* As the Uto ni Yalo waits out the high pressure system that has turned the stretch of ocean between the Solomons and New Caledonia into violent, frothing waters, biogeographer TEDDY FONG explores the refuge into which they have sailed.
From Wandra (Wanderer) Bay, Solomons
WE got to Wanderer Bay, called Wandra Bay in the local pidgin, a little after 5.30pm on Friday the 13th of July and immediately tied up beside two of our sister vaka, the Te Matau from Aotearoa and Marumaru Atua from the Cook Islands.
Like us, they had sought the shelter of this scenic bay for some maintenance and recovery for their crew members.
Saturday was spent doing repairs after our wind and wave whipping and giving the Uto ni Yalo a thorough scrub-down from the excessive salt spray accumulated after our two-day ordeal. Included in this maintenance was the realignment of the uli and the masts.
I'm sure she's enjoying the tender love and care we are affording her still.
By afternoon Peni, Ilaitia and I were sent ashore to look for fresh water sources and refill our gallons for bath and cooking. We met two very friendly locals who took us to their watering hole, a clean stream with an abundant flow of fresh water from the cloud forest protecting the bay. We immediately took to the water to enjoy a refreshing bath in its cool waters, but not after enquiring if there were snakes or crocodiles in the surrounding shrub.
While rowing our dinghy ashore we were alerted by Peni of the presence of sharks under us, or at least that is what he made out the huge moving blur beneath us to be. Standing up to take a better look we noticed the blurs as greenish-blue in colour. Our two new friends yelled back at us saying it was toppa, the "double headed parrotfish".
I grew in excitement as I had stumbled across a species that had long evaded my researching endeavours, the bumphead parrotfish Bolbometopon muricatum.
Ilaitia saw my glow and enquired as to the reason. When I said that my thesis topic was based on the parrotfish family Scaridae, he encouraged me to blog on it. The parrotfish is also one of the identified and more commonly promoted fishes of the Pacific Voyagers, especially the Samoan Gaulofa. So without sounding too nerdy here are some quick facts on them. Parrotfishes are well-named based on the fusion of their teeth into parrot-like teeth and the bright blue-green colours they distinctively display. Another feature distinguishing them from most other families is that most species have a number of growth and colour phases ranging from juvenile and sub-adult to the initial adult and terminal or final male growth phases.
Parrotfishes are generally shallow-water fishes, most of which are associated with coral reefs. There are a small number that live in association with seagrass and algal beds too.
The Pacific Voyagers recognise their importance and are calling for the sustainable harvest of all parrotfishes. We are also calling on a ban on the killing of the bumphead parrotfish because it is a keystone marine and sand cycle species and an important adaptation measure against rising sea levels. This is perhaps the best course of action we can take to protect us and our islands, our identity.
Again as my professor would say — "end of sermon".
Big loloma to you all as we finally hope to leave Wandra Bay this fine Tuesday morning for Rennel and Bellona where we will meet up with the rest of the fleet before attempting once again the stretch between the Solomons and New Caledonia.
Keep the prayers coming, we need it. Much love!