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Interview 1:22 - 10:05 Play 1:22 - More
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Beth Flint  






Palmyra Atoll  

Interview 11:30 - 30:00 Play 11:30 - More
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Ainsley Fullard-Leo  






Palmyra Atoll  

frigatebird sp. -- Fregata sp. 33:46 - 36:17 Play 33:46 - More
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Identify by







NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
May 2000

  • United States Minor Outlying Islands
    Palmyra Atoll
  • Eastern Island; Southern section
  • 5.88333   -162.08333
  • Lagoon
  • Island
    Recording TimeCode
  • 1:22 - 10:05
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 40
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo

Show: Palmyra
Log of DAT #: 5
Engineer: Chuck Thompson
Date: May 2000

ng = not good
ok= okay
g = good
vg = very good

Beth Flint (BF)
Ainsley Fullard Leo (AFL)
Alex Chadwick (AC)

Palmyra. M/S Sennheiser mkh 40s 30s, and the sennheiser coat system. Part of the tour of bird wildlife lots of interviews.

1 :40-On Eastern Island.

2: 17-Beth Flint (BF)-Hi my name is Beth Flint , and I'm a wildlife biologist with the pacific remote islands national wildlife refuge complex .

2:27-AC-And you're based in Honolulu and what is your job actually? What do you do?

2:31-BF-Well I'm a wildlife biologist for the national wildlife refuge system(NWRS). The US fish and wildlife service manages public lands designated as wildlife refuges and a number of them are out in the tropical island pacific and I work on some of the smaller atolls and islands here between midway and the equator.

2:51-AC-What is your work? What is it you do?

2:53-BF-Well, Urn, I'm a technical advisor for refuge managers. I monitor populations and monitor the health of the ecosystems we're trying to take care of and that involves identifying plants and eradicating alien species that get started and counting birds and turtles and any species that happen to live on the refuges.

3:18-AC-Uh, Just describe Palmyra for me. Tell me what this place is like as a wildlife biologist

3 :24-BF -Palmyra is really exciting for me as a wildlife biologist because it's urn, one of
the few wet atolls I get to visit. It's a large, large seabird colony. An important
seabird colony in terms of numbers of certain species worldwide and it's quite
different from the habitats in the NWRS out here so it's always quite ...exciting to
come...come count birds here.

3:57-AC-Ifwe have other tropical islands in the NWRS why would the FWS be interested in Palmyra?

4:08-BF-Well, the FWS is always identifying Palmyra as a really important place for wildlife in the central tropical pacific because, not only is it an island that's had good protection historically and still has very healthy populations of seabirds and other marine organisms, but it's urn, but by virtue of its location it's extremely important in that it's close to the boundaries of the north equatorial current and the equatorial countercurrent and close to where the northeast trades and the southeast trades collide. So the ocean waters around Palmyra are extremely rich relative the rest of the tropics, and therefore good feeding grounds for for breeding seabirds and it has high rainfall so we have basically a tropical rainforest which favors certain species of seabirds that do not do so well on the drier islands that are already in the NWRS.

5:16-AC-What is it that you would like to see happen at Palmyra

5:20-BF-Ever since I first came here, it's been a dream of mine that it would become more permanently protected and that would be there as a preserve for the nature conservancy or as a national wildlife refuge so we'd know that in perpetuity, there would be a place like this for these kinds of seabirds to breed and all the other incredible coral reef ecosystem organisms that live here.

5:55-AC-When did you first come here?

5:57-BF-I first came in 1992 I was riding on a Noah vessel, the Noah ship town's and Cromwell, who had come down here to study organisms out in the ocean in this area but they agreed to drop us off and the Fullard Leon? family agreed to allow us to do wildlife surveys on the atoll. So I first came then.

6:26-AC-Urn, you must have friends back in the states who envy you about your job because it's a pretty exotic sounding job, I mean, to be a wildlife biologist in the tropical islands, one can hardly imagine anything more appealing in some ways. But, how do you describe Palmyra to them? What do you say when they ask you about say, the very exotic places you've been. What is it that you tell them about this place?

6:56-BF-Well, Palmyra in particular, is incredibly aesthetic, just the colors, and the color of the water and the fact that there's lush foliage surrounding, but as with all the refuges that I get to work on, the most exciting part for me and most of my friends is urn, that there's high density wildlife that hasn't been exposed to mammalian predation in its evolutionary history, so you can get really close without appearing to disturb them. (USE THIS) And you can just sit and participate in the the life occurring in seabird colony. It's really an unmatchable experience. I love it.

7:49-AC-You mean by that that here on this islands, as we have, we can walk up to a nest that this red footed booby is sitting on with chicks that are 2 weeks old and we
can see many other birds sitting on branches, we can get up close to them and they don't flyaway.

8:04-BF-Exactly, and there's um. We may be causing them some alarm, and we try not to do it excessively but they don't have a behavioral response for this kind of situation so they basically don't know what to do so they just sit there.

8:22-AC-And when you say that, you mean that they just aren't use to people. They've never been hunted? They've never been collected, there's nothing here that's harmed them.

