21st December 2019, The last run…
Voyage 51 is coming to a conclusion after one more trip along the chain of Line islands.

While in Christmas, on the jetty, I saw a foreigner taking measurements from the tidal-gauge and introduced myself. He, Jason, was an employee of University of Hawaii and involved in the oceanographic department for 3 years orso. We both know Ziggy, who started this all 20-odd years ago.

Jason was very informative as to the effects of climate change. Regarding the global sea-level rise (currently, 4mm per year), he painted the picture of a bathtub filled with water, and shave ice on one side. In the beginning, the ice will melt fast, but as the surrounding water cools down, the melting will slow down. Without interference, the water with different temperatures (and thus different densities) in the bath tub will hardly mix. While the ice slowly keeps on melting, the amount of colder water will increase until a certain equilibrium is broken. The two bodies of water will then rapidly mix, and the ice will suddenly be in much warmer water, which will lead to a increased amount of ice melting. Jason foresees this happening on a ‘short term’. When this happens, all our forecasts regarding sea-level rise will need to be re-adjusted dramatically.

Encounters like these help us to be aware of global issues and we often get the feeling that we are powerless to these huge challenges. I wish to believe the opposite. Everyone of us has the ability to make a change, however small.

Working on the Kwai gives us the chance to interact with natives of one of the most remote places on earth, and this brings us the possibility to exchange information. I learn a lot of the culture and customs of the island people, while I discuss the above issues whenever I can. For example, in the northernmost settlement in Washington Island I had a talk with the Matriarch of the ‘Kaawa’ (small hamlet). She understood the issue and translated it for the other inhabitants.

In Washington I was surprised to find an old lady who wanted to speak to me about vegetarianism. She, and her husband decided to live a vegan life because of health-issues. Now she asked me how to balance her diet. With the available local ingredients in mind, I gave her some tips and handed recipes for ‘I-matang bread’ and fibrous cookies.

Washington Island has a community-based society that is very much in contact with nature still. One morning I observed the goings-on of animal-, and mankind and I noticed that all of them seem to be involved in two things only: providing food and shelter. Sooty-terns shoot down from the sky to pick up sticks for building nests while humans keep on extending their habitats with morel lumber and corrugated steel structures. Chickens and pigs are roaming the bushes all day, digging for bugs and such, while kids are sent out by their parents to by a loaf of bread. Thanks to the ‘coconut-economy’ on this island, there is no shortage of basic necessities. One loaf of bread will cost you five coconuts. One teabag, two coconuts. And the supply of coconuts on this island seems endless.

We spent three days in Washington, while two days were used to load a hundred tons of copra. On Friday afternoon we set sail for Fanning Island. This is where we are going to celebrate Christmas.

Bengineer