09. Indian Ocean and South East Asia Coral Reef Mapping Expedition 1995 -2001
Coral reef systems around the world are undergoing rapid changes, and even the oldest and most established of reefs are being destroyed. An accumulating body of evidence, including the data gathered by the Biosphere 2 project, underlined the critical importance of the ocean’s coral reefs to the total system health of our planet. Members of Institute of Ecotechnics, and Heraclitus command structure founded the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation (PCRF) in 1991 (later the Biosphere Foundation), to communicate this new understanding of the role of the oceans’ reefs and the need to safeguard them against a wide range of man-made threats.
In collaboration with researchers, Dr. Phil Dustan of Charleston College developed new methods for remote monitoring of coral reef health (link). PCRF charted the Heraclitus and a base-line coral reef research program was developed to map and monitor coral reefs at selected sites around the world. Aside from conducting health and vitality studies on each reef, Heraclitus divers took core samples from large reef heads. These samples, returned to laboratories in the United States, provided critical data about the reefs including the history contained in their cores about past climate and atmospheric conditions, highly relevant to studies of global climate change.
In l995, the Heraclitus left Puerto Rico and headed across the Atlantic and Mediterranean to the Red Sea, where coral studies commenced in Jordan and then Hurgada, Egypt. Jacques Cousteau’s old underwater site was visited. All data gathered was sent to Dr. Dustan’s laboratory. The Heraclitus continued on to Oman, Mumbai, Maldives, Kenya, Sri Lanka (where Sir Arthur Clarke as always offered his assistance), then to Southeast Asia, including a trip to Vietnam where at Na Trang, the Heraclitus was used as a meeting place between the American ambassador and the head of VN commission arranging the new, precedent-breaking, trade agreement.
Raffles Marina in Singapore became the Heraclitus’ Indian Ocean Headquarters for the remainder of this expedition. Major repairs were done there and in Darwin, Australia. Coral reef explorations continued on from SE Asian countries to include the Coral Sea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, New Guinea.