Return to Papeete and demobilisation
So after sailing just over 1,000 nautical miles and visiting three pristine tropical islands, the expedition is over and we have returned to Papeete.
In 12 days working on science stations, we have carried out 372 dives, counted over 250,000 fish of 190 species on underwater visual census transects, assessed coral and algal species cover, completed 2700m2 of coral photo-mosaics, and taken 50 coral cores. We have also found what is almost certainly a new coral species, taken extensive water samples for eDNA, deployed 13 deep-sea drop cameras, 95 pelagic BRUVs and deployed four oceanographic Aqualink buoys.
In addition, we have shot 16TB of film for a documentary about the expedition and taken thousands of still images for a National Geographic magazine article.
A huge amount of work will now be required to work up the data and compare the results with the previously collected 2009 dataset. But what is clear is that unlike some reefs that have been severely impacted by major bleaching events, the reefs of the Southern Lines Islands – although certainly impacted by the 2015/16 warming event – are still some of the most pristine in the Pacific and clearly recovering. The interesting challenge will be to understand why even after a much more severe warming event than the Great Barrier Reef – a reef severely