Paradise NOT....and a bit of background on this part of the world

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Sun 19 Aug 2012 23:13
Soon after we anchored here (Parmahan Island) yesterday, we jumped in the water to explore the extensive reef beside us; what a disappointment...the reef was 95% dead! A few clusters of coral, primarily staghorn, were trying to come back and there were a few, very few, reef fish scurrying around those clumps of live coral....but almost the entire coral reef was dead.

Immediately one thinks of a range of possibilities: natural disasters such as cyclones/earthquakes/tsunamis/volcanic eruptions, caused by man such as fishing/anchoring/diving/pollution.

Where we are, there have been devastating earthquakes and associated tsunamis as well as volcanic eruptions that have wreaked extensive carnage to towns, villages, cities and of course the surrounding land and sea. A tsunami might have done the damage to this reef as there was one a few years ago that killed many people in this region. As we sail these waters, one can always see a number of active volcanoes puffing out their eruption gases at regular intervals....say 20 minutes or so. The whole of Indonesia is made up of volcanic islands....over 17,000 islands ...hundreds active at present...and so the everyday lives of Indonesians are carried out within this context of ever present danger albeit not a high enough risk to inhibit them in any obvious way. The disaster happens, they bury the dead that are not buried by the disaster and they go about rebuilding their meager dwellings and life.

Pollution is rampant wherever there is population...the larger the village, town, city, the more the pollution floating or immersed in the surrounding waters. It is most obvious that the age of plastics in packaging and consumables has arrived big time in this nation....but the attention to managing all that resultant garbage has NOT made its way here at all. And then, of course, there is no infrastructure to manage whether it is a plastic bag/container, food discards or human waste, the sea has to accept it all.....and the plastics just remain ...forever?? The one means that we have seen of handling garbage is burning it close by the street/village/home where it was generated....and that gets rid of the volume ..... then it is just a matter of sucking back the polluted/smokey air.

When it comes to fishing, the fishermen in Indonesia use any means possible to catch what fish remain... including using cyanide dispersed in the water to kill the fish; bombing (using dynamite) to kill the fish with the resulting concussion shock waves.....and every possible LOW COST means of fishing with nets/lines. And, to be where the fish are, they construct all sorts of small and large rafts/platforms/structures and anchor/moor those anywhere in the sea....close to shore in shallows or well offshore in water that may be hundreds of meters deep. They then go out to these platforms at night and, with a variety of lights/torches/flashlights, they attract the fish to the platform and scoop them up with purse nets or the like.

And then they have water craft of every size and description to fish in all the waters where there aren't convenient rafts to work or 2 men or children will be fishing from simple dugouts; then you have an individual or several fishing from motorized home built wooden "boats" in which they have installed a simple one stroke, hand cranked for starting, diesel engine....which make a very distinctive BANG, BANG, they wander the waters day and night. Larger boats with several crew and loads of lights work out of the larger cities/ports. When we were approaching Kupang in the dark of night over the last 15 nautical miles in relatively narrow waterways, we encountered dozens and dozens of brightly lit (rings of flourescent lights around the whole perimeter of these 30 to 50 foot fishing boats. And forget navigation don't find any local boats in Indonesia with proper navigation lights.....many smaller boats have no lights...or the fisherman may use
a cigarette lighter or a tiny flashlight/torch to try and warn you at the last minute as he sees you about to run over him or his nets. Coming into Kupang, it was like running an obstacle course with a blindfold...our radar was working perfectly, but there were so many fishing boats moving in every direction....and so many fishing platforms and pearl farms that it was extremely difficult to match a radar target to something you could see, or NOT SEE, in front of you. We made it through the maze without incident but we did pass several fishing boats that were within a boat length of Sea Mist. Definitely the most difficult nighttime navigation we have encountered in our 7 years.

Now....lets come back to this reef where we are anchored close by: what we found as we swam were dozens of abandoned mooring lines...lines tied around coral heads and running through coral patches....obviously used by fishermen in years gone by and which contributed to devastating the reef. Some of these anchors/mutiple mooring lines were strung together and attached to a float or mooring ball on the surface...they all appeared in disuse....and for the most part, the lines were now just strewn across the bottom...attached to nothing on the surface. So some damage from that activity....there is a local muslim fishing village on the island...400 meters from where we anchored....we could see lots of fishing related activity coming and going from the village. But the extent of the damage to this reef has to be from a far greater negative force; it may be from cyanide or bombing or it may be from the last earthquake/tsunami....we are sailing onward this morning so we may never fi
nd out the specific was most disappointing to find what we found below the surface when in such an otherwise idyllic setting above the surface. time for breakfast as it is approaching 7 am...ciao/the seamisters