Sorol Island, Yap, Micronesia

Apr 26, 2014 - National Geographic Orion


Sorol Island, Yap, Micronesia
Swirling snapper.
Sorol Island, Yap, Micronesia
Flame angel.
Sorol Island, Yap, Micronesia
Curious batfish.

Expedition ship travel has many advantages, with one of them certainly being the ability to explore remote places with no one around. The Pacific Ocean is filled with isolated islands, incredibly tempting for exploration. The Federated States of Micronesia is a huge area of ocean with a few small islands with population centers, and many other dots scattered on the charts. Today, we explored one of these little dots and found a pure gem.

Sorol Island, in Yap, was a bit of a mystery to us. Possibly having a population, possibly not open to visitors, it was difficult to know. Upon arrival to this postcard perfect atoll, it became more clear that it was uninhabited, and had been for quite a while. A large cyclone caused significant damage many years ago, and the people relocated to a different island. What was obviously bad for the people of Sorol, was really great for the wildlife, and for us.

A motu, or small islet, was absolutely swarming with birds. Seabirds were thriving, with active nesting of many species. For me, the undersea world was where the real action was. The absence of people fishing meant the return of fish. All around the snorkelers was an amazing assemblage of fish life, from the small and colorful to the big and toothy. Swirls of snappers, curious batfish, and blazing flame angelfish were some of the trophies from today. Add to this massive fish like giant sweetlips, trevally, barracuda schools, and various sharks, and the wildlife here was thriving.

Out of the way, isolated, and uninhabited, Sorol Island was a perfect spot for our day of exploration.

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About the Author

Mike Greenfelder

Undersea Specialist

Mike learned early on that the best way to escape Ohio was to become a marine biologist.  During college at Wittenberg University he attended a semester at Duke University's Marine Lab — that time only confirmed his love for all things oceanic and maritime.  After graduation, Mike promptly moved to Catalina Island in California where he taught marine biology to school kids.  Since 1999, Mike has been working and traveling chasing his three loves: marine critters, photography, and birds.

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