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  Field Notes From
Phoenix Islands

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From Author

Gregory Stone

Phoenix Islands On Assignment

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From Photographer

Paul Nicklen

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mary Jane Adams (top) and Paul Nicklen


Phoenix Islands

Field Notes From Author
Gregory Stone

Best Worst Quirkiest
    We visited Orona island, which is a very remote place. The villagers live in thatched huts and have no electricity or telephones. They hardly ever get any visitors. When we showed up to do our surveys, they threw an amazing party for us. They brought out all their best foods—and they don't have a lot of food—and put on a lavish banquet. They also performed their traditional Kiribati songs for us. It's an unusual way of singing, very shrill and without accompanying music. They sat on the ground and clapped and moved around while singing. The sound was very, very beautiful.

    It took us about five days to get to Orona island, and the passage got pretty rough sometimes. Things were banging around in the boat, and a lot of people got seasick. Fortunately, I didn't get sick, but I had to help look after the others. It was very tiring and uncomfortable to slam around in the big seas for five days.

    We went to a lagoon on Nikumaroro island that was full of baby sharks probably 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) long. Whenever I waded in to take pictures, they swarmed up and charged at my ankles. I didn't give them a chance to bite because I kept popping out of the water, but it was pretty unsettling. Imagine two dozen tiny sharks converging on your toes and ankles.


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