Sunday, July 3, 2011

Henderson Island Recap

I expected white sand, bits of coral, and perhaps some discarded fishing gear that had been lost overboard from the boating industry.

I did not expect a Panteen PRO-Vitamin plastic cap.

I did not expect to swim with Reef Sharks, which was incredible! But I would have expected there to be a whole lot more of them if I had thought about it.

I did not expect to turn on my camera, swim into shore and have ZERO fish cross the frame. 

Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A title that in my mind conjures up the false pretense that this place is safe.  There might be a lot of pillaged natural habitats in the world, but with a stamp like World Heritage Site, my god this island has to be left alone!

I was wrong. 

I saw direct evidence of over fishing, trash dumping and shark fining right in front of my eyes in our eight-ish hours anchored off of its shores. 

These are my observations. Take them or leave them. 

But days later while on Pitcairn Island, I heard stories from the islanders hailing fishing boats on their horizon that were not supposed to be trawling in the many thousand miles of Marine Protected Areas around their coasts. 

"What happens when you contact them?" I said.

"They cut their lights and run."

'Cut and run to Henderson Island' I thought.

"We can't enforce the MPA since we have no boats to get to them in time. And we know they don't leave the area."

Titles and laws without enforcement mean little. Especially out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.


  1. This whole travelogue is so beautiful, and so painful. Personal question, if I may. Did the trip leave you overwhelmed or inspired? Or caught in some murky mist between the two?

    I go back and forth with where my head & heart are just from what I see here in the Gulf of Maine. I can only imagine the range of emotion seeing the best & worst out in the middle of such vastness!

  2. Harry - The trip left me overwhelmed and inspired. I was challenged on so many levels. I tried to answer you more fully in my latest post, "For the Birds..." Thank you for asking me. Ask away. It feels good to relay my experience. I went to bring it back to share.