Thursday | August 11, 2005
The perfect atoll?
This morning we woke up inside the perfect lagoon: turquoise waters surrounded by a ring of lush vegetation. Tabuaeran is a gorgeous atoll, 9 miles long by 6 miles wide, shaped as a footprint. It has also been called Tapuaerangi, which means �heavinly footprint.� Beaches are immaculate and picturesque, with abundant native plants and coconut trees. Locals wear colorful sarongs and have permanent smiles on their faces. What we see here is the postcard picture that makes urban people dream about paradise.
On the western side of the atoll there is a break 100 meters wide. There is a 5 knot current through this channel at ebb and flow. This is a current that an olympic gold medalist could not swim against. Our captain, Vince Backen, masterly maneuvered the ship smoothly through the channel into the lagoon, and anchored the White Holly near English Harbour, a small settlement that once was the headquarters of a copra plantation. The ship will stay anchored here, in its comfortable shelter, for five days while we survey the coral reefs around Tabuaeran.
We will dive on the leeward side, the protected western side of the atoll. Most of the winds and waves come from the east and southeast. Thus we should have ideal diving conditions, save for a gentle swell that rocks us softly underwater. We will dive both north and south of the channel.
Shortly after arrival we were invited to a bonfire party at English Harbour, where we met, ate, drank and danced with the locals. This seemed like a paradise island to us, the perfect atoll. Is it really? Diving will reveal whether the tip of the iceberg looks as its submerged part, whether the reefs look as idyllic as the land.
We are all concerned about the ongoing trajectory of degradation of coral reefs. However, our team can find beauty wherever there is life.