It is easy to feel, amid the grind of modern life, the days of great adventures are over.
Stories of explorers setting out for faraway mountain peaks, across oceans, into deserts, or around the globe appear to have faded with GPS trackers, satellite phones, and aircraft having already helped humans traverse nearly every corner of the earth.
But Jennifer Lavers, who once missed her own wedding because she was late returning from a far-flung Pacific island, likely sees things differently.
The seabird ecologist is about to embark on a month-long journey to a place where she said no formal research expedition had taken place in more than 30 years — the uninhabited Ducie Island.
“It really is the case that very few human feet have fallen in that location,” Dr Lavers said.
“It’s pretty rare. It’s pretty unique. I’m pretty humbled.”
Her journey will involve six days of travel each way — flying from her Western Australian home in Esperance to Auckland in New Zealand, before heading to Tahiti and then onto a charter plane to an atoll called Mangareva.
She will then board a ship and spend two days heading towards Pitcairn Island in the south Pacific, where they will stop for eight hours before travelling the final 470 kilometres to their island destination.
Dr Lavers said a researcher stopped briefly on the island three years ago but only for about six hours, and while the odd yacht might have pulled in, the last formal trip to the atoll was in 1991.
She and a group of five other scientists, including Dr Alexander Bond from the Natural History Museum in London, have been funded through the United Kingdom’s Blue Belt program to go to Ducie Island for nearly the entire month of February to monitor its health.
Dr Lavers, an expert in sea birds, would be focusing on the local species, particularly the little-studied Christmas shearwater.
While she was not sure exactly what to expect, she guessed plastic pollution would be taking a toll.
“They’re as far out there as they possibly can be,” Dr Lavers said.
“And yet plastic will almost certainly feature in the work that we do.”
The ship they stay on will have satellite internet, allowing Bundaberg College and Esperance Senior High School students to blog with them and ask questions in real time.
“That’s a real wonder that I can be that remote and they’re going to be able to experience exactly where I am in that minute,” Dr Lavers said.
But she also said having wi-fi access may take away from the wonder of complete isolation.
‘I missed my own wedding’
Incredibly, the upcoming trip to Dulcie will be among the more connected of Dr Lavers’ research adventures.
“One of Ducie’s sister islands in the Pitcairn Island group is called Henderson,” she said.
“I actually lived on Henderson for a grand total of four-and-a-half months with no power, no running water, no outside communication, in a tent,” she said.
“It was so remote that getting evacuated from the island, it all kind of went a little bit [pear-shaped].
“And as a result of that, I missed my own wedding.”
But that does not appear to have dampened her appetite for heading off the grid.
“I thrive on really just getting away from society,” Dr Lavers said.
“I think the difference here is that we will have the ship with us at all times.
“So if something untoward did happen, we can be evacuated fairly readily.
“That being said, the nearest proper hospital must be about six or seven days’ sailing time.”