Apr 27, 2019 - National Geographic Orion
There is something special about waking at sea. We have all traveled quite a ways to get here, and the arrival day is always full of briefings, logistics, and luggage. By morning, we wake and step out from our cabins, the warmth and wind wrapping around. Far removed from land, and the sheer expanse of the South Pacific begins to sink in.
We spent the morning organizing. After a hardy breakfast, we met the expedition team and went over the operation essentials for the Zodiacs, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment. It was then time to get kitted out with our underwater gear.
Over the lunch hour, our captain and bridge team brought the ship through a narrow pass on the Apataki atoll, the first to be visited. These islands are so low—not much higher than the coconut palms that grow on them—that we don’t see them until we are nearly there.
Closer to the pass, the water turned to varying shades of turquoise. As the hues began to brighten, flying fish lept from the water near our bow. We watched them surface by the dozens from just below, tracking also the black and brown noddies and brown boobies in the sky.
Waters are expansive here. The lagoon itself being too great to see across. We managed to find a nice patch of shallow coral that we could access from the beach. While some went inland for a nature walk, most kept to the lagoon. This was our first taste of Polynesia’s underwater ecosystem we’ll be exploring for the next two weeks. Luckily, our undersea specialist will give us a primer on fish identification tomorrow.
Captain Heidi Norling welcomed us all on board officially this evening before dinner. We find ourselves in welcoming company and crew, and at the beginning of two remarkable weeks of wonder and exploration ahead.
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