Friday 30 October 2015

Secrets of Melanesia: The farthest reaches of the Solomons

From editor, Roderick Eime, aboard Heritage Expeditions 'Spirit of Enderby' in the Solomon Islands
Thursday 29 October 2015. Duff Islands, village of Taumako.

The Duff Islands, named after the visiting London Missionary Society vessel in the late 18th Century, are about as remote as one can get in the Solomons and are surely one of the most remote communities anywhere in the South Pacific.

After a snorkel among the hard coral reefs just offshore, we reboard the Zodiacs and proceed to Taumako which has the look of a walled or fortified village with a two metre sea wall constructed from coral rubble protecting the delicate structures from the battering of the waves. Evidence of conflict with the elements is clear with two huge trees uprooted after the last cyclone struck.

The community is spread along the main island shore and also on two similarly reinforced islands a few hundred metres f rom the beach. It seems every member of the village is lined up waving to us and a substantial turnout awaits us at our landing point.

Arrival formalities are completed and our gift of staple items is made to the chief, signalling the dancers who chant and sing in their own unique way.

The Duff Islanders also embrace the revival of the voyaging canoe and one elder, Simon, takes great pride in displaying his large scale model of one such vessel that once took his ancestors to the far reaches of the Pacific hundreds of years ago. We hike across the island, uphill and down dale, to another village where we see the ancient hull (or outrigger?) of one such canoe, its origin and future unclear.

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