November 8, 2011

Desert Island Days--Chesterfield Reef

We've been diving on a reef structure near the anchorage. It's not big, the walls only go to 60' or so and the windward side has some coral damage from a storm. But it's only a 5 minute dinghy ride and there are no currents--so it's perfect for all the novice divers in our group. It's also the most diverse bit of ocean I've ever seen. It has more types of sponges, coral (with colours that run through the rainbow), more species of fish (including four types of anenome 'clown' fish, eels, sharks, puffers, parrots) and more types of giant clams than I've ever seen in one place. And this is just one bommie of hundreds. It's not even the main reef.

As you can guess we haven't left. WGD felt like they needed to get to Oz. But Connect 4, Discovery and us didn't feel ready to leave our uncharted island for a known destination. The kids wanted to camp on shore again, we wanted to dive and we all want to try again to see nesting turtles.
But because we are all at the end of our provisions we've needed to pool our resources and share out what we have. We've been swapping and trading--sugar for flour, butter for popcorn, potatoes for onions, rice for beans, milk for wine, toilet paper for... Well if someone needs toilet paper you just hand it over. Beachside potlucks keep meals from getting too monotonous. And while we've all tucked away just enough food to last for the passage. We've begun to raid our ditch bag for powerbars and eased up on our definition of vegetable.

While it is isolated and ideal here, sadly it's not pristine. The hermit crab that we found housed in a plastic bottle cap wasn't the most dramatic example, that was probably the bird nesting on a Styrofoam container, but it was poignant. We've filled two black garbage bags with washed up plastic bottles, shoes, fishing gear, plastic grates and lawn chair bits and more appears at high tide.

We're almost 500 miles from the nearest inhabited land. We're experiencing the teeming vitality that once was found throughout the Pacific.
But what makes Chesterfield wondrous--also makes it heartbreaking. Even here we've managed to pollute.
I have never felt so enthralled or helpless.
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