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Discovering and studying Oeno Island
While Marc A. Hayek was still on his way to join the expedition in Pitcairn, National Geographic explorers were heading to their fourth and last diving location: Oeno Island. After exploring Pitcairn, Ducie & Henderson with very variable conditions, Enric Sala and his team were ready for new surprises at Oeno Island.
"We were surprised by our two first dives at Oeno. We saw only one shark, but instead saw hundreds of groupers. The curious fishes came to check us out as though we were aliens from another planet, swimming around us and looking at us with big, amazed eyes. What a first impression of Oeno! "
The first day at Oeno pleased the explorers with good diving conditions and sunny weather. The whole crew was blown away by the amazing beauty of this location and they quickly started to call it "paradise". The scenery seemed to come right out of a postcard, with everything you can dream of for perfect holidays. In fact many Pitcairners come here for extended vacations. But no matter how stunning the place looks, there isn't much holiday time on the tight schedule of National Geographic team, as they know from experience that weather can change in just a couple of hours in these remote pacific areas.
Photo by Andrew Howley
The next day, things were looking completely different. Grey and dark coulours replaced the perfect blue in the sky and threatening winds were slowly building a stronger swell. The team decided to enter the Oeno Lagoon, to benefit some better conditions. Getting through the pass was definitely a big challenge, but thanks to the wise advices of Nigel Jolly, the owner of the Claymore II, and Neil Broughton, the captain, they took two small boats, waited for the right set of waves and found the good timing to avoid rocks.
"We held onto our boats praying for an easy entrance, and made it without problems."
Once in the lagoon, the team quickly jumped in the water and started working under strong rainfalls. A very dark sky reduced the underwater visibility, but thanks to the shallow depth of the lagoon, they could bring back some footage.
Enric Sala working in Oeno Lagoon. Photo by Andrew Howley
After spotting a few whitetip reef sharks, weather really begun to turn rough and unsafe and despite the efforts of the whole crew, when nature decides to get bad, there is nothing you can do.
A threatening sky at Oeno Lagoon. Photo by Andrew Howley
Wisely and professionaly, they all agreed on the decision to quit the Lagoon and get back to the ship before getting caught in a dangerous storm.
"Neil suddenly told us to hold on, and off we went for a third time, hitting the breaking waves straight on, and jumping noisily. He masterfully took us out of the danger zone. Nathan, who was on the jet boat, told us that a couple of times our boat had jumped completely out of the water. Once outside of the atoll, we all breathed with relief. Some days at sea are like today: a lot of effort, white knuckles, fast heartbeat, and not many results. It takes perseverance and determination to complete an expedition successfully."
After this adventurous day, the team had to take time to study the weather forecast before taking further decisions.