Friday, February 28, 2014

Likiep Atoll Giant Clams

March 1 2014
Jeltoneej Island, Likiep Atoll, Marshall islands.

I can hardly believe a week has passed here in Likiep as we really haven't done much. Frequent, rain squalls filled one of our 60 gallon water tanks, but have otherwise put a damper on our normal exploration.

We met Junior DeBrum and visited the MIMRA clam farm on Loto island. Junior is a real gem with a jovial demeanor, a big smile and tons of knowelge about clams. Junior works for MIMRA and breeds clams and grows them to about 5cm for the aquariam market. Lots of beautiful clams including some very psychedelic looking ones from Palau.

 Beach walk

 Clam in shallow water.

 Nice kiting beach in NNE winds
 Incredible colors at low low tide.

 If you think this looks nice, wait until you get in the water with your mask and fins.  This is a top spot in the entire world in my opinion.
 A very low tide exposes some cool blue coral.

 Incredible coral gardens.  A tough place to anchor, but we pulled it off without damaging coral.  We found a sandy patch then buoyed a very short length of chain to ensure the coral would not be touched.

 Trimming the fronds away from the heart of palm. The tree we harvested the heart from had snapped off in a storm and was on the ground.
 Heart of palm is delicious.  We chopped this one out of a downed 35' palm tree.  About half of what you see in my hand is edible.
 Out island copra worker hut.
 Consumerism sneaks into subsistence living.  A typical pile of Marshall islands trash.  'D' Batteries leaking their contents into the soil or water, canned tuna, SPAM, powered milk and a half melted container of Fiji water.

 Life rings.  Where you find one you find many.

 Yep, bottled water is sooo cool.

 More crap on the beach.  Huge line, floats, flip flops and too many plastic bottles.
 End of hand blown glass float.  We find tons of these.
 Property marker?
 Another cowrie shell.  We leave this one on the beach and continue to search for the perfect shell. It more about the search than anything.
A tough place to anchor with lots of coral and shallow depths leaving less than 3 feet under our keels at low tide. 
 Beach glass.  Green is mostly bits of broken Japanese fishing floats.

Our cat 'Shell' showing off her bullseye marking as she frolics on the sail cover.

Our quest to snorkel on a truly huge Giant Clam is still a work in progress and we now understand there is a huge clam that might be over 6' long here at Likiep. Junior says a guy named Lisson who I think lives at Likal island either Maat or Lotoonke on the NW end of Likiep is the go to guy if you want to see the Giant Giant Clam. Apparently, the giant clam lives on the outer edge of the reef and requires calm weather to view. So far Juniors efforts to contact Lisson have gone unanswered.

Easterly winds yesterday finally got us moving and made for a nice easy sail NW up the lagoon. We skimmed through every possible shade of aquamarine blue possible as we skirted sandbars and dodged coral heads. Yes, we took photos, but I'm pretty sure it's impossible to capture the true essence with our equipment.

Curious to see what the Marshall islands might have looked like before the European introduction of monoculture copra farming, we anchored in front of a island with only a few coconut trees. The island is about halfway up the lagoon and is Boklalap or the island close by to the west. For whatever reason this island was never slash and burned and planted with coconut palms and it boasts a rich and diverse flora unlike 99% of it's neighbors in the lagoon. We anchored the boat in a sandy patch and swam to shore carrying our shoes and sunglasses to explore the island.

Later in the afternoon we made our way upto Kaben Island which has an incredible sand spit, but found in the mostly easterly winds that the anchorage would be too bumpy. Backtracking to Jeloneej Island we anchored in calm waters and buoyed our chain to protect the prolific coral. It was nearly shark thirty (4:30PM), but we decided to go for a snorkel and were richly rewarded with some of the best lagoon snorkelling ever. Turtles, rays, sharks, huge groupers, giant clams nice coral and good visibility, but would be better at low tide. I put it at top 3 for interior lagoon snorkelling. Very nice and the area to snorkel is over 1 mile long by 1/4 mile wide, it would take weeks to swim it all.

