Distances around Diego Garcia atoll are much greater than in the northern atolls as the only exit from the lagoon is the pass at the north. The other atolls have several passes through which we can get to seaward sites. This means that it is either a very long boat trip to the work sites on the south of the atoll or we drive down there and dive from the shore, which is trickier than it sounds when you have to get through the breaking waves on the reef crest.

Pacific Marlin - photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Pacific Marlin - photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Les, the chief engineer, and the Pacific Marlin boat crew, have rigged a winch on the rib for team members Dr. Tom Letessier and Professor Jessica Meeuwig, to reel in the BRUV equipment. We are all looking forward to seeing what is down at depths where none of us have been able to observe before.

Yesterday’s dive site had high coral cover at 60% average over the reef, so recovery continues to be good and we are delighted at the continuing good health of the Diego Garcia reefs.

Pascaline Cotte, our trainee scientist, is a great help, with, we very much hope, a future in marine biology. With team members Catherine Head and Heather Koldewey, she was up until well after midnight helping to process samples. Dive Officer David Tickler was roped in too, I noticed.

Pascaline - photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Pascaline - photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Team member Pete Raines, who in the past created the NGO Coral Cay Conservation, has been a wonder with the expedition’s logistics. We have never been so well equipped and organised. Team member Robert (Bob) Long, the expedition doctor, has been working with team member Dr. Nick Graham the ichthyologist (“fish guy”), recording habitat data along Nick’s transects. He is now aware of the great difference between scientific diving and ‘tourist’ diving. Head down and keep writing on your board while all the local wildlife is lined up behind you!

Pete Carr, being based on Diego Garcia, has plenty of experience of the way things work here and has been marvellous help in obtaining information and equipment. He will be charting and counting the bird colonies on the islands in the northern atolls, a solitary job with only his radio and GPS for company.

Tonight we set sail for Salomons Atoll, always a favorite with every expedition. The next blog entry will come from there.

Previously in this series:

Conserving Chagos: Science Expedition to World’s Largest “Ocean Park”

Conserving Chagos: Starting Out

Conserving Chagos: Manta Rays