8:34-BF-Yeah, that's correct.

8:36-AC-Except rats. (sounds mildly humorous at this point)

8:37-BF-Rats, urn, unfortunately during WWII, rats were accidentally introduces to Palmyra, so the ground nesting birds in particular, and the smaller birds are sometimes preyed upon by rats, the chicks and the eggs primarily.

9:07-AC-Is there anything else like Palmyra that's administered by FWS?

9:15-BF-No, nothing even remotely similar to Palmyra in the US Pacific islands, and in fact, there probably isn't anything left in all the pacific like Palmyra because most of the wet atolls like this that can sustain human life have been colonized and are being used by people and a lot of these organisms in this ecosystem don't coexist with human population, So Palmyra is, because of the protection that the family has given it through the years is fairly unique.

10:00-BF-This is Beth Flint, US FWS

10:05-VG Ambient Sound clip. Birds in the background.
10:38-AC-There's one of the crabs right there!
10:45-Another voice-there're the ones that make all the holes in the ground.
11 :00-Chatter
11 :34-Ainsley Fullard-Leo (AFL) My Name is AFL.
12:13-Stop down for technical check.
12:27-Chit chat preparation.
12:46-My name is AFL and I'm one of the three brothers who own Palmyra. I'm the youngest brother.
13:21-My name is AFL, and I'm one the three brothers who own Palmyra atoll and I'm the youngest of the brothers.
13 :30-AC-When did you family buy the island?
13:33-AFL-Our mother and father purchased the island in 1922 in August of '22
13:39-AC-And what were their plans for the property?
13:45-AFL-They had been involved with a copper plantation, that's the collecting of coconut meat and they'd dry it, and they thought there might be a market in that. And they were also interested in fishing and they did have a sandpan built on Palmyra which was the largest sandpan of that type built in the Hawaiian islands to that time and they sailed it down here and took several loads of fish to Honolulu.

14: 17-AC-But that sort of never proved to be a profitable enterprise so they stopped doing that. AFL-It was profitable, the fishing was profitable, but the local merchant fisherman in Honolulu boycotted whenever Palmyra got up there to disperse fish and eventually someone sabotaged the boat and the company fell into hard times. This was prior to my folks purchase, this was around 1920-21 because my parents paid off the debts of the company, the wages the building of the Palmyra, they were given the lease that they had from judge Henry Cooper, and in the lease evidently there was an option to purchase the island and my mother and father acted on that option. urn, prior to that time my mother was instrumental in annexing Kingman reef to the US and the Palmyra copper and fishing company and so along with the lease when Kingman's reef when they purchased Palmyra.

15 :29-AC-What is the family done since then, of course you went through WWII, and there was this very lengthy dispute with the government which didn't want to give back your island having taken it. And eventually you won that in the supreme court, but since the mid 50s what have you been doing with the island? That must be about when you started coming here.

15:55-AFL-I first came here in 1948 and I was 17 and my brother Dudley and I came
here over the summer. Then it was quite a few years until I came back. I graduated from high school, started college, joined the air force, went to Korea, put in four years with the air force and got out and got married and continued on with the life and that kind prevents you from travelling a little bit, and around 1960 I came back. From time to time we
leased out portions of the atoll to the US air force for certain missions that they had. And my brother Lesley was involved in most of the negotiations with different companies and those things at that time.

16:43-AC-Since then, you've really, say since the 70's you've just used it for your own recreation and I know that there have been a number of plans of what might happen to the islands, and I guess you all have not agreed to any of that according to Peter Savvy, or you just said no to all the ideas that came up.

17:09-AFL-A lot of the ideas for them, they wanted the island, they wanted us to put the money in and they would develop it when they were asked to participate and put in some money, a lot of these people suddenly disappeared. It's an ongoing thing, and we've had some very good offers but the plans they wanted to use the island for didn't meet with our approval and we've turned those down.

17:41-AC-What is it that you want for the island?

17:45-AFL I think what nature conservancy has planned is the ideal and just thing for this island. I'd hate to see it developed to an extent where it changes the wildlife situation. I think it's a great opportunity to pres eve the wildlife in this part of the pacific.

18:11-AC-Your family spent a lot of money defending its legal claim to the island. You paid for the island, your family did, back in the 20s. And since that time, you went through a very lengthy court battle AFL-Yes with the US gov they sued my parents for title to the island and went through 5 federal courts, and through the supreme court. And each time the navy would appeal and then finally it ended in the supreme court and the decision was in our favor. So we have a pretty good title to it.

18:55-AC-Does it bother you at all that you're turning this over to the NC which may share some of it, or sell some of it to an agency of the federal government.

19:05-AFL-As long as it's used for preservation, I have no regrets on that end. I think that may have been the plan all along. But we haven't dealt with FW, they weren't involved in the negotiations with NC, and they're plans for the island met with our approval.

19:38-AC- It takes a lot out of you to have a fight on your hands like that. To know that, to feel like you have a very just claim and have to pursue it against someone with absolutely endless assets, that they are never going to run out, and it cost you money, cost you psychic energy, and it's just a problem for a family.

