May 27, 2017

Here, the sun has not quite broken the horizon, obscured at our exposed anchorage by the low green island. The place looks like a post card: a narrow strip of white coral sand topped by coconut palms, breadfruit, ironwood and other trees, fronted by slightly ruffled waters, pale green here, but extending to dark blue out over the depths. I’ve little doubt that we’d be surrounded by brightly painted wooden canoes filled with kids already if their parents hadn’t forbade them from hassling us this early.

Giacomo’s morning statement: “Fish fear me; sharks envy me. No fish to be left uncounted.” Clearly, this is going to be a good day!

Our expedition is off to an excellent start. Everyone clearly enjoys each other, the ship’s crew is pleasant and effective and already we’re accomplishing good things. Most of us, however, are wrestling with a low-grade fever, coughs, runny noses and a general feeling of malaise. The few not displaying those symptoms act increasingly paranoid. We sickos attempt to reassure them with warm hugs, but, strangely, these are rebuffed.

Satawal in 2014

Satawal, an island of about 300 people, is extremely isolated: The captain showed me how the island was nearly a mile and a half away from its marked position on his charts. They are, I think, about a day’s sail from Lamotrek, another inhabited island and the next on our itinerary, but the government ship visits about once a year…and that’s virtually their only contact with the outside world. Despite their limited contact, modernity still has an effect: when gas is available, they prefer to fish from their outboard skiffs using metal hooks and monofilament, as of February this year there is solar power and three functioning freezers, some families have iPads or something semi-equivalent (of course there’s no internet) and more. The community reports multiple effects they attribute to these developments, including fewer fish and those smaller—the issue that brought our Ulithi-California team here.

There’s so much to write–so many great details–but I’m limited by bandwidth, time and, frankly, feeling crummy. Also, I have to get ready to give a fisheries workshop on the island, teaching the people from this small island how to monitor their fisheries to make their management more effective. We couldn’t have a more interested audience, but it’s our first of the trip and I’ve a lot to do.

Please continue to check in on the One People One Reef Facebook page: If there aren’t any updates and trip reports there already, there will be soon and these should start appearing regularly.