It was Trish's birthday today and she got a
shell necklace I made for her, a fixed aft toilet and she really wanted a
Sweetlips for dinner. Sweetlips are not something attached to my sweet mouth but
a particularly tasty fish and being a spoilt girl that's what I got her -
as well as two snapper which we cooked whole for lunch.
Inside Chagos here there is quite a community and
some of those at anchor have been here more than a dozen times and staying
sometimes for three months or more!
So on certain islands there are little day camps
set up. Just a clearing and some natural seating a fire pit (which is not
allowed) and normally some pots and pans that have been left there. On one
island Boddam there is a volley ball court and makeshift table and chairs sunk
in to the ground so the BIOT (British Indian Overseas Territories) cannot remove
them easily. All of this is evolving all the time and the nomadic community that
are here assume temporary ownership of the camps and improve and maintain them
all the time. It is common of course to gather at some of the camps before
sundown to shoot the breeze and perhaps have a sundowner together. Interestingly
it seeems to me that we have noted that Americans are much more prone to do this
than other nationalities. Also they talk way more than any others on the VHF. We
have seen this consistently and they are not anywhere for very long before they
have a VHF "net" set up or just regularly get on for a good blab. Interesting
cultural trait. It is interesting to see the loose strands of a comminity start
to develop among those that have been here for some time. I have even been told
that some yachties are actually a bit territorial about certain areas. Certainly
at Boddam the yachties at anchorage seem to consider the place "theirs" and take
exception to BIOT clearing their camps which notices firmly and clearly tell
them should not be established.
There are also a couple of burn off stations which
allow sailors to burn off their rubbish and - wait for it - a couple of wheelie
bins on a couple of the islands for cans and bottles which the BIOT ship
collects and removes from time to time.
The islands have an interesting history and one of
the Salomon group where we are, called Boddam has the remains of the community
that was based here from the mid seventeen hundreds to the nineteen seventees.
The islands were "claimed" initially by the French, hence the French names of
the individual islands, who ceded them to the British along with Mauritius
and Seychelles after the Napoleonic wars. By this time the islands had already
been operating under a lease granted to two Mautian brothers, as a coconut
plantaion for a long time. The lease appears to have commercially passed through
several hands though the commercial cultivation of coconuts for oil and
then copra seems to have been continuous. The population was originally made up
of lepers then the slave labour arrived. There were also managers and people
from the other islands where the supply and cargo ships plied to and from.
Polulation grew to about 2,000 souls and on Boddam in these islands
there is the remains of a well founded community. There is a church, hospital,
school, jail and cemetery and several managers houses. There is also the remains
of a very substantial factory with rails into it and traces of lots of heavy
pipework. The labour all lived in timber and palm frond clad
This community developed and evolved, presumably
homogenising, through and beyond the abolition of slavery. The ownership of
the operating company was eventually Seychellian and all the labour worked for
that company. Eventually the British in cohoots with the Americans who wanted a
military base at Diego Garcia bought out the Seychellian company closed it down
and forcibly shipped all inhabitants off the islands. There have been several
judgements made in long running legal actions taken by the "disposessed"
Chagosians but the islands remain uninhabited (apart from the large military
presence on Diego Garcia.
So whose islands are they? The French? Mauritians?
The British? The decendents of the population of slaves lepers and other
inhabitants who were here for a couple of hundred years? Or the yachties that
are here for months at a time on multiple occasions?
I know that the day has been full of anxiety for
Trish also who is trying to deal with the thought of a lumpy bumpy eight day
passage down to Mauritius. I tried my best to entertain and relax her through
the day and we watched a movie last night and had a good nights sleep so I hope
she will fare reasonably well. Once the sun is up in the sky a little we will
head out and we can look forward to one or two days at least of confused lumpy
seas particularly round the Chagos Bank.