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

July, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Douglas L Roberts, FL, United States (2 reports)
Report Number 4985
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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 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
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  
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  
 
 

Overall Rating

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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