Situated just north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are a remote archipelago of 115 islands. Though the islands are known as a celebrity vacation destination, they hold natural treasures far greater in value. The Outer Seychelles Islands are home to pristine miniature worlds that contain untouched habitats teeming with wildlife.
In its first expedition of 2015, the Pristine Seas team journeyed to the island groups of Aldabra and Cosmoledo within the Seychelles to explore their unknown marine environments. This international team of scientists and filmmakers measured and illuminated the abundance of marine life from the smallest to the largest organisms—from microbes to megafauna.
The southernmost islands of French Polynesia have long been a respite for nature from the reach of man, remote as they are in an already remote region. The people of Rapa have noted that protecting this area from fishing and other extraction will go a long way toward helping to reach the goal—set by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy—of protecting 20 percent of France’s waters around the world.
National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, together with PEW and CRIOBE (Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement), have conducted an expedition to Rapa Iti and nearby Marotiri to explore their waters and report back on the numbers of species and individuals present in the shallows, at the seafloor, and out in the open ocean, using divers as well as drop and drift cameras.
In 2012, the governments of New Caledonia and Australia announced their commitment to create a large marine park in the Coral Sea extending across the maritime boundary between these two countries. However, a large portion of the Coral Sea in New Caledonia, in particular the remote Chesterfield Banks on the western region, have barely been explored.
In November 2013, National Geographic partnered with the Waitt Institute, the Université de Nouvelle-Calédonie and France's Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) to explore, survey, and film these remote reefs through a Pristine Seas expedition
Franz Josef Land, a remote Russian archipelago, harbors a wild Arctic ecosystem that includes polar bears, walruses, whales, seals, and large nesting colonies of seabirds. But global warming may be affecting this remote ecosystem in ways we still do not fully comprehend.
In July-August 2013, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala led a Pristine Seas expedition to Franz Josef Land in collaboration with Russkaya Arktika National Park, the Russian Geographical Society, and National Geographic. An international group of scientists and filmmakers assessed how pristine the ocean-land ecosystem is and compared its current state with historical scientific baselines and photographs obtained by explorers in the late 1800s.