PRESS RELEASE #6
As a protected US National Wildlife Refuge, Baker Island is a place few humans ever get a chance to see. In fact, the protected status of the wildlife is the main reason why landing permission is so rare. There are strict conditions laid down by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to make sure our DXpedition does not disturb the island’s delicate ecosystem.
Eleven species of seabirds nest on the island including boobies, frigate birds, and almost a million pairs of sooty terns. There are also skinks, geckos, sea-turtles and staggering numbers of hermit crabs. As DXpeditioners to other remote
Pacific islands have found out that crabs pose a particularly difficult problem. They emerge at night, and eat their way through just about anything that has a trace of organic matter. This includes cardboard, rope, paper, clothes, bedding, leftover food and even coax. Keeping the pesky crabs out of DXpedition tents has become sort an art-form over the years, and many different techniques have been tried on other islands such as Clipperton. The most popular to date has been the “DXpedition Crab Fence”, which is basically a 15” high roll of sheet metal strung out around each tent. It’s not 100% crab-proof, but its highly effective.
Even with the abundance of crabs that exist on Baker, the risk of an invasive plant or animal species from the mainland gaining a foothold is very high, and could mean catastrophe for native seabirds. This means everything we bring with us including clothing, footwear and equipment must be pre-cleaned and specially treated prior to our departure. Even the food we bring is controlled, with fresh fruit and seeded vegetables both prohibited.
The land is not the only place where we’re bound by permit conditions. The marine environment at Baker is also under protected status. Surrounding the island are extensive thickets of living staghorn coral which dominate on the eastern side. Table, plate and many other coral formations are also common on the rest of the reef slopes. Larger heads of lobe, disk, and brain corals – some up to nine feet in diameter – are found along the deeper slopes. A total of 104 species of coral has been reported since Fish and Wildlife began documenting the area. Because of this, diving is strictly prohibited at Baker, and waste from our ship must be disposed at a distance of 50 nautical miles.
While our movements and equipment may be regulated in order to protect the environment, luckily the hours we can be on the air are not. Therefore, we intend to be active as much as we can on all available bands.
This project presents a great opportunity to prove to the US Fish and Wildlife Service that DXpeditioning is a highly compatible activity on an ecologically sensitive island. Our protection of Baker is just as important as the number of QSOs we make, so when we’re done we intend to leave the island exactly as we found it – to ensure future operations are possible.
As with any DXpedition to the rarest and most remote islands of the world, this trip needs your help. March 2018 will mark a significant milestone for the team as our next payment on the ship is due. Though the operator team will contribute over 50% of the expected budget we still need your support to make this trip happen. If you haven’t contributed yet, please consider helping by visiting our website:
Thank you in advance for your support.
73 from the Baker Island 2018 Team