Sunday, December 02, 2012

Headhunting with JFK and the Killer Clown Fish

Sometimes in this life you need to recognize that no matter how long you stare at the little blinking cursor, you are not going to improve upon what has come before you.  Therefore I will humbly give way to Wikipedia to introduce the Gizo Islands – where I was for a work / diving adventure last week.  With no further ado : “This area of the Solomon Islands has had a history of headhunting. According to local stories the Gizo tribe were notorious in this activity. As a consequence the surrounding local tribes took the unusual step of joining together to obliterate the Gizo tribe. The stories further relate that the only survivors were a Gizo woman and her son. This event led to Gizo Island being declared as a property of the state, rather than the usual customary ownership prevalent in much of the rest of the Solomons. As a secondary consequence becoming an administrative and business center because of the relative ease with which registered land titles could be obtained.”  Which basically means that this is where the whities have opened their resorts because there were comparatively fewer people to pay off.

The trip starts with the weigh in at Honiara airport.  As in many other airports, they weigh your bags.  Then, slightly more uncommonly, they also weigh you.  (These are really small planes.)  Then off you go to hop across the islands.  The most exciting stop is in the town of Munda.  It was a Japanese air base in WWII and we bombed the holy bejeezus out of it.  The New Zealanders are currently paying for an expansion of the runway (partly for humanitarian reasons and partly because having an alternative 737 landing zone would dramatically reduce the amount of emergency fuel their planes are required to carry), and have been unearthing 500 lb unexploded ordnance.  The villagers have asked that they detonate no more than one bomb a day because of the earthquake it causes. 

But luckily, I was bound for Gizo Island, and to a little resort with a great view of the volcano.  It was actually right across the water from Kennedy Island, which was where JFK washed up when he lost his PT boat during the war.  (And bizarrely Gizo loves Kennedy even more than Boston does.)  My friend actually swam over to it just to say that he did – I was too busy diving.  The Solomons are spectacular for diving because in addition to some of the healthiest and most populated reef life that I have ever seen, the Americans and Japanese were nice enough to provide the resident fish with a number of artificial reefs while they were fighting over the island of Guadacanal.  I am going to focus on the reef photos this week and post my wreck photos next week.  Notice the large number of pictures of clown fish.  This is because most fish absolutely refuse to hold f’ing still when I am trying to get a picture of them.  Clown fish, however, are highly territorial and aggressive.  So if you come too close to their anemone nest, they will fight you.  (Seriously – I got bitten by one diving on night in East Timor.)   So these guys are all just sizing me up for the kill.

I am going to assume that only a few true dive dorks want to hear about the diving – which I believe that I have already mentioned was awesome – like diving in an aquarium with sunken battleships – and truly no one wants to hear about work – so I will leave this one off here.  I can think of a way to make my departure story sound amusing on paper (even though it actually was in real life) but the cliff notes are that I discovered the airport was actually on a different island from the one that I was one about 30 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off, and the hotel’s boat wouldn’t start, so some crusty Australian with a motorboat taking his kids to school was hijacked to drop me off.  It was also the only time I have ever flown where there was no security screening of any kind. 

So that’s it for reefs.  I will tell you a more compelling story about wrecks next week.


Brian C. said...

I refuse to believe those first two images are real. Is that a result of a flash?

Kristen Himelein said...

Actually - just the opposite - no flash. I just have a little automatic camera with an underwater housing, none of the fancy strobes that you need to make the flash work underwater. The pictures are taken in about 3 meters of water on a bright sunny day. I don't have photoshop so I used the viewer program that came with the camera to sharpen the image a bit, increase the contrast, and a bit on the saturation. Otherwise - exactly as it was in the ocean.