Diving and flying at Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll, 950 miles south of Hawaii, is a National Fish and Wildlife Refuge where fishing is not allowed within the 12-mile Refuge boundary. Consequently, the fish life in the area is incredible. We’d done several dives there and were amazed at the abundance, health and diversity of the fish and coral life. These dives were all in the relatively shallow waters inside the reef though–we really wanted to explore the deeper outer reef walls. But anchoring, even of a tender, is prohibited except at designated locations inside the reef, and the only dive moorings are all inside the reef as well. Luckily, Amanda Pollock, the Wildlife Refuge Manager for Palmyra, offered to live-boat our tender for us.

Amanda took us to two sites, the first outside Penguin Spit and the second at a site called Megajacks. (On this map, Penguin Spit as at the lower left and Megajacks is off the left side of the map, west of the Rubble Pile.) Both dives were fabulous–excellent coral with lots of fish and plenty of sharks. And, as you’d expect from the name, we saw lots of Jacks at Megajacks. The two videos below show highlights from each dive. So that Amanda could track our position, Jennifer is carrying a spool of line running to a small surface float.

The Nature Conservancy flies a Gulfstream jet between Honolulu and the “Palmyra International Airport” to transport guests, staff and provisions on and off the atoll. While we were there, the Gulfstream landed three times–Amanda said they hadn’t had that many landings in a single week probably since the US military was based there during World War II. We only saw two take-offs though–the final group of guests left after we did and kept the plane at Palmyra for the duration of their stay.

When the plane arrives, you can sit at the end of the runway and watch as it flies directly at you and passes perhaps fifty feet overhead. It takes some control not to want to run when a plane is heading right at you. But were the plane to crash, running wouldn’t help much anyway. The video below was shot slightly to the side of the runway, but the picture at the top of this blog was taken from the directly under the flight path (at the bushes between the beach and the runway in the video). At the start of the video, Eric Pohlman of the Nature Conservancy says “Attention all radios. … “. For safety reasons, everyone on Palmyra must carry or otherwise monitor a radio tuned to channel 09 and report their location to the base camp when they move about the atoll.

We didn’t post these videos earlier due to the high cost and, at times, poor quality connectivity. In Fiji, the connectivity is cheaper than in the US, and very high quality.

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3 comments on “Diving and flying at Palmyra Atoll
  1. Peter de Barra says:

    Dream trip : EINN – ANC – PLPA … from mist, to ice to the atoll …

  2. Yeah, it was great looking back at the Palmyra trip. It was a great way to start what has been an incredibly fun adventure.

    I’ve in Seattle for the last two weeks but we are looking forward to getting back to exploring mode and seeing more of Fiji soon.


  3. Jacques Vuye says:

    Great videos! The HD versions are indeed so much better…only next best to being there!
    And it is a nice way to look back to your trip…when I think at all the miles you have covered and all the places that you have explored.
    Really nice "post cards" for us mere "dirt dwellers", thanks!

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