May 31, 2013
Position: 13°14.92'S 163°06.49'W
Suwarrow Atoll, Cooks Islands, South Pacific Ocean
Officially the Suwarrow National Park of the Cook Islands opens on June 1 and Park ranger Harry and assistant Ngatupuna have been busy 'cleaning' the Anchor Island atoll. 'Cleaning' in South Pacific lingo means chopping down everything in sight, raking the debris in to huge piles and burning everything to a crisp. It's seems ironic that the protectors of this natural paradise are tasked with battling nature on a daily basis. As palm fronds and cocouts go up in smoke the underbelly of decades of human habitation are slowly revealed. A mighty stack of long neglected lead acid batteries rest under the eve of the forlorn dilapidated remains of Tom Neal's shack. Tom Neal inhabited Suwarrow for 30 years and authored the intriguing novel 'An Island to Oneself'. Nearby, half a pallet of old rusty paint cans slowly leak, leaching into the thin atoll soil, metal fuel drums rot, useless outboard engine parts are piled high in a corner, scavenged bits of ship wrecks, fishing nets, pearl floats and even a full case of unopened rust encrusted spaghetti-o cans litter the motu. The 'cleaning' has revealed a fragile ecosystem under serious threat from a long legacy of it's very caretakers. With the problems clearly in the open, it's time to clean up the toxic waste and implement a simple waste management plan for the future akin to 'Pack it in Pack it out'.
The Cook Islands minister of environment is rumored to be visiting Suwarrow later this year. Perhaps, the seemingly frivolous visit can be made worthwhile if the ministers expensive charter vessel is tasked to haul the toxic debris back to Rarotonga for safe disposal. It's time to clean up the long tail of ignorance, waste and neglect that threaten a true national treasure of the Cook Islands.
In other news, we had a real blow a few nights ago. It was pitch black with only the occasional glimmer of our neighbors mast head light between bolts of lightning and clap of nearby thunder. Wind whistled through the rigging and rain pelleted the decks with a vengeful tropical furry. From 10PM to the wee hours of the night we maintained active anchor watch with engines idling at the ready. Nearby, our friends on s/v Venus clocked a gust of 55 knots and sustained winds in the 40's for several hours. We're thankful that we decided to layover at Suwarrow as this is the very storm would have overtaken at sea as we approached Samoa.
Before the storm we went for a snorkel in the lagoon and enjoyed the company of a large Manta, curiously all black, but for one small patch of white on it's belly. Fortunately, the pack of 20-30 ravenous sharks that encircle out boat didn't follow us to the snorkel site where we only say two sharks.
After the manta swim I ventured out the pass to troll for tuna and in short order landed a nice 10 pound yellow fin. We prepared a nice sushi feed for Gisela and Uwe aboard s/v Venus including rolls, sashimi, lightly seared loins and even a few pieces of fried fish for Ewe whose not a fan of raw.
Today, s/v Tamora arrived and we're planning a kai-kai (Cook Island Maori speak for pot-luck) and fish bbq ashore on Saturday.
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