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Pitcairn Islands Study Center

A Visit to Ducie Island (April 1998)

--John and Jean Frazier (From Mark Winthrop of Copenhagen, Denmark.) Used by permission. (

As for the Pitcairn Island group, the first island we met travelling from the east was Ducie. It is an uninhabited island as are Henderson and Oeno. From our ship we would typically descend a gangway to board a Zodiac that was capable of holding 10-12 passengers. Landing on these islands required motoring the Zodiacs through breaks in the surrounding coral reefs. In these cases we'd land in the morning and return toward noon or mid afternoon. Tide changes often left us toward low tide that would make for some serious planning to traverse the breaks in the reef without bottoming out. The Zodiacs did a great job of avoiding the coral, but during the trip some of our fellow passengers and support staff wore bandages and acquired scabs from personal meetings with the coral.

Photograph of people on a beach
Landing on outside of the 'C' shaped island

Ducie made for a wonderful day. The seas cooperated and gave us a great day for landing. Our expedition leader was known by many of the passengers from past trips and historically he seemed to have amazing connections with a greater power to obtain good weather when needed. High winds translate to rough seas and the resulting swells make getting from a gangway landing to a Zodiac not just a challenge, but a potentially dangerous experience. You'd think if the weather were bad you might have the option of just waiting for good weather, but having a schedule means you have to move on or sacrifice something else along the way if you choose to wait.

Ducie is an atoll and is shaped like a 'C'. We landed on the outside of the 'C' shape and on the left center as written. On the inside of the 'C' shaped atoll is a lagoon. We did get to eat lunch on the island and even snorkel in the lagoon. The birds we saw included the Masked Booby, the Murphy's Petrel, the common Fairy Tern, and the Great Frigate Bird.

Photograph of bushes and trees, with beach in the foreground
Boobies tend to reside near the edge of vegetation, ocean is behind camera.

The lagoon had wonderful colours. On the outside of the island there is constant abrasion from the surf so the coral beach is very white. On the inside near the lagoon the coral beach is extremely gray from a blue-gray algae that has the opportunity to cover the coral because this area is protected in large part from the surf.

Photograph of a hand holding coral
The lagoon side of the island's beach is also coral covered, but is gray due to blue/gray algae. If one snaps a piece of coral one sees the white coral colour at some depth. If one digs down about 6-8 inches one will also find white coral.

The island is rarely visited. Any floating trash that is in the ocean travels until it finds a piece of land it can rest on. This is the only island for a very large stretch of the planet. The island has an incredible amount of plastic, fish line, and glass that is washed ashore. There are lots of buoys and floats probably from fishing nets. Our group spent a good bit of time cleaning up and bagging some trash that at the end of the day was hauled back to the ship. The poor Russian that was in charge of sorting trash between items that could be incinerated and those that would be carried to an appropriate landfill wasn't too happy, but we think everyone else found it the proper thing to do.

Photograph of buoys under some branches
Buoys were noticed in many locations on the island. We do not know if these are really buoys or whether they are floats from fishing nets.
Close up of some branches and leaves
The island is in large part covered by Beach Heliotrope (Argusia argentea).
Photograph of walking area with trees all along its side
Walking inland from lagoon side of island. We found an opening in vegetation and walked a ways inland. We noticed that trash was carried far from the shore. This trash consisted mostly of buoys.
Photograph of some people walking along the path
Path that crosses the island from outside of 'C' to the inside with the lagoon. This should give you a good indicator of vegetation height.
Photograph of people in the lagoon
A couple of staff were in the lagoon with scuba gear from the ship. When we visited Pitcairn these two guys actually visited the remains of the Bounty in Bounty Bay.


Photos and text by John and Jean Frazier (From Mark Winthrop of Copenhagen, Denmark. Used by permission.  (

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