The Ecologist


Dan Box - The Carteret Islands

Dan Box Blog - Paradise lost

Dan Box


Dan Box reports from a community in its death throes, as the Carteret islanders pack up their homes and prepare to become the world’s first climate change refugees

I have been on the Carteret Islands for over a week now, living in a small house made of sago palms, rising with the roosters and going to sleep with the sun – or at least as close to sunset as the sandflies will allow. It is hard to find the words to do it justice. Imagine your perfect desert island: white sand, coconut palms, the only sounds those of children playing in crystal waters or the low murmur of conversation.

There is a church, a school, and breadfruit cooking on fires made from coconut husks. I have been swimming and washed myself clean of salt in cold water drawn from a well. People laugh because my skin is so white. I am learning what I can of their language and hand out Polaroid photos of my hosts, which are hugely popular.

But, of course, it is not paradise. That is why I am here. The islanders are well... Read More...

Dan Box Blog: Morning in Tinputz

Dan Box

I slept in my clothes last night, on the bare wooden floor of one of the houses the first boatload of people to be evacuated from the Carteret Islands are building for their families. It was a jet-black night in the small clearing hacked out amid the jungle, the dark broken only by our two candles and the lights of Fireflies jigging in the trees.

I’m heading out to the islands themselves on Friday (that’s if everything goes to plan; I’ve learned not to expect anything here until it happens) and the guys gave me a list of messages to pass on to their families, and a few things they ask I bring back with me when I return. Bernard Tobara wants to know if his family are OK, and for me to tell them he is good and happy at Tinputz. Jackson Tau wants me to tell his family he is working very hard to clear up the resettlement site. I also brought a Polaroid camera down with me and gave the blokes a few photos of themselves.

This morning Jackson quietly returned the photo I had taken of him grinning on the steps to his new home and asked if I would pass it on to his wife instead. Charles Tsibi wants me to bring back his tools, a level, a chisel and a hand-plough. All of them want their families to send salted fish and clams, which I know they are not eating at Tinputz as, except for the few noodles and... Read More...

The Evacuation Begins

Dan Box

first arrivals at Tinputz.jpg

Dan Box is on-site to witness the world's first climate refugees being evacuated due to rising sea levels

The evacuation of the Carteret Islands have begun. This morning I stood on black volcanic sand, pressed up right against the jungle, and watched a small white boat powered by a single outboard engine run in against the shore. On board were five men from the Islands, the fathers of five families, who have come to finish building houses and gardens already begun in a cleared patch of jungle at Tinputz, on the east coast of Bougainville. When these homes are ready the five will return to the Carterets, to fetch their wives and children back. Life, they hope, will be better for them here. On the Carterets, king tides have washed away their crops and rising sea levels poisoned those that remain with salt. The people have been forced to move.

The men climbed silently from the boat and into the shallows. They splashed towards... Read More...

Dan Box blog: Almost there

Dan Box

'You have camera?' The taxi driver makes a tube out of his forefingers and thumb and holds it to his eye.

'I’m sorry?'

'Camera?' Still peering through his improvised camera lens, he indicates the Nagra recorder by my side.

'No, radio equipment'.

'Radio! Like this.' He slaps the dashboard happily.

'Something like reporter, yes?' I can’t help smiling.

'Something like that.' And, he’s right. I am only something like a reporter on this trip. This is the third day of my journey, funded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), to the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea, whose people are being evacuated before rising sea levels swallow up their home. The BBC gave me the Nagra to keep a record of the journey but I don’t think that alone quite makes me a reporter. On a personal level, I used to work in newspapers but have been unemployed so long now that I’ve stopped thinking of myself as such. I’m not quite sure what I am on this trip, yet.

He swings the taxi over towards the kerb. Terminal 3,... Read More...

Dan Box blog: Final preparations

Dan Box

In Dan Box's final write-up before he heads for the Carteret Islands, he contemplates his journey and how prepared he really is.

This will be the last blog I write from the UK as by this time next week I will be a good few steps into the journey that I hope will end up on the Carteret Islands.

The last week or so has been pretty frantic: buying kit; picking up the laptop, solar panel and satellite modem I’ll be using to blog during the journey and trying to get each of these to talk to each other; doctors and dentists appointments (making sure nothing is likely to go wrong over the next six weeks), a risk assesment, rescheduling flights and a few press interviews. I tried to clear as much of the last couple of days as possible to spend with my brother, who is moving to Australia while I will be in Papua New Guinea. We spent this afternoon rock-climbing near our family home in Shropshire – a perfect day, blue skies and the sound of the forest – which will be the last time we will see each other for a while. It’s... Read More...

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