Why Clipperton Island Is a ‘Beautiful, Powerful Surprise!’

Photo by Manu San Felix
One of the most significant discoveries made by the Pristine Seas researchers has been that a healthy reef can support far more apex predators than people suspected. Even the number of sharks seen here at Clipperton is low relative to what we now know is possible. Photo by Manu San Felix

We arrived here at Clipperton Island in the eastern Pacific excited, full of anticipation, and yet slightly concerned about what we might find, because although this is one of the most remote tropical islands on Earth, there has been significant human impact here.

Traces of the Past

On the narrow band of land encircling the lagoon are the remains of the guano (bird poop) industry with rusting engines and generators, small railroad tracks, and carts.

The military footprint can be seen in the concrete bases for buildings, the remains of heavy equipment, and even some ammunition. With the passage of time, a precarious treetop lookout post now looks fun and the crushed coral runway is home to thousands of birds.

Photo by Kike Ballesteros Sagarra
At eye level, Clipperton might not look like much, but its land holds traces of earlier human use, and its waters contain a treasure of endemic species. Photo by Kike Ballesteros Sagarra

Early expeditions to Clipperton reported these waters to be incredibly rich: There were huge numbers of hammerhead, galapagos, silky, white-tip, and black-tip sharks along with massive schools of manta rays and some of the finest tuna fishing grounds in the world. The beautiful nearshore reefs—measured in species per area—held the highest number of endemic species anywhere in the world.

What would we find?

Clipperton Today

After 140 scuba dives, 14 submarine dives, 16 drop camera drops, 32 —> Read More