20:04-AFL My folks had to sell off a bunch of property around Oahu, they had a bunch of land up around They had to sell a lot of that land off to pursue the case and the costs of the case, and they had to go back to Washington and his mother was getting elderly at that time and my brother Lesley who was older went off to the case with her and my father was ill at the time. After that, we've had other little involvements. In 1979, the US gov proposed that Palmyra be used as a temporary storage
area and no one could explain what temporary was. They wanted to use a portion of

Palmyra to store spent nuclear rods for Japan, Korea and the Philippines. And we protested that highly and so did most of the pacific nations and finally that was defeated and we've been approached by a municipality to use Palmyra as a dump for a city's garbage and they would ship it down there and fill in portions of the lagoon and some things. You think of any crazy proposal, we've had it. It goes on and on.

21 :50-AC-So now your' e selling this to the NC. Why have you finally decided to do that? Why now?

22:01-AFL-Well, we're all getting older, my brother Lesley the older brother is 91, and my other brother is 72, and I'm coming up on 69, so in a manner of speaking it's a type of estate planning. We've had the island for almost 80 years now and we've tried to keep the presence of the wildlife here and protect it with restrictions on visitors. For a while there in the 60s and even in the mid 80s there was no caretaker here and people would come and do foolish things. If they wanted a coconut, they would cut down a coconut tree. We have pretty good authority that a couple of boats have come in there with machine guns and raked the runway and buildings to see how many birds they can shoot up.

23:3 5-AFL-The aircraft that just brought some workers in has taken off on a sightseeing flight for some of the photographers.

24:02-AC-This deal is to be finalized by the end of the first quarter of next year. Why did you set that date? Why didn't you say

24: 17-AFL-Well, they were concerned that someone else might come in, We didn't mind, we have a certain length of time in which to invest the money after the sale is closed. And it's just planning I guess, long distance planning.

24:37-AC-You want a final date, you want a-

24:41-AFL-It will close in the first quarter of2001, until then, they want to get their investors down here to come and look at the island and see what is worth preserving. There has been much interest.

25: 1 0-AC-Are you going to miss it?

25: 14-AFL-Am I going to miss the island? Yeah, I hope that I'll be invited
back. Because I really love this place, I come down every opportunity I have.

25:27-AC-What about your brothers? Are you the one to whom this means the most?

25:32-AFL-Well, I don't think so. We all have our feelings about it. Each has his own life and wants to do their thing. And I'm the one who likes to get out here and I'm the young one, so called, that has the ability and time to come out here and do it. Previous to this time, it's a hard place to get to. I've been done here on tugboats, yachts, So I'm the one who's willing to do that and has the time to do that, so that's why I'm here.
26:21-AC-How many times have you been here, do you know?

26:23-AFL-Oh, I don't know. A couple dozen probably. Total time here, probably a year and a half. Ten days, four months sometimes, etc. Catch a tram steamer and ride his deck cargo for ten days to get to the next port. It's an interesting life. I was very fortunate I was able to bring my two boys here about 10 years ago, and I left them here and they spent 5 months, and that was their growing up period. they thoroughly enjoyed it.

27:11-AC-How old were they?
27:13-21 and 22 at that time.
27: 17 -AC-God that'd be just incredible. Tough though.
27:21-AFL-Tough, but it teaches you how to make-do. Become a master of all types of trades.

27:33-AC-What would you tell people about this place? Because there is some sort of, as I understand with what the nature conservancy has in mind, there's some kind of-

27:50-Audio of approaching plane? AFL-That's the flight coming over.

FX-Plane zooms by then birds fill the background silence for a few seconds.

29:03... AC: As I understand it, there would be some kind of public participation in this, that NC is hoping FWS will buy a part of it. What would you say to people about Palmyra, people who have never been here, and people who realistically will never come here. What is it about this place?

29:26-AFL-Something that most people dream about, a tropical island that doesn't have a population that doesn't have a population, lots of greenery, and wildlife and beautiful waters, and fish and just a feeling of solitude and peace. It's a great place to come and contemplate.

29:59-AC-That's good.

30: 15-Ambient sounds.

31 :02-Stop down.

31 :24-Ambient Sound-Movement through brush, few birds in the background

On really small island.

32:36-AC-What is that?

32:39-BF-this is a penshaw, I just wanted to show you the iridescent pearl lining. And this is a lumbrica's an earthworm. I didn't know they had earthworms here. I don't know if it's native or introduced. A lot of atolls don't have 'em.

33:11-Chit chat

34:00-FX-Bird squall fading into the background
36:21-OK Ambi sound of a motor?
37:15-Shuffling through water
37:33-Just throw 'em that line there.
38:40-AFL-There's a contract, it hasn't been acted on as yet.
39: 10 More chitchat.
40:57-Soft talk
41 :04-AFL-I have some rules and regulations to explain. They're on a sign. Nature conservancy stuff is off limits. Let us know when and where you want to know on the island.

42:30-More chat.

44:12-Starting boat, motor putter comes in. Picks up speed and begins through the water. Bouncing over the water in the boat.

45:30-Stop down. End of DAT

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