THE discovery of human bones on the beach — and the hair-raising feeling that spirits now dwell in their midst — has forced a village in the Yasawa Islands to begin the relocation of 100 graves already under threat from rising sea levels.
When this newspaper's team arrived at Navutua Village on Nacula Island this week, the grave site had already been disturbed with six of the eight graves usually totally submerged during high tides relocated to higher grounds.
The remaining two graves are that of brothers Ovini Caqusau and Aporosa Nasusu who were laid to rest in 1990 and 1968 respectively.
Seawater has washed away cement, leaving the tombs exposed and vulnerable. Their skeletal remains have turned a shade of orange as seawater seeps into the grave site.
Turaga ni Koro Petero Nadriva, Mr Nasusu's son, was at the site supervising the reopening of his father's grave. He said the relocation began a few weeks ago.
"We started burying human remains just after New Year's Day when we found that some bones and human skulls on the beach had been washed up by the waves," he said.
"Some of the bones were spread across the beach where our grave site is, so we had to find and collect the bones and bury them in a safer area."
Mr Nadriva said the new grave site was located about 100 metres from the beach.
"In one grave we have about six skeletons. In the other, we collected about four.
"We couldn't put all of the remains in individual graves because the skeletons were not intact."
Mr Nadriva said the villagers were shocked when they first discovered the human remains on the beach.
"We did not expect the tides to be this strong but it's our reality now," he said.
Turaga ni Vanua Ratu Peniasi Vu said the village needed help from the authorities.
"Other graves are still in danger," he said.
"We need a sea wall built to protect the graves."
Mr Vu said about two rows of the grave site had been destroyed.
"There is a need to protect the ones that have not been destroyed and we need that barrier urgently because a few other graves are still in danger."
He said the gravesite was founded in the late 1800s.