On our current Quest for Paradise expedition, we were we able to visit not only Pitcairn Island, but through the skills of our drivers and crew, we were able to land on all four of the islands of the Pitcairn group! The beauty and diversity of these remote islands was emphasized by the contrast of Oeno and Ducie, both coral atolls, with the uplifted coral platform of Henderson Island. In 1997 a special team visited Oeno and Ducie and eradicated the troublesome introduced Polynesian rats.
We visited Oeno Island first, a rarely-visited island covered with ground-nesting seabirds such as Murphy's petrels and red-tailed tropicbirds, as well as boobies and white terns. Following a fascinating day at Pitcairn (a topic for another day), we landed on Henderson Island. A beautiful raised coral atoll and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Henderson Island is the home of ten endemic flowering plants and four endemic species of land birds, but most of the ground-nesting birds have been ravaged by the omnipresent Polynesian rat. The extent of the damage done by these vermin was more clearly illustrated when we visited the bird-saturated island of Ducie. The skies were filled with birds and one could not take a step upon the land without saying "excuse me" to a tiny chick or parent sitting on a nest—predominantly Murphy's petrels, as well as dozens of sooty terns and a variety of other rare tubenoses, such as Christmas shearwaters, Herald petrels, Kermadec petrels, and Phoenix petrels. Zegrahm founder, Peter Harrison, was able to find and photograph the first pair of nesting Phoenix petrels found on this island since the 1920s. The phoenix petrel makes a nice metaphor for the recovery of the island after rat eradication. Words can hardly express the breath-taking beauty and remoteness of these islands, and we were all driven to moments of introspection as one of our passengers and chief fundraiser for the Henderson Island Restoration Project described the work and fundraising efforts so we can restore Henderson Island as a nesting sanctuary for thousands of ground-nesting birds.