The Triton met Capt. Steven Breen during the Miami International Boat Show in February 2011. At that time the 220-foot M/Y Golden Shadow was preparing to embark on its scientific journey. The captain wrote this update from the summer expedition in Fiji.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, M/Y Golden Shadow has been fortunate enough to be involved in the Global Reef Expedition, a six-year, round-the-world itinerary playing host to a team of international scientists from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.
Starting our journey in the Mediterranean in January of 2011, we have been slowly transiting west, and we currently find ourselves sitting on the dateline in the picture postcard country of Fiji. We have recently returned from another successful scientific mission exploring the Lau Islands.
Under the invitation from host countries, keen to use the unique resources of the vessel and the core team of scientists, we have been comprehensively mapping, surveying and exploring the state of the worlds’ coral and fish populations.
Originally, the 220-foot M/Y Golden Shadow was built as the support vessel to the 265-foot M/Y Golden Odyssey for Prince Khaled bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia until he realized it would also work well as a research vessel. It had the ingredients: a professional crew, a seaplane, a hyperbaric chamber, staff accommodations, added fuel capacity and several tenders. Even the 40-foot catamaran serves as an excellent platform for up to 20 divers.
Not just a research vessel
For more than a decade, the Living Oceans Foundation and M/Y Golden Shadow have been involved in many projects, and our aim is to provide a logistical platform and a quality home for our guests. Few research vessels offer such amenities.
So far, we have completed 15 missions, travelled more than 33,000 nautical miles and catered for more than 200 scientists.
Logging more than 6,500 dives, equating to more than 250 days underwater, the scientists have been busy. Nearly 25,000 square kilometers of coral reefs have been surveyed and mapped so far.
Organizing and executing such a unique itinerary requires considerable forethought and planning. This is to ensure that all of the logistical aspects for successfully completing expeditions in these remote parts of the world are executed without incident.
Any captain will agree that a ship’s agent is a valuable asset, providing information and guidance to the local requirements, and helping to expedite those “emergency spare parts” or last-minute visa issues that are sometimes required. There are always challenges presented to a vessel operating in such far-flung locations, but you quickly learn to adapt and persevere with the resources available.
As always, the primary goal is to conduct our work safely and efficiently. We have a dedicated and experienced team. They are highly trained, and everyone has a part to fulfill, from operating the decompression chamber to maintaining the extensive dive equipment and boats.
The onboard doctor, nurse and dive safety officer are always available to provide backup should it ever be required, and this is important when the nearest hospital can be thousands of miles away.
With so many successful diving operations completed, we are all proud of the fact that we have never had a diving-related incident. There is a great deal of job satisfaction for everyone involved, as it’s certainly a break away from the norm.
Going where few go
The South Pacific is a jewel of a place, and we’ve had the privilege to visit untouched areas that are generally inaccessible to other vessels. As we are researching for the benefit of the host countries, we have access to Marine Protected Areas and off-limit areas. Our aims are to study the coral reefs, understand how these ecosystems become resilient to change and ultimately provide information necessary to use their bounty sustainably or, in some cases, increase areas of protection.
We have conducted many educational outreach programs for local schools and marine institutions, and it has been an amazing experience for us all to have the local children visit and welcome us. Everything is a novelty to the children of these small communities, none more so than a ship turning up with a seaplane on its deck.
As we sit here in Fiji, at the halfway point of our trip around the world, we have much to look forward to. To track our progress, follow us on www.livingoceansfoundation.org.
Capt. Steve Breen has been captain on M/Y Golden Shadow since April 2007. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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