November 29 and Sunday, November 30th.
Pictures include scenes from several islands in the Kiribati Islands: several natives show the giant coconut crabs. There is a marker for Millennium Atoll where the Frenchman lived on his old sailboat for 10 years. Also pictured are black face boogie birds.
Skies clear, seas calm as we cruised to two of the most remote and pristine atolls on earth at 10 degrees latitude south. Flint Island is part of the Southern Line Islands and 400 nautical miles northwest of Tahiti. Magellan first landed here in 1521, but since there was not much here he sailed on leaving only rats to inhabit the island. Today we took zodiacs on shore through the reef with waves splashing violently on both sides. There is a very narrow cut through the reef our explorers found. We spent about two hours exploring the island that is part of the 1856 U.S. Guano Act meaning the U.S. could collect Guano for fertilizer if they wanted, but apparently never have. The island is a bird haven for nesting birds: boobies, frigates, terns etc. And, the inside of the island sounds like an aviary. Everywhere we looked were nesting birds. But, also rats roamed the island making it difficult for hatching. The surprising find were large coconut crabs—about 4 feet across with tremendous claws. The one we found on the beach had a huge egg case underneath.
The second day, we stopped at Millennium Atoll reputed to be the first place other than Antarctica to usher in the Millennium. At the edge of the Atoll is a monument to the Millennium and close by a pile of old champagne bottles. In the shallows black tipped sharks swam lazily. There is a sailboat on this island with a man living in it. We zodiaced over to talk with him—a Frenchman who said he’d been there for 10 years. It is a 5-day sail, he said to Tahiti. I used my limited French and he was very accommodating. He wanted us to take a letter to his mother.
Heading to the north part of the interior of the atoll, dodging huge coral mounds, we got out and snorkeled in a very protected bay with beautiful clams exhibiting colors of purple, blue, green and yellow obtained from nearby algae. Lots of reef sharks, angelfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, and damselfish swam about us. With crystal clear waters, calm and clear, the snorkeling presented a wonderful array of underwater entertainment.
Both afternoons we snorkeled outside the atolls along the reefs, but the currents and surges made swimming more difficult than the pristine swims among beautiful coral mounds inside the atolls. It is assumed that barring any huge storms, these atolls will be filled in with coral in years to come.
A sighting today of beaked whales in a pod of about 10 swam off our stern. These are rare whales without much information on them. They are toothed and feed mainly on squid. Our divers jumped into zodiacs and tried to swim with them, but they never resurfaced.
One unfortunate happening today involved the Frenchman who lived on Millennium Atoll. Seven Kiribati officials on board are required for a trip like this and went on shore to confront the Frenchman. The Frenchman grew his own marijuana and probably had assorted other drugs in his cabin. The “officials” wanted our ship to confiscate the marijuana, but finally, they decided to just pull up the plants and throw them into the bay. The captain would not permit the marijuana on board his vessel. Poor guy had been living a peaceful life for 10 years there. The same officials yesterday took fruit ashore to entice the coconut crabs into their buckets. They wanted to eat the crabs, but National Geographic prohibited then from doing this since the crabs are very rare. The officials lied to the captain saying they were taking buckets ashore to keep themselves cool. So, their dishonesty seems all right for them, but not for the poor Frenchman who had peacefully been living on his boat in the bay for 10 years.