Friday, March 6, 2015

Lamotrek Atoll

Map picture


This has been a truly incredible day and without doubt a highlight of our trip; still in all fairness, I must start at the beginning in order to paint the entire picture.

No matter what euphuism is used to describe the motion of this ship, to say that we “had a slight movement of the vessel” would not be an accurate description in my book. Last night we moved around pretty good, not only rolling from side to side, but pitching up and down, even at times having the bow come completely out of the water and come crashing down with a “bang.” Now in truth, every ship on which I have ever sailed on has movement, and even the big ships at times can offer quite a violent ride. So, the fact that we had a bad night is not in and of itself unusual. What is unusual is that this ship seems to have almost no roll stabilization, so that in even mild conditions, it rolls from side to side continuously. I bring this into my story because the conditions were so bad last night that poor Lisa could not sleep because she was ever tense out of concern for being literally thrown out of the bed. The constant motion of the ship when at sea has been more uncomfortable for her than for me, but I must admit I am a little tired of it after almost 3 weeks. Anyway, Lisa was so tired this morning that she opted to stay onboard and not to go ashore this morning. While I understand, it turned out that today was something special, but at least, I can share what we encountered.

I am dumbfounded at just how many really small islands, cays, islets, atolls or whatever you want to call them, really exist in this part of the world. Even more amazing is how many are inhabited by small isolated groups of people, and our stop this morning was to just such a place. We are still within the Federated States of Micronesia, commonly just called Micronesia. However, today we sailed west into a new state, that of Yap, and we visited the coral atoll of Lamotrek. The large atoll actually has three small islands within its lagoon, but the island of Lamotrek is where the population of approximately 350 live. This is the first time that the Silver Discoverer has stopped at this destination, and I gather that this small island is not used to receiving visitors because our arrival was cause for a great celebration by the islanders.

As our zodiacs approached the beach, I could see a very large crowd who were singing and chanting in welcome. DSC03311After going ashore and ditching my life vest, I was faced with a long line of welcomers who had formed a pathway with people on both sides leading up the beach to where chairs has been set up for us. I decided to see if I could record this amazing welcome, and so I started up the line of well-wishers carrying my camera in my left hand, and shaking hands with my right. I had no clue as to whether or not I was actually getting any usable pictures, because I was carrying my camera chest high facing forward without my being able to see exactly what was being captured. When I finally reached the top of the beach to where the chairs were located, a chief suddenly shakes my hand and directs me to continue forward where a singing line of people was again lining both sides of a walkway just waiting to shake my hand. It was really quite an experience. In some cases older women would reach out and grab my hand while bowing to me and in others if I happened to miss someone, I had to stop and go back to be sure no one was overlooked. When I came back around full circle I was able to sit and join our group, only to realize that my camera had been running the entire time. It was not until I was back on the ship reviewing my pictures with Lisa when I suddenly saw what had actually happened. You see on this island the women were bare breasted. Do you remember where exactly I said I was carrying my camera? Yep, in my left hand about chest high – and so without realizing it, as I went down the line turning first one way and then the next, I was capturing some, shall we say, very interesting footage. Not only was it interesting, but it was downright funny to watch as I reached over to shake someone’s hand and my camera zoomed in for a close-up as it were. The footage is hilarious and I guarantee it will make our DVD. Never have I in so short a time shaken so many hands nor photographed so many naked breasts!!

After everyone was seated, a representative of the two Chiefs present read a very moving welcome in which he spoke eloquently of our paths crossing in time. DSC03313After the welcome from the Chief’s, or expedition leader Stefan spoke on behalf of the ship and its crew and our appreciation for our warm welcome. Then I had been asked on behalf of the passengers to present to the Chiefs and their community the gifts which people had brought to give to the school, and I tied in our appreciation at the unprecedented welcome and noted that in truth we probably would not in our lifetimes pass this way again, but that we would always treasure these moments together.

With the ceremonies thus concluded, we were at liberty to tour the small island community where people were conducting demonstrations of the skills they used in everyday life. We were welcome to visit every home if we wished or to walk anywhere. While the demonstrations were taking place there was a flurry of activity taking place in the background as the women were preparing for the singing presentations that were to take place late morning.DSC03345 I actually walked far enough that I came to the end of the path where I found the local school. The buildings were well maintained and they were in the process of installing a series of solar panels over the roof.

I made it back to the beach in time for the singing presentations, and I was fortunate to capture the better parts of all three separate groups on video. DSC03405Unlike on other islands where men participated, here all of the performers were women or children. It was a festive time for everyone, and by the time we all got back to the ship for lunch, it was agreed that without question this had been our best adventure yet.

In the afternoon several activities were offered. The divers went off to do their thing, the swimmers could swim off the beautiful white sandy beach, those wanting to tour the village further could do so, and for Lisa and I snorkeling off the beach was now available.100_0143 While we spent almost 90 minutes floating with the fishes, all the while the children kept up the singing and chanting from the beach. It appeared that the festivities associated with our visit were still going on. As it turns out, we later learned that in Yap a State Holiday is held on March 6th of each year to commemorate their cultural heritage. Even though we were visiting Lamotrek on March 5th, the Islanders had decided to have their holiday early in order that we could witness and share in the activities.

So all in all Lamotrek was a wonderful adventure, and in the end, Lisa and I fell into bed tired but happy.


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