Naitauba's sea temperature monitoring program underway! - Part II

With two men in the boat and three in the water, anchoring the loggers in place was a great chance to develop teamwork. We had pre-planned as much as we could, but coordinating everything from with free-divers at 10 meters depth was a real learning experience, especially at our first location outside the reef. Fortunately, weather and sea conditions cooperated beautifully, with excellent visibility.

Installation of Onset’s HOBO data loggers on Naitauba’s reef

Our anchors were cement-filled cinder blocks, with rope handles and a tether rope for lowering them. We added some floats to help us maneuver them down into position.

Once we had chosen a location on the reef, we clipped the loggers onto the blocks, lowered them to the proper depth, and settled them securely in place. After we had confirmed the depth with a tape measure, we took off the tether rope. Then we took underwater site photos, GPS coordinates, and photos of shoreline reference points to help us find our way back.

Working outside the reef is always a treasured opportunity to see parts of the reef that are usually beyond our reach.  But even so, this was something special. How to describe it - the afternoon sun filtering to the depths where we were suspended, compression perfectly canceling buoyancy and gravity into a calm that even forgot about breathing, at least for a moment - gazing down the inconceivably vast slopes and cliffs of the undersea mountaintop that we live on, and the blue immensity that extends everywhere out and beyond and down. Well, soon enough, the urgency of breath re-emerged and we started the long glide back up.

We saw many new fish and added six species to our identification list.

We also got a chance to see some very different reef environments. On the relatively sheltered west side of the Island, the coral growth overall is more dense and the coral formations larger.

In contrast, the exposed eastern side seems much more stark and bare, a bit like a mountain top above treeline. There are thousands of coral colonies scattered over the reef slope, smaller and with more space between than on the sheltered side.

But the fish life there is incredibly dynamic, with schools of small fish constantly hovering and darting around and above the slopes, and occasional schools of larger fish speeding by and vanishing quickly into the vast blue again.

Once the outer reef loggers were in place, we crossed back inside the reef and placed the remaining two loggers near easily identifiable coral formations. The shallower of the two is in the midst of corals that were bleached in January’s hot sunny weather, so it will serve as an early warning outpost when temperatures start to rise again.

Now, the loggers are all in place, doing their steady silent work. We look forward with anticipation to see the unfolding story that they will tell.

So much hangs in the balance for the reef, for the oceans, and for the world!

Naitauba's sea temperature monitoring program underway! - Part I


With our Onset HOBO data loggers in hand and ready to go, the next challenge quickly emerged―we needed to place them securely on the reef and make sure we will be able to find them again when it’s time to retrieve their precious data.

We wanted the initial monitoring sites to give us the fullest representative picture of the entire reef possible.

We decided to measure sea temperatures outside the reef on the two opposite ends of the Island―the exposed eastern side, facing the oncoming trade winds, wave action, and currents,  and the more sheltered western side.

We also decided to place loggers at sites inside the reef, too, in accessible locations that are easy for us to re-locate so that we can check them frequently and so remain vigilant for rising temperatures that could threaten the reef.  

We chose a sunny Saturday afternoon for the installation. We took our underwater camera to document the process, and have included a small sample of the resulting images here...

Photo of one of the loggers in position on the outer reef slope of Naitauba's reef. This one is set at 10 meters depth, with the block well-secured in a crevice.

Installation of Onset’s HOBO data loggers on Naitauba’s reef

Installation of Onset’s HOBO data loggers on Naitauba’s reef

Installation of Onset’s HOBO data loggers on Naitauba’s reef

Check again soon for Part II about our discoveries while installing the loggers!

February/March 2014 Update - Tracking sea temperatures on the reef


Rising sea temperatures pose one of the greatest threats to Naitauba's coral reef. Rising sea temperatures threaten the very survival of Naitauba's reef and the intricate web of life that depends on it.

Localized bleaching on the upper areas of a coral formation just off Lion's Lap beach

Localized bleaching on the upper areas of a coral formation just off Lion's Lap beach

Both photos: Localized bleaching on the upper areas of a coral formation just off Lion's Lap beach that we discovered end of last month.

Monitoring sea temperatures is fundamental to our efforts of preserving Naitauba's reef.

For this reason, we are completely overjoyed to receive a generous contribution from a US-based leader in the field of environmental monitoring and data logging. The Onset Computer Corporation of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has donated four of their HOBO U22 water temperature data loggers, a base station, and their proprietary HOBOware data management software to the Naitauba Reef Initiative.

HOBO data loggers to monitor water temperatures sponsored by ONSET

HOBO data loggers to monitor water temperatures around Naitauba's reef sponsored by ONSET.

