Professor Charles Sheppard with the University of Warwick in the UK has led several scientific research expeditions to the Chagos Archipelago. Following early visits in the 1970s, expeditions he has organised since 1996 have involved over 100 scientists from numerous institutions, chosen to produce an integrated understanding of this archipelago. His speciality is the condition of coral reefs, especially those around the world that have suffered from human impacts. This specialization quickly led to recognition of the contrasting, remarkable, and unique condition of the huge area of reefs in Chagos: Chagos has escaped most of the impacts that have affected most of the world.
BRUV stereo camera rigs being set up; photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust
This morning, we did a ‘shakedown’ dive to check the dive equipment and see how some of the specialised equipment performed. In the afternoon, we did the first of the ‘work’ dives, recording cryptic fauna, coral cover, recovering temperature data loggers and some pretty complicated stuff to do with the Baited Remote Underwater Video Cameras, or BRUV, work, which involves a set of stereo underwater HD video systems for collecting fish data in deeper water.
Only some members of our team have dived in Chagos before. The rest of the team, who are all experienced divers and have worked on reefs all over the world, were amazed at the abundance of life on the reef and in the water at Diego Garcia.
Manta Ray AnneSheppard; photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust
We saw manta rays, eagle rays, sharks, turtles and dolphins. There was high coral cover, and more fish than you would believe. Although there is probably nowhere in the world that could be called truly pristine, this place comes about as close as you can get.
We captured some footage of the mantas (captured with a little diversion by the BRUV stereo video system) and after processing it we will upload it for you to see, along with some other photos.