SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
July 19, 2014
2048.2’S x 171042.8’W
Kanton Island, Kiribati.
I woke up this morning and thought I felt the boat rock just enough to think that once again, we had failed to maintain the anchor and she had drifted. Thankfully, that was just a byproduct of my early morning grogginess and we were (and still are) anchored right outside Kanton island!
We have spent 3 weeks together aboard this ship and have been waiting for today to finally go ashore at Kanton and meet the thirty or so residents of the island. The excitement was felt by everyone on board this morning, but we still had work to do. At 08:00 we had our third ‘annual’ field-day, which means our broat now shines like a brand new pin. Sort of. Field day happened pretty quickly this time, and for the second time in this trip, the vast pool on our port side was opened for us to swim in. Pool days are the best days. As usual, everyone was in a ‘jump off the boat’ frenzy but me. Every time I have found it so difficult to stand at a height look down into the infinite depth of the water under me and muster the courage to just jump in.
I did do it though, and not just once. It’s a personal achievement I’m rather proud of I suppose. The water was warm and a brighter, lighter blue now that we were so close to the island. It was one of the best swims of my life. Once we all got out, filled our bellies with Nina’s magical cooking it was FINALLY time to do what we had traveled all this way to do - set foot on Kanton!
Around 14:00 Jimmy, one of our engineers, shuttled us in groups onto Kanton. Apart from the fact that walking on land is the weirdest thing in the world, being on Kanton was not what I had expected at all. I didn’t expect to see the scattered masses of mess that was metal and rubber (among other things). Second of all, it was a lot larger than I expected. Well, it isn’t large at all really, but for some reason I did expect it to be a lot smaller. Perhaps it was the size of Enderbury that threw off my estimations. We were greeted by two of the residents who told us the main village was about a 30 minute walk away so we set off down the path soon enough. By this time we had all split up into smaller groups and I don’t know very much of what happened with the others apart from the fact that they saw some white tip sharks and explored some of the ruins back from when Kanton was an army base. My group however, had an interesting journey to the village. We cut across the main path and walked down the beach on (I think) the west side where we took a little dip in the clear blue sandy-coral water. Words can’t describe how beautiful the water was. We also saw some impressive green crabs going about their daily business and a few schools of fish. In the village itself (which is just about 6 houses long) we got to talk to some wonderful people.
The people of Kanton are remarkably hospitable and so easy and fun to talk to. We got to drink some fresh green coconut water, some toddy straight out of the tree, see their little tobacco gardens and generally experience how things go on an average day in Kanton. We learned a lot of things about how the island and its residents function. For example, they rely on the arrival of diesel fuel from Kirimati (‘Christmas’) island every 4-6 months. Food supplies, mainly grains and flour, are brought periodically via ship from Kirimati as well. For water they depend on rainwater collecting in 2 wells that are situated across the island. All 7 families on this island use water from these two wells. All the families have cats in their homes to keep the rats, a known pest on these islands, away though they might be pests themselves. These families haven’t been on Kanton for very long. One of the families has been living on Kanton barely a year, while another has been here for about a year and a half. The residents are mainly from Tarawa, the capitol of Kiribati, or Christmas Island. I asked them if they liked living in Kanton and they said yes, but from the look on their faces I could see that they didn’t really consider it home. It is their job to live on this island and ensure the maintenance of this island, but they sure do seem to miss home. Peter had the opportunity to talk to the meteorologist of the island too. He says he was a really cool guy, and had a pretty awesome tattoo. He invited Peter in and they had a fun conversation about the weather and football. The job of the meteorologist is to send a weather report to Kirimati Island every 6 hours. Guess his work never ends, but then again, I think that’s pretty cool.
At 18:00 Jimmy came back to get us and we had an all hands dinner aboard the Seamans. Another brilliant day, another brilliant dinner. Something’s always happening here, and it’s always something that changes my life a little bit more every day. On that note this little spiel must come to an end as it is currently 21:09 and I go on watch in less than 2 hours which means rest is in order. Adios land-dwellers, we hope all is well on your end.
Proud member of Robert C. Seamans epic voyage across the PIPA region.