform and support the commitment made last year by both the governments of Australia and New Caledonia to create a large marine park in the Coral Sea extending across the maritime boundary of the two countries. As with Enric’s other efforts, a documentary film will be produced during the expedition highlighting the pristine nature of the area and the efforts of the team to bring back data supporting its protection.
The team will work in several regions of New Caledonia, beginning on Chesterfield Banks which are located on the western edge of the country’s EEZ. This region has been little studied and is prime habitat for inclusion in a protected area. The latter half of the expedition will concentrate initially in the Entrecasteaux reefs, which the New Caledonian government has already committed to protect, and will then move through the Astrolabe, a pristine reef system known to have large fish biomass and abundant shark population. Current planning is to finish up with a trip to Petri, an unexplored reef that little is known about. The Waitt Institute is honored and well pleased to be working with Enric and his team again and we hope you will follow along. Resources