On Tuesday and Wednesday we went scuba diving. Our son, Kalan, went both days: I accompanied him on Tuesday and my wife went on Wednesday. (Kalan is really passionate about diving, which goes along with his desire to become a marine biologist when he’s older.) Kalan has cut his teeth diving in Lake Neuchatel – where visibility on a good day is a few metres – so this was a great opportunity for him.
I’m personally not such a huge fan of diving: I do enjoy it, but I’m really a landlubber at heart. This was a really enjoyable dive, though: we started out seeing a sea turtle (never a bad start) and then travelled around a ravine of coral, appreciating the various reef fish for 47 minutes. Not a deep dive – Kalan has his junior Open Water, but as he’s 13 he’s limited to around 18m – but really beautiful.
Our divemaster, Stephane, (from the excellent Moorea Blue Diving Center) mentioned that UC Berkeley has a research station on the island, the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station (or Gump Station, for short). When we got back to the house I fired off a quick, speculative email to see whether a budding marine biologist might be able to get a tour of the facility. We were really lucky: the administrative director of the facility, Mrs. Hinano Murphy, responded first thing in the morning to say we could swing by at 9am. Kalan’s next dive wasn’t until 12:30pm, so this was perfect. It was a 20-minute drive around the coast of Mo’orea (you can get around the whole island in about an hour and a quarter, give or take), and we found the place fairly easily.
It’s a discreet facility – there were no signs to help find it, for instance – and it does some interesting work.
One of the projects, which is truly fascinating, was the Mo’orea Biocode project, where the entire island – a tropical ecosystem – was catalogued from top to bottom. And literally from the top of its mountains to 100m off its shore. You have to check out its catalog of images. There are more than 2,500 gastropods photographed and catalogued, for instance.
The next step in this project is also really interesting, and is called Ethnocode: they plan to take the catalogue and cross-index it with knowledge from the local population on the various applications – perhaps for construction or medicine. This kind of cross-disciplinary research is extremely interesting. You can hear Mrs. Murphy talking about the importance of this activity here:
Many thanks to Mrs. Murphy and the staff from Gump Station for the warm welcome and great introduction to the work that is done there.
Thoroughly inspired, Kalan headed off for his second dive of the week. This time they went a little further to an area known for its sharks. Kalan and Celia swam with a couple of huge lemon sharks, which was a wonderful moment for them.
Mo’orea has very much lived up to our hopes and expectations. It’s a wonderful place, and we’ll definitely be back!
This afternoon we head back across to the mainland and tonight we’re flying off to Auckland to begin the New Zealand leg of our adventure.
By the way… if you’ve enjoyed these photos, you can see more (and more regularly) via our Instagram page.