After days of worrying about our friends in Vanuatu, we received word that they were okay last night. They also indicated that we were welcome to make our way to visit them in Espiritu Santo. This happy news came as we were exiting the tropical paradise of New Caledonia to begin the voyage north. The long distance between New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo requires a day of travel, so today was a day at sea. The Coral Sea contains numerous islands and reefs, as well as the world's largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. The Battle of the Coral Sea, a significant conflict involving the navies of the Empire of Japan, the United States, and Australia, took place in this sea during World War II.
Like most days, today began with the birders rising before the sun to scan the horizon. Sea days are nice for taking it easy and enjoying our ocean view, starting with breakfast at the outdoor café. Throughout the day, we enjoyed three presentations: “There Are No Moa: Evolution and Extinction on Islands,” with ornithologist Pepper Trail, “Expedition Photographs,” with photo instructor Mike Rigney, and, “Top 10 Reef Fish Families,” with naturalist Mike Greenfelder. Midafternoon, our hotel team set up a tasty ice cream social to get us out of naptime. What a great surprise.
After a nice, lazy day that led into cocktail hour and a humor-filled recap, we all went to sleep excited to wake up to our first glimpses of Vanuatu.