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.