help save a civilization - Tikopia

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"That the water should no longer be fresh is tragedy - but that the sea can now threaten this narrow strip of coral sand and rock from both sides is positively dangerous. Over 800 people live on the low-lying beach in palm frond huts - nearly half the population is under twelve. Their very existence is in peril! All of the women, youth, and men of the island are involved..."



NEW! Use Google Earth to go to Tikopia.


Tikopia, in the Solomon Islands, is only about two miles long and a mile wide. It is essentially an extinct volcano which rises 380 meters sheer from the sea. The population of nearly 2000 lives in villages clustered around a narrow coastal strip. Much of the interior of the island is taken up by a crater lake over half a mile in diameter. Until Cyclone ZoŽ in December 2002 this was a beautiful fresh water oasis and the source of fresh water fish and swamp taro. The storm breached the windward beach destroying the villages and washing everything (even the graves) into the lake.

Here is one photographic account of the storm, its impact and the very limited, voluntary relief effort that immediately followed:

Zoë Strikes Tikopia (link)

Other accounts and information on the storm damage can be found thru a Google search on "Tikopia".

Today, the water in the Lake is salt and the sea comes and goes with every tide through a narrow breach. The villagers have worked extraordinarily hard to dam the opening using stone carried from the beach. They have been partially successful and sand has built up behind the wall they have created - but there is still 20 to 30 metres to go and the force of the incoming and outgoing tides washes away the stones carried so laboriously on the backs of the people.


One has to understand the isolation of the place to appreciate how serious their plight is. The island is 555 miles East (up wind) of Honiara the capital and the source of the only supply boat which calls (very irregularly and briefly) about three times each year. There is a SSB radio in the clinic (rebuilt with funds raised by a German yachtsman after the cyclone) but this is their only means of communication. There is no machinery or mechanical aid of any sort. There is no dock or pier although fair anchorage in normal trade wind conditions can be had on the lee side of the island in about 20 metres sand and coral. Anywhere else the problem would have been fixed in days - here it remains a constant threat to life. It is difficult to imagine a development or relief project where such a small input from the outside world would have such an immense effect on the lives of local people. Relief aid immediately following a tragedy like ZoŽ is much easier to fund than a project of this sort, which although much less expensive and demanding, does not have the momentum generated by world press agencies.


A Must Read: Letter From Tikopia

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