Squalls squalls squalls! As we got further south and entered the ITCZ (inter-tropical conversion zone), also known as the doldrums, it became a wet and wild ride. It rained all day on Monday with wind speeds reaching up to 39kts. Some of us embraced the rain up on deck and enjoyed the relief from the heat, others took the opportunity to engage in some creative methods of laundry, and Alexis even baked us a cinnamon apple pie from scratch!
Just when people were starting to question if this Palmyra place was nothing but a cruel hoax, around 8am on Tuesday Alessandra exclaimed “Land Ho!” Sure enough, through the fog on the horizon we could just barely make out the outline of a strip of trees. As we approached Palmyra, we were greeted by a welcoming committee of dolphins that played on the bow and hundreds of red footed boobies that circled the mast. According to recent research, Palmyra may now have the largest colony in the world of red footed boobies, and I believe it, they are everywhere.
With careful navigation through the channel and lagoon, we made it to our anchorage spot. Apart from a few workers on Cooper Island, we have this special atoll all to ourselves! After putting the sails away, setting the awning, and building a few dinghies, we were off to the first snorkel site: Penguin Spit. Expectations were high as most people on board are scuba enthusiasts and have dove all over the world. When we all hopped in the water we were amazed. Over 150 species of vibrant coral stretched as far as the eye could see. It was a bustling underwater world with black tip reef sharks, manta rays, turtles, and countless amounts of reef fish and giant clams. All of us concurred that we have never seen a reef nearly as healthy in our lives, the arrangement of coral heads looked like they were carefully constructed in an aquarium.
The next morning we got up early to check out two more dive spots, Western Terrace and Crazy Corals. At these sites the ocean floor was decorated with rolling hills of coral. Some shoals were larger than a school bus. We lucked out with incredible visibility and spent the morning reveling in the the boundless underwater beauty. After lunch we decided to go explore Strawn Island. We walked along the shore quietly admiring all of the baby boobies perched in the trees as baby black tip reef sharks swam around us. Strawn is practically untouched aside from a few remaining World War II bunkers that are slowly being reclaimed by nature and gave the island a post-apocalyptic feel. Instead of housing soldiers and ammunition, these bunkers are now mansions for coconut crabs. These crabs are the size of a football and said to be delicious. For this reason, they are hard to find across the pacific but seem to be doing well here. With just a few days left in Palmyra, we are excited to explore as much of this tropical wonderland as we can.