Time for measurements

The days seem to pass by so quickly here at Fanalei Island. We had some bad thunderstorms earlier this week, which meant that there was a lot of time to wait, drink tea and talk to the villagers.

I had some very interesting conversations with some of the fishermen. According to their experience, the weather and the sea have changed significantly over recent decades and it’s becoming more and more difficult to provide food for their families. Nowadays, crops are frequently destroyed by prolonged periods of heavy rain and fish habitats have been lost over the years due to the death of mangroves.

Moreover, I learnt what traditional cooking looks like on the island and which crops are best to plant in which season. At the moment, it is yam planting season – one of the main root crops for Fanalei villagers. In contrast to many other root crops and vegetables, it can be preserved for months and is used as an emergency food supply as well as to make traditional puddings. Together with the dolphin hunting phase, this is one of the most important and busiest periods of the year for the villagers. So everyone on the island was very happy when the sky finally cleared and the weather conditions allowed for paddling over to the mainland to access the gardens.

And for me the fine weather meant that I could finally deploy my pressure sensors which will measure waves and tides near the tip of the island for the next 1.5 weeks. I had found a skipper for the boat, a diver and a translator, but I was very concerned about how we would assure that the sensors will stay in place and not be washed away by the waves. But the villagers are full of surprises: We found a weightlifting bar and a big chain to secure the sensors.

The deployment, however, did not go as planned. It all looked perfect in the beginning. Sunshine, fairly small waves, but as we stopped to deploy the sensors, a big wave surprised us – fortunately, we had an experienced skipper who sped up and saved us from the over 4 metre high wave that appeared out of nowhere. Our diver who was in the water when the wave appeared fortunately was also fine and even managed to deploy the sensor. However, the deployment happened without me noting down the location as nobody wanted to go back into the zone where the big wave had suddenly appeared. So it will be very interesting to find the sensor again.

The deployment of the second sensor took place without any problems. Furthermore, we acquired information about the water depth around the island tip. So overall, the trip was still a success and with a little luck and a good memory of the diver we might even find both sensors next week.

I also used the fine weather to conduct beach surveys along the tip of the island. Assistance came from two young man who helped me to obtain beach profiles with a dumpy level and a staff. I wish I had taken photos but I was too busy taking measurements and giving instructions. The plan is to measure a few more profiles next week, so hopefully you will get to see some photos.

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