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Dive Review of Pacific Expeditions, Ltd./Southern Cross in
Kiribati (Christmas Island)/Phoenix (Gilbert) Islands

Pacific Expeditions, Ltd./Southern Cross, Jul, 2009,

by Douglas L Roberts, FL, United States ( 2 reports). Report 4985.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Honduras, Curacao, Mexico, Florida
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 77 to 79 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 14 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None, but very little diving done because compressor would not work (see Good & Bad, below)
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 1 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments No facilities for UWPs.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 1 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity 1 stars
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 2 stars
Value for $$ 1 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 1 stars
Comments We were promised all the scuba diving you want during this South Pacific trip. The sailboat, the Southern Cross, was not ready to depart from Apia, Samoa, on the scheduled date of July 8, 1009. The air compressor was not working, bedding was not dry and on deck, and provisioning not complete. The crew did not want passengers help getting the ship ready. We had to take a hotel room (about US$100, paid by us, not Pacific Expeditions, plus meals). The next day, before we departed, Capt. Paul Green assured the eight passengers that everything on the boat was working properly, including a new compressor.

We found out mid-trip that the Southern Crosss on-board generator had burned up five weeks before our voyage and all power had to come from running the diesel engine almost constantly. Capt. Green and his deck hand, Craig, attempted to rig the new electric air compressor to be powered by a gasoline (petrol) engine because the electricity from the engine was incompatible with the compressor. That lash-up filled a couple of tanks before failing for the duration of the trip. For the whole 19-day trip (shortened by mutual agreement from 21-days) there were a total of 13 scuba dives with three passengers not getting any dives.

The crew announced about three days out that we had used up one half of the boats 2,500-liter water supply. Passengers were prevented from showering (by turning off a pump) until an air lock was discovered a couple of days later and Capt. Green realized we still had much of the water. A few days before the trips end, fresh water showers were again prohibited but it was not clear if that was due to insufficient water or the pumps inability to operate since there was no meter showing how much water was left.

The food was terrible except when Capt. Green caught a wahoo (by fishing in prohibited waters) or traded for fresh-caught fish on Kanton Island. Passengers complained of being hungry much of the trip with crackers and peanut butter being the only thing available to eat during the day. As for the cereal that was supposed to be available for breakfast, there was no milk provided most days. There were no provisions for lunch except loaves of bread which were kept in the freezer that passengers were forbidden to access. The only working appliance in what Pacific Expeditions web site claimed was a well-appointed galley with oven was a single gas hot plate placed on the stovetop. Behind it was a crapped-out microwave. The freezer could not freeze food, resulting in rotten meat being thrown overboard. (All trash was tossed overboard, despite Pacific Expeditions web site expressing allegiance to environmental awareness.) Extension cords ran from the non-operating oven across the deck of the main cabin and into the forward cabin.

The sails were patched, sometimes with duct tape. Bare electrical wires were left in the open, to be held together to operate the galleys saltwater wash and, later, the main head (toilet). The advertized comfortable berths were small bunks that leaked while underway in open water.

As well as scuba diving, the voyage was sold as a chance to view the solar eclipse of July 22, 2009, on Nikumaroro Atoll (f/k/a Gardner Island). (Some authorities believe this was the place where Amelia Earhart crash-landed her airplane on July 2, 1937.) Eclipse day, most of the passengers were put on the island via the boats skiff in the early afternoon. Heavy rain started about one-half hour before the moon first touched the sun. Within a few seconds of the start of the three minutes of totality, the rain stopped and enough of the clouds parted to give us a good view of the total eclipse. To this extent, on July 22, Pacific Expeditions delivered on its promises.

In all other aspects of providing an adequate liveaboard trip, Pacific Expeditions and the Southern Cross and its crew failed, miserably. Neither the captain nor any of the two-person crew had ever been to any of the Phoenix Islands before this trip. Near the end of the voyage, passengers discussed tips and all said they were giving nothing to anyone. It was generally agreed by the passengers that the trip was less than basic liveaboard and more of a survival experience. We did have some encounters with porpoises while at sea and saw one manta ray while snorkeling at Kanton Atoll. Another manta appeared while we were anchored at Nikumaroro.

The trip ended after a 72-hour run to Funafuti Island in Tuvalu, another place no crewmember had ever seen. It was obvious the trip was underfunded from the start. As we prepared to leave the tiny Funafuti airport after two days in the islands only hotel, the passengers saw Capt. Green across the street at the islands bank, waiting, he said, for a wire transfer so he could buy fuel for the return to Samoa.

Capt. Green owned the boat and it was apparently wet-leased for this and other Pacific Expeditions trips. The Southern Cross is a 30-year-old Force 50 ketch, registered in the Cook Islands, that shows every minute of her age despite some cosmetic repairs. No one directly associated with Pacific Expeditions was on board. Pacific Expeditions is advertising return trips to the Phoenix Islands, as well as separate trips to the Pitcairn Islands, Cook Islands and Tokelau Islands, all on the Southern Cross.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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