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Jim Maragos writes about his Palmyra Passages


Linda asks: What I wouldn't give to see Palmyra. I'm so glad it's being protected.

I'm wondering though, is there any possibility the rat poison will run off into the ocean and contaminate the reefs? I DO understand the necessity of ridding the atoll of the rats. And I am sure that all possible negative repercussions have been addressed. I hope Dadu survives her move during the exodus of the dogs and cats for the attack on the rats.

I do wonder if there are creatures who now depend on the rats at least somewhat (or more than pre-rat) for their food or in other ways? How difficult it is to second-guess nature and to troubleshoot answers to the destruction of the environment.

Thank You,
Linda

Jim Murphy replies: Secondary poisoning risks at Palmyra are minimal because there are no raptors or land-birds or native mammals that might eat the rat carcasses. Wintering shorebirds and large land crabs will be excluded from the bait by the use of heavy-duty tamper-resistant bait boxes with rat-sized openings. The high density of small land crabs will necessitate compensation for bait loss but the toxicant has not been shown to be harmful to the crustaceans in previous island eradications (Morrel et al 1991), such as Midway Atoll which has more than twice the land area as Palmyra.





Farewell — Page 2

This is my final dispatch from Palmyra, a paradise unimaginable. Looking back, a week ago, I was nervous about entering the ocean. This afternoon, I could hardly wait to put on my mask and flippers to snorkel in the lagoon to see what was below. As a desert dweller, I realize I have never grasped the fact that we live on a water planet. I am just beginning to understand that now.

For me, the magic of Palmyra Atoll is found in the Coral Garden. The colors of the coral alone stop your heart: pink, purple, blue, gold, and green. Gliding over the garden, face down, you are inches away from the staggered terraces of table coral and staghorn, both in the genus Acropora. Tiny wrasses and gobies dart in and out like flames. Snorkeling through schools of angelfish and butterflyfish is like strolling through an art gallery in motion; each fish is a miniature abstract painting, yellow, white, and black. There is even a picassofish, who embodies the work of the famed artist. A little bird wrasse, turquoise-green, with a long, pointed beak, flies through the reef; its dorsal fins are wings. Pastel parrotfish gnaw on coral; we can thank them for creating sand. A striped damselfish keeps swimming up to my mask until I have no choice but to follow him.

Chouinard asks the right questions: "Why is every fish so outrageous? Why aren't they all silver? Why is America so bent on making everything the same?"

Coral reefs are a beautiful display of diversity. Each fish, large and small; each species of coral has its own special niche. And it all blends together perfectly.

"There is no fashion confusion," Yvon said smiling.

Jim Maragos, a world expert on Pacific corals, tells us this is the most beautiful, most pristine coral pool he has seen in his life. Of the 60 to 70 species found here, he has not found 20 of them anywhere else.

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