Today we're going to walk around Jeloneej Island at low tide.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Likiep Atoll

February 26, 2014
Likiep Atoll village anchorage

Likiep AAtoll is a pretty low key place, when we arrived on Friday it seemed the whole village was out despite a tropical downpour. On Saturday the weekly plane arrived for the first time in three weeks which was definitely a huge deal. On board the plane were several teachers from the department of education and even Kelly Slater who was heading to Ailinglaplap to go surfing. Also newly arrived on island were Nica a traditional land owner who is promoting sustainability through the production of more handicrafts and Ingrid a researcher working on a PhD in anthropology and Anna from the Red Cross who is installing much needed rainwater catchment tanks.
 One of the big intersections on Likiep.
 Toddy in process.  Coconut palm sap fills these bottles overnight and is ready to drink.  Sap can also be concentrated by boiling to create a sugary surup for baking or pancakes.
 A million dollar chicken coop.
 Close up of the coop reveals it's constructed of aerospace quality carbon fiber indicating that this was probably some sort of missile.
 Likiep kids burying one of their friends alive.
 Automated dinghy anchor retrieval system.
 Nica and Ingrid on our way up lagoon.  Can you believe the color of the water?
 More Likiep kids.
 Lots of smiling faces
 Golden hour lighting does wonders for a point and shoot camera

 Kathy throwing down some Likiep peace signs.
 More smiling friendly kids.

 Palau clams at Junior DeBrums clam farm.
 Many of the clam tanks won't hold water overnight.  All that's needed is some elastomeric (stretchy) paint to paint the walls.  They sell the stuff at EZ-Price on Majuro.
 You can grow clams if you don't have water in the tank.  Everyone is hoping MIMRA in Majuro will send the needed supplies to Likiep so they can get online.
 A few of the operation tanks are full of clams.
 Kathy inspects the clam tanks as we pass by the MIMRA clam breeding facility on Loto island, Likiep atoll. Marshall Islands.
 More empty tanks

 Spawning tank

 Pump looks to be on it's last leg.
 Old pump

 LightSpeed anchored at a fabulous anchorage infront of the MIMRA clam farm on Loto island, Likiep atoll.
Waterfront action at Likiep atoll.

We met the school principal Paul and his son Chris who is a teacher. Chris had a computer virus on his PC that was preventing startup and I offered to fix the computer which ended up taking me over 6 hours as I had to remove the hard drive and reinstall windows. We also met the acting mayor, catholic priest and lots of others including Junior DeBrum who runs the giant clam farm.

Ingrid and Nica needed a lift to the island of Melang adjacent to Jebal, so we headed about 3 miles up the lagoon to drop them off and check out Anna and the water catchment project. Anna was running a Spectra watermaker, but one pump was down due to a fault fan. I offered to come back the next morning and make the repair. Funny enough, the water makers are maintained by our friend Glen in Majuro. Yes, this country is small!

After cutting the wires and removing the non-operational cooling fan I checked the polarity of the wiring and found the fan had been wired backwards from the factory.

 Dave repairing a MoanaMarine water maker that was never tested at the factory.

A fan was wired backwards. This was good as otherwise I would have to give up my last spare fan aboard LightSpeed. I wired the fan correctly and fired up the water maker and quickly noted a missing hose clamp on the intake line that was allowing air to leak into the system, so fixed that as well. That afternoon we headed back to the village on Likiep island and checked in at the school to see if we could help out with internet problems.

The entire atoll of Likiep has two (2) land lines and one ethernet cable for connection to a customer supplied computer. No one was using the connection so I asked to hook up my PC. As expected nothing happened and so I asked Chris to help me translate a few questions to the local NTA guy who monitors the phone usage. Calls to Majuro are $0.25 which seems a fine deal.

It turns out you need to configure the IpV4 setting of your ethernet connection to include an IP address and DNS server... not a task for the uninitiated. Once I had my computer set up I was able to connect to the internet, but at the slowest of slow speeds. Connection latency was 1087ms and a single page took minutes to load. NTA (National Telecom Authority) needs some competition as on their own they have shown an inability to deliver services. Case in point, the single connection and incredibly limited bandwidth and pathetic page load performance that is supposed to serve an entire community of 600?

The school was setting up about 25 new OLPC (one laptop per child) computers and really needs internet. Currently, even the teachers can't even communicate via email back to the department of education in Majuro. Currently, they are using a HAM radio...

We met Junior DeBrum trying to use the internet and while he used my computer to check his email I was able to fix a problem with his internet firewall that was preventing a connection. Junior runs the clam farm and has invited us to take a tour this afternoon. Junior is also looking into where we might find a giant giant giant clam living in the wild. We hear that there is one over 6' long somewhere outside the reef here at Likiep and that the clam is soo big and meaty that you can lay inside the shell for a picture without getting trapped.

Our next goal is to explore up the lagoon checking out the many small islands.

That's it for now.