Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Don't you fish in that blue lagoon.....

Lat; 15 deg 35' S Long; 145 deg 12' W 14.05 local time June 20 2006

We are now in the Tuamotu's archipelago. A dangerous place, many atolls have wrecks on their coral reefs. Despite modern navigational aids like the GPS, it's still considered hazardous to navigate here. The atolls are very low, the palm trees being the only thing visible at a distance. And since most of the atoll's circumference lack palm trees to mark its boundaries you can imagine that it's easy to get too close, and even bump into a coral head. And that's not good for you or your boat. If you manage to avoid the coral reefs you still have the challenge of getting safe through the passes into the lagoon. Tides create strong currents with breakers and the narrow passes are lined with razor sharp coral heads so you better pick the right time for passage. We are sailing really slow to get to Fakarava in the morning when the tide is right.
This vast area encompassing roughly half the size of western Europe consist of two parallel chains of atolls running from northwest to southeast. With it's 76 atolls, of which 41 are inhabited, it's the largest group of atolls in the world. Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world is here. As is Raroia, the atoll that Thor Heyerdahl and his raft Kon Tiki landed on 1947 after crossing the Pacific from South America. The Tuamotu's is also home of the Mururoa atoll, known for numerous French nuclear tests. The few people living here traditionally made a living from selling copra and fishing. Today pearl farming is the main industry. Although there's a lot of fish in the lagoon many of them can't be used for food because of Ciguatera, a nerve disease caused by a toxin produced by Gambierdiscus toxicus, a one-celled dino-flagellate algae, that small fish feed on. Reversal of hot and cold sensation are one of the symptoms. Fancy that! Just think what those toxins can do. Numbness and tingling around the mouth and extremities are also common. In my practice back in Ume� that symptom is almost always due to hyper-ventilation. But here you have to think of intoxication. So Fredrik and I will stick to fish from the open ocean. Yesterday we caught a Wahoo again. And now Fredrik is making brownies. Yummy!!

Take care out there.
Remember that old Eskimo saying; Nanook! - Don't you go were the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow!
In the local pacific variant it will be; Tetohu! - Put away that toxic fish, the lagoon's catch is not a proper dish!


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