The equipment has arrived on Naitauba and we are already seeing that the new data they provide will transform our understanding of the reef system. Onset's data loggers will give us the capability to detect potentially damaging increases in local sea temperature and to see how the changes in sea temperature translate into impacts on the reef's coral.

With helpful guidance from the USP reef study team, we are making plans to anchor the loggers at key locations on Naitauba's reef where they will give us a continuous record of sea water temperatures. We want to gather as much data as possible during this time of the year when sea temperatures reach their highest levels and the danger of coral bleaching is greatest.

This is a critical step in our preparation for the USP reef team's next visit to Naitauba, now slated for June.

We'll be looking for your help to make that visit a reality, and will be posting more about our plans soon.

- The Naitauba Reef Initiative team


January 2014 Update - Underwater slideshow

Play slideshow
(Music by John Wubbenhorst:
One of the joys of underwater photography is the magical moment when one discovers sea creatures so focused in their own activities that they do not notice the presence of the photographer.
The images in this slideshow were taken while snorkeling along an underwater ridge in about 10 feet of clear water. A cloud of stirred-up sediment rising from the bottom drew us to explore its source. We found a large old ray quietly churning across the silt-covered bottom, finding his food and creating a plume that drifted off with the gentle current.

July 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part III

This year, we have already gotten a warning that we need to be on the lookout for a new danger to the reef. In February, we spotted four crown of thorns starfish on the reef offshore from Homecoming Wharf.
The crown of thorns starfish is a coral predator that eats coral polyps. Under certain conditions (which are not yet well-understood) it can reproduce in tremendous numbers and can destroy

May 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part II

In our April update we started taking a look at some of the different aspects involved in our efforts to monitor and preserve the coral reef around Naitauba Island. This month we are continuing our glimpse "behind-the-scenes":

We’ve worked out a simple system for labeling and archiving our photos, and have started a fish identification archive to document the fish species that we are able to photograph and identify.

The following are a few samples:

April 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part I

The USP reef team’s visit to Naitauba last year was an eye-opening opportunity for Naitauba Island resident staff to participate with the team and get a glimpse of a treasure beyond description—a treasure that we must protect and preserve in perpetuity, as fully as can be done. (Sadly, the challenges are severe. Some predictions say that within the next 50-100 years, coral reefs could all be destroyed by a combination of global warming, ocean acidification, and other forms of human interference.)

December 2012 - Review & new plans

2012 was a year of new beginnings for the Naitauba Reef Preservation Initiative, and we want to take this opportunity to thank the individuals who helped make it possible. Your support has been especially helpful as it has given us a chance to make new friends who have given us a fresh view of the reef. Now, we need to gather our resources again and make plans to move forward in 2013.

October 2012 - Unusual sign of reef diversity...

On one of the patch reefs off the Wharf we recently made a special find. At first glance it might even look like modern art... but is actually a computer keyboard likely washed into the lagoon during Hurricane Tomas. It has been richly decorated with colorful coralline algae, tiny new coral colonies, bryozoans, and a host of other living things, an unusual sign of the richness of Naitauba's reef!

August 2012 - Outlook

Looking back at the survey team's visit in June, we all feel that it is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the survey team and the University. The team members had many useful observations about the state of the reef, and can see many directions to explore regarding ways to support its growth and well-being.


July 2012 - Survey update

The survey team from the University of the South Pacific (USP) was able to be here on the Island for nearly a week, and were joined in by service retreatants Roger Tonkin, Grace Cameron, and Marco Tellier, who provided invaluable help in the process. With help from Island management, retreat staff, and members of Naitauba's Fijian staff, and with use of a newly-refurbished punt provided by Island manageement for their use, the team quickly set about their work.


June 2012 Update - The survey begins

The survey begins! We are happy to report that the survey team from the University of the South Pacific arrived on Naitauba this week to assess the state of the reef around the Island.

On June 15th, the seven-person survey team, along with Roger Tonkin, left Suva by ferry boat to Taveuni, and on Sunday afternoon, June 17th, arrived on Naitauba aboard the Turaga Dau Loloma, the Island's ferry boat, which made a special trip to pick them up.


Good news!

Good news! Our plans to professionally assess the state of the reef around Naitauba Island are taking concrete shape. Following a dialogue that had extended for nearly a year, the visit of a reef survey team will be made possible, through the cooperation of staff and students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the willingness of a group of Adi Da's devotees that helped provide the financial support to meet our part of the costs (which are a fraction of the estimates quoted by professional survey teams in the past).