A team of scientists and educators left O’ahu Tuesday on a month-long research
expedition to conduct a first-ever, comprehensive mapping of the coral system
of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The plan is to generate data that
wil help protect the pristine coral reefs and marine life found in the
The region contains 70 percent of the coral found in the United
The health of coral reef is critical to many endangered species,
including the green sea turtle and Hawaiian monk seal, and the reef “is showing
signs of damage from a lot of different sources,” according to a spokesperson
with the expedition.
Meetings to generate public opinion on how to protect
the resources were recently held across the state, including Kaua’i. They were
requested by President Clinton, who asked the heads of the U.S. Commerce and
the Interior departments for recommendations on protecting the ecosystem of the
Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
The 26-member team, including members from the
state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the University of Hawai’i,
will conduct their mission aboard the Rapture, a vessel operated by Certified
The Rapture, which left from Sand Island on O’ahu, and
a sister vessel, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship
Townsend Cromwell, which left O’ahu Sept. 8, will play key roles in the
The Cromwell will conduct video assessments of the reef and
pinpoint areas that warrant further study.
Researchers aboard the Rapture
will do followup assessments of the reef areas. The first-ever detailed maps of
the archipelago and reef habitats also will be produced from new satellite
images and other remote sensing information.
The cooperation among agencies
and the use of high-technology equipment are unprecedented, officials
A media and education team, comprised of professional photographers,
writers and educators, will document the research trip.
By satellite, they
will send daily news updates and images to people in Hawai’i and around the
world wanting a glimpse of the wildlife, geology and historic artifacts found
on the islands, islets and atolls, according to Debra Ward, spokeswoman for the
state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The daily updates and
still images are available to the public at http://explorers.bishop
Using the Web site and educational materials, fourth,
fifth and sixth graders in elementary schools also can follow the progress of
the expedition, officials said.
A limited number of live call-ins from the
vessel to classrooms also will be made available to schools on a first-come,
Additional information is available from Liza Simon at
587-0365 or Barbara Maxfield at 541-2749.
Staff writer Lester Chang
can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and[