Clipperton Journal: The Daily Record of Life on a Pacific Atoll

Lance Milbrand
August 29, 2003

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Clipperton atoll is located in the Eastern Pacific, approximately 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) off the coast of Mexico. The atoll is named after an 18th-Century English pirate but the territory is owned by France.

The atoll is totally enclosed and slightly over six feet (nearly two meters) above sea level. The water in the center of the atoll is undrinkable and holds only pond weed and biting isopods (a type of small crustacean).

There is one large volcanic rock and several coconut tree palm groves. Imagine a very thin donut that takes about seven hours to walk around the exterior perimeter.

The atoll is uninhabited, except for about one million seabirds and five million land crabs. Clipperton is the birthplace of tropical storms and hurricanes and the location that I will be calling home.

I live in San Diego, California with my wife Jeanne and I work as a natural history cameraman (a person who video tapes animal behaviors,) but more recently have been shooting people and news stories.

I had never attempted extreme survival and I needed to research camping, boating, communications, and camera supplies, basically purchasing everything that I thought that I would need for my expedition.

My National Geographic Society Expeditions Council grant was submitted and approved. Working with the Expeditions Council is a very important step in building a lasting relationship with National Geographic Society. Their award will give my work extra meaning because I will be working on a video for Ultimate Explorer and a new map for National Geographic Maps.

The remainder of my project will be handled by National Geographic Explorer Television. My plan involves me video taping my own isolation on the atoll (46 days), but Explorer also wants to send a second cameraperson for a portion of my trip (the very beginning and the very end, about ten days).

I asked for a person who has experience in driving a skiff and working on the ocean. Erin Harvey is not one of these people but he has worked for National Geographic before. The difficult side is that the ocean can kill someone who is not experienced. I asked Erin to come down to San Diego and practice with the skiff as much as possible before we go. Better to be prepared than dead.

My French visa was rejected. (Iraq war politics) My programs producer, Maya Laurinaitis, called Los Angeles, Tahiti, and wrote letters in French. After many tense communications, my visa was approved.

Continued on Next Page >>


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