Mimi and Meph have just returned from two busy and productive weeks in Solomon Islands. Here are a few highlights:For the last few months there was no communication with anyone at Duff Islands. In the best of times there can be intermittent radio contact between individuals at the Duff Islands and Lata or Honiara. But there has been none for the last several months, which is not unusual. So we all had a lot to talk about and plan.
Mimi and Meph attended two Board of Directors meetings of Vaka Taumako Project of Solomon Islands/Vaka Valo Association (VTPSI / VVA). Mimi is a non-voting Director on the board of VPTSI/VVA, and Meph was a welcome representative of VTP of Hawai’i.
Dr. Simon “Doc” Salopuka and Ambrose Miki motored about 130 nautical miles of open ocean from Taumako, Duff Islands to Lata, Santa Cruz Island (via Nifiloli, in the Outer Reef Islands). Their driver was Miki’s voyaging student, Harry Vanosi. This is a time of light and variable winds and often calm seas. Harry cared for the canoe and OBM while Simon and Ambrose flew on to Honiara. The other board member was Luke Vaikawi, who was born and raised on Taumako. Luke is a Police Commander as well as Director of the Marine Patrol boat post for Solomon Islands. He lives in Honiara and has been a staunch supporter of the VTP since it was first proposed by Chief Kaveia in 1993!
Key points and updates from the December 2015 meetings:
1) Thanks in large part to help from the Vaka Taumako Project, supporters the people of Duff Islands are recovering from the loss of gardens and fruit and nut trees from Cyclone Pam. But it is slow. Many people lost a lot of weight and are hungry to this day. Major gardening areas were spoiled by seawater intrusion. The seawalls that fell (including all of them located on the artificial island) are completely repaired and better than ever. But people are still working very hard to plant and find food, and to rebuilt using more traditional methods, such as making more fermented food pits. Their aim is to become more resilient than ever. It could be another year or two before enough trees and gardens really recover.
2) Wade Fairley of Tasmania and Western Province, Solomon Islands, helped us document Simon and Ambrose talking about their plans for 2016. These video clips are just what we need to complete the documentary “We the Voyagers” (working title). We plan to complete the rough-editing with Jacob Penchansky on Kaua’i during January and February. If funding is realized, we’ll be adding animations, color balancing, and sound mixing in early 2016, and will hopefully be sending it off to film festivals and getting DVDs out to educational groups in the middle of the year. We are waiting on the decisions of a couple of grant applications or any donations that would allow us to complete these final steps.
3) The video trailer for We, The Voyagers, originally created for crowdfunding campaign, is now playing day and night on a big monitor just outside the international airport terminal in Honiara. Eventually, when the indoor monitor system is repaired, it will play in the arrivals and departures areas where people stand around in lines. The management welcomed our short video because it represents one of many interesting cultures in the Solomons. The image of the Te Puke is prominent in national and provincial seals and crests in Solomon Islands.
4) The VTPSI/VVA board was happy to engage Bazil Mekau of Duff Islands, a financial officer/bookkeeper by profession, and a long time resident of Honiara. An agreement was reached and Bazil and Simon worked out the details of the accounting system to be used. The 2014 and 2015 expenditures and receipts were processed and Bazil will soon produce reports to meet government requirements.
5) The main goal of 2016 is making a voyage from Taumako, Duff Islands to Vanualava, Vanuatu in November, 2016. This will be a voyage of reunion for long-separated family members and communities. One example is Jimmy Smith, who was born and raised on Taumako, was sent to school in Vanuatu about 70 years ago and never was able to come back home to Taumako. Plans and schedules are being made. We have been promised funding in April that should get us through at least one-way. If necessary we will work on support for the return voyage (Vanuatu back to Taumako) in 2017.
6) Solomon Islands Immigration authorities were willing to entertain proposals for flexibility in clearances for a Te Puke and crew to sail straight from Duff Islands to Vanuatu during a 30 day period when the right wind comes in November, 2016. We don’t know exactly when (which days) the right wind will come in November, 2016. We may have to have a series of vessels standing by for different weeks in November, because no vessel can afford to stand by for a whole month. This proposal has been made and we look forward to further discussions.
7) Inquiries have been made as to any suitable escort vessels for this voyage. We welcome any offers or ideas! The ideal vessel would be one that can keep up with a Te Puke, even a small one, that can easily sail 10 knots in a 15 – 20 knot following wind, and good communications on board. The ideal crew would have experience in escort and rescue protocols.
Simon, Ambrose, and Harry planned to return Taumako today. They wanted us to share some recent photos and clips from Honiara and Taumako.