Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Reef

I got up at dawn and went for a walk with Scott and Endar on the reef from Nukutoa towards Takuu. We picked up Endar at her church where apparently she had been awake since 2am. She sleeps a lot during the day because of the heat.

The top of the reef is like concrete. At low tide you can walk across it with water only ankle deep. It feels like walking across an old tennis court upon which somebody has randomly scattered large rocks. On the reef various plants and animals break up the old coral limestone into sand which is carried by the currents and deposited on the island and into the lagoon.

Halfway between Nukutoa and Takuu is the wreck of the Koko Maru, a fishing boat that was wrecked here in 1994. The bow section sits at the edge of the reef, other parts are scattered behind towards Takuu. One major section, a part of the side of the ship painted with the registration number in large black letters, sits like an outdoor stage on the beach at Takuu.

Also behind the bow is the remains of a large oil slick. For hundreds of meters behind the rocks and reef are covered with a slippery black tar. Algae has just begun to gain a hold here and reclaim the rocks.

Small holes in the reef are the home of baby moray eels which can be quite aggressive, they will attack a jandal waved at them but once they realize your size they will flee to the safety of the nearest rock.

Upon reaching the beach at Takuu we were bombarded by waves of mosquitoes forcing us to make a hasty retreat back across the lagoon to Nukutoa. On the way we carefully avoided an area of water that was a cemetery back in the far past. Bodies were buried here for a while before the heads were removed, placed in clam shells and buried upon the land. On Takuu if you find a giant clam shell in the forest you know you are standing in the wrong place.

Back on Nukutoa the first task of the morning was to film Talo and his family having breakfast and talking about the meeting last year.

Talo had some interesting information. Originally the village on Nukutoa consisted of two rows of houses on the main street (the widest, straightest street you can see on Google Earth). There were rules about what you could build, where and how. At the back of these houses were the kitchens. The kitchens were the only buildings allowed on the foreshore.

When the old chief died in 1983 the building restrictions were relaxed (some say these restrictions were relaxed in the 70's). People replaced the kitchens on the foreshore with houses. These houses are the ones on the edge of the seawall today and are the ones that sometimes get flooded in westerly winds.

At some point the government dropped off wire baskets to build a seawall but there were no instructions with these baskets on how to use them so the villagers used the baskets to build the seawall that exists today.

Also at some point possibly in the 70's the swampy area on Nukutoa that used to contain the gardens were filled in with rubbish and sand to create new areas for housing.

Also today I went swimming on Nukuafare – the next island north of Nukutoa. This island is only used for camping, it has beautiful clear water and white beaches. It is only permanently inhabited by two pigs called Homer and Hutura.

The solar power system is working well. We have had it running 24 hours a day charging our equipment. There are three batteries. At any given time I have one on the solar panel charging and the other two supplying 24.5volts to the inverter.

Barbarian is currently anchored off one of the small islands north of Nukutoa where the crew are getting a much needed rest.

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