United Kingdom
-25.0667, -130.1
March 2012

Pristine Seas Expeditions - Pitcairn

In 1789, the H.M.S. Bounty mutineers, evading British justice, set off from Tahiti in search of a refuge. What they found was one of the most remote islands on Earth, located thousands of kilometers from any continent. In an act that sealed their fates, the group sank the Bounty off the island’s coast—and remained there, undiscovered, for 18 years.

Today the Pitcairn Islands are among the last of the British overseas territories, and Pitcairn itself is home to fewer than 60 people. Many are the direct descendants of the Bounty’s Fletcher Christian, his fellow mutineers, and their Polynesian companions. They are the only inhabitants of an archipelago of four far-flung islands and atolls. These include Ducie, the world’s southernmost atoll and one of the most remote on the planet; Henderson, a raised coral bed topped with rugged greenery; and Oeno, the closest of the islands to populated neighbor French Polynesia.

Due to their remoteness and low human population, these islands harbor marine wildlife in an almost pristine state, including intact deep-sea habitats with many species new to science.

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In March 2012, Pristine Seas, in cooperation with the PEW Charitable Trusts, undertook a month-long expedition to determine the health of the marine environment surrounding the four Pitcairn Islands. Over the course of the expedition, the team of top marine ecologists and filmmakers made 384 dives, spent more than 450 person-hours underwater, and counted and measured thousands of species of fish, coral, and algae. What they found were exquisite and highly functional ecosystems, beginning with that of remote Ducie atoll.

Species never before reported at Pitcairn included those of algae, corals, reef fishes, and rare deep-sea sharks. The expedition even revealed the world’s deepest known living plant, a species of encrusting coralline alga found at 382 meters.

Following the expedition, the Pristine Seas team worked with the Pitcairn Island Council and PEW to draft a proposal for a no-take marine reserve that would cover the islands’ entire exclusive economic zone. The community voted unanimously in favor of creating the reserve, and in March 2015, the British government established the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve. At 834,334 square kilometers, it is among the world’s largest ocean reserves. No fishing or seafloor mining is allowed in the reserve, with the exception of traditional fishing around the island of Pitcairn by the local population.

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The movies

Pristine Seas Expeditions - Pitcairn 1
Pristine Seas Expeditions - Pitcairn 2