Six days after the Chilean Armada closed the port, the black flag was raised at the harbor, and we resumed diving operations.
Finally we had the chance to dive within Hangaroa Bay, at a site called Manavai.
The site was dominated by mountainous lobe coral, known to scientists as Porites rus. Some of these pinnacles extended 5 meters (15 feet) high of the ocean floor! Remnants of the storm could still be felt underwater as we were rocked back and forth by the swells, and visibility reduced to only a few meters.
Another interesting site in Hangaroa Bay was a sunken Moai ( a replica, not original), down at the bottom of the ocean at 22m (75ft). It was quite surreal seeing a giant resting among the reef, becoming part of the community as corals and urchins settled on it.
We finish our expedition with a dive site at Motu Nui (the island where the annual Birdman competitors used to retrieve their eggs). This was by far the most extreme site we visited- waves smashed into the shores around the island, the reef, starting around 2o ft below the surface, abruptly falls away to 100+ feet to the bottom of the ocean floor.
It has been a long and eventful 19 days, and I'm glad to be heading home. Rapa Nui is beautiful because of its isolation and mystery, and sadly a classic case of an ecosystem that is almost completely stripped of its natural resources. I hope our work documenting this massive bleaching event can provide insights into coral reef conservation strategies and aid in the efforts to make Hangaroa Bay a MPA.