The Bird's Head Peninsula region is comprised of the northwestern end of the island of New Guinea. To the east is Cenderawasih Bay, and to the south is Bintuni Bay. To the west, across the Dampier Strait is the island of Waigeo in Raja Ampat, with Batanta Island lying just off the northwest tip. To the south of the region is the deep Banda Sea.
THIS IS PLANET EARTH’S EPICENTRE OF MARINE BIO-DIVERSITY – THE HEART OF THE CORAL TRIANGLE.
In the heartland of this region is the crown jewel of coral reefs - Raja Ampat. The exceptional level of biodiversity here has been well-recognized since the 1850s when famed naturalist and evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace travelled through the Malay Archipelago (Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) collecting specimens and studying natural history. His keen observations of the significant zoological differences in species between Asia and Australia led to the designation of the Wallace Line: a boundary that delineates Australian and Southeast Asian fauna. While his discoveries pertained to terrestrial ecosystems, it is undeniable that he would have been equally stunned by the range of marine life had he been able to study it in the same way. Encompassing around 4.5 million hectares of land and sea, the archipelago is home to more than 1,400 species of fish, 553 species of reef-building corals and 25 species of mangrove. Scientists affirmed Raja Ampat as the home to the world’s highest known diversity of hard corals for an area of its size, as well as 13 species of marine mammals – including dugongs, whales and dolphins. The Bird's Head Peninsula also includes the Pacific’s most important Leatherback Turtle nesting site.
BUT the region is in need of extensive protection. While the area has been previously stressed from overfishing and highly destructive fishing techniques, climate change is now the force capable of inflicting the most severe trauma on the Coral Triangle ecosystems. The effects of climate change in the form of rising water temperatures, sea levels and ocean acidity are distressing coral reef habitats with increasing mass coral bleaching and mortality occurrences. Without action on climate change, scientists estimate that we could lose up to 70% of remaining coral reefs in the next 50 years. In addition, the ability of the region’s coastal environments to feed people will decline by 80%, and the livelihoods of around 100 million people will have been lost or severely impacted. Under the present trajectory of unfettered growth in greenhouse gas emissions, many parts of the Coral Triangle will be largely unliveable by the end of this century.
The Expedition to Celebrate & Protect the Heart of the Coral Triangle
RAJA AMPAT ENVIRONS : 29 September -13 October 2018
ELYSIUM – ARTISTS FOR THE CORAL TRIANGLE engages the world’s finest artists, photographers, scientists, musicians, and writers to produce a benchmark record of the flora, fauna and vista of the HEART of marine biodiversity in a perspective no one has ever seen before.
As not everyone is able to go beneath the sea to experience the richness of the Coral Triangle, the job of Elysium is to bring the Coral Triangle to everyone, and to bring the issues of the ocean to all.
The mission of the Elysium team is to capture the lush and vibrant heart of the Coral Triangle, the beauty of this riveting epicentre of marine bio-diversity, from above and below in 2018, and condense it into one exquisite collection.
This imaging epic will inspire, invigorate and serve as a call for action to more fully understand and document the biodiversity of this region while highlighting the effects of climate change both now and in the near future.
Principal team members from previous Elysium expeditions will return, including but not limited to: Michael AW, Sylvia Earle PhD, Cabell Davis PhD, David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes, Leandro Blanco, Stuart Ireland and Ernie Brooks. Other lead team members will be Mark Erhmann PhD*, Gerry Allen PhD*, Carden Wallace PhD*. The scope of the expedition allow for a 62-member expedition team.
*To be confirmed
Images and research procured from the expedition will be assembled to produce a limited edition photographic book, video documentaries, and photographic index and a series of exhibition worldwide from 2019
Call to Action
The Unprecedented level of biodiversity in the Bird’s Head Peninsula can be more than partially attributed to the deep-water basins that surround the entire Coral Triangle. These basins have served as a barrier to environmental change throughout a substantial part of Earth’s geological history, shielding the Coral Triangle region from encroaching glaciers during our planet’s ice ages. Since cooling was mitigated by the protection of deep-water trenches, there was never a temperature-induced reduction in species diversity, meaning that life has continued to proliferate for millions of years. Conversely, these trenches also protect the Coral Triangle, and Raja Ampat in particular, from rising temperatures. But even with this incredible natural barrier, climate change is beginning to take hold.
If even a place as environmentally isolated as Raja Ampat is starting to feel the effects of climate change, we as stewards of our planet must listen to what this is telling us about our warming world and to act responsibly to protect it for the future. We are at a tipping point in terms of how much carbon we can add to the atmosphere without warming our planet so much that we significantly alter all life on Earth and throw ourselves into a downward spiral that cannot be stopped.
We call upon a special team to produce a momentous documentation of the Coral Triangle. Opportunities are now open for individuals who wish to participate in this benchmark expedition that will define a legacy of achievements, explorations and conservation of our planet. Participants should be passionate about our natural world and preferably possess artistic, and/or scientific and/or communication skills that may be of benefit to the mission of this project.
If you are a naturalist, scientist, photographer, artist or musician, consider securing YOUR LEGACY in the Elysium Heart of the Coral Triangle project by using your talent towards INSPIRING APPRECIATION AND LOVE FOR THE ARCTIC AND A GREATER AWARENESS OF THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE.
You can be a part of the solution.