Monday 26 October 2015

Secrets of Melanesia. From aboard Spirit of Enderby

From editor, Roderick Eime, aboard Heritage Expeditions 'Spirit of Enderby' in the Solomon Islands

Sunday 25 October 2015. San Jorge Island.

For many aboard, our landing at Thousand Ship Bay on San Jorge Island in Isabel Province was an eye-opener. We went ashore at a clearing with just a few huts carved out of the jungle, locally known as Lubira. All about was the evidence left by departing Malaysian loggers who had left just a few months ago after working the hardwood forests of the sacred island for most of the last decade. They came seeking valuable timber such as mahogany and rosewood and found plenty. Mining for nickel is taking place now on the main island of Santa Isabel.

It's a salient reminder about the fragility of the Pacific Islands, both culturally and ecologically, and their need to find a balance in the demanding world economy.

We set off along the wide road bulldozed through the now denuded jungle toward Talise, the major village on San Jorge where schoolchildren sang for us and the village elders made us welcome. The people of San Jorge are, according to Chris our local guide, known as the 'Indians of the Solomons' due to their long straight hair, particularly on the women.

Amid a throng of cheering kids, we departed from the rivulet, now almost dry due to delayed arrival of the seasonal rains and made our way back via SoE to Utuha Island where a pan flute troupe entertained us for an hour.

My last voyage aboard the Russian-flagged “Spirit of Enderby” (real name Professor Khromov) was in 2012 when we sailed to Commonwealth Bay and Mawson's Huts in East Antarctica.

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