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Takuu: The Sinking Island

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Rachel Higgins

on 2 December 2014

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Transcript of Takuu: The Sinking Island

The only inhabited island, Nukutoa, is 0.5 km long and is 1 m above sea level. Total land of all islands is 1.4 km squared. It has white sandy beaches, palm trees and a tropical interior.
First spotted in 1616 by Le Maire and Schouten, Dutch explorers and named Marcken.
Rediscovered and named Coco islands by Captain Wilkinson in 1794.
4 researchers and a team of filmmakers are the only non-natives who have been allowed onto the island recently. They created a documentary to increase interest in aiding the islands.
The Sinking Island

250 km Northeast of Bougainville province of Papua New Guinea
Mainly referred to as Takuu (by islanders and familiars) or the Mortlocks (Europeans).
Polynesian community of between 400 and 500 people live on Nukutoa, the only inhabited island. A small number descended partially European or Melanesian (from New Guinea) peoples.
Importance Historically
Current Importance

Tone: Depressing.

Stance: Older islanders' determination to stay true to their culture and unwillingness to allow outsiders on the island, as well as their refusal to leave the island. Mentions younger people's irresponsibility and lack of interest. It also refers to the hunger crisis and destruction of the island caused by climate change and tectonic plate movement.

Conclusion: The island will sink eventually, no matter what the people do.

Supposedly discovered by man named Takuu who helped colonize the islands. Believed to have been colonized between 3,000 and 1,000 years ago.
Sighted by Dutch Le Maire and Schouten on June 22, 1616, and named Marchken (a Dutch town).
Signted by Captain Mortlock and named Hunter's Islands.
Captain Wilkinson sighted them in 1794, and called the Cocos Islands.
Officially named the Mortlock islands by Krusenstern in 1824.
During December 1843, trader Andrew Cheyne established headquarters on Nukerekia islet, cleared land (possibly including settlements) and harvested sea cucumber. After demanding the Europeans leave, a fight broke out, killing two native men.
During the later 1800s to 1881, Takuu experienced a drought that decimated the plants and animals. Voyagers from Tasman and Ontong Java brought epidemics, such as fever and dysentry, that decimated the population.
In 1881, 'Queen Emma' Forsayth of New Guinea bought the island for four axes and ten pounds of tobacco from the chief. R.H.R. Parkinson helped her establish commercial coconut farms. By 1884, Parkinson and Churchill noticed abandoned houses and canoes.
In 1891, islands were given as a wedding gift to her sister and Joseph Highly. Joseph died in 1894, but the sister lived on Takuu for twenty years as remarried Mrs. Calder.
Taken over by Australian Expropriation Board after World War I due to being a part of Germany's New Guinea. Ownership disputed by Mrs. Calder and Frances Kroening (Highly's daughter). Calder won and owned island property until her death in 1931 by dynamite. Kroening inherited the property. Australia technically owned the islands and New Guinea until 1973, although they did not acheive independence until 1975.
Mr. J.E.Goodson bought half of the property in 1927 for 3,684 pounds. He lived there for nine years and grew copra. In 1936, Burns Philip and Company Ltd. bought his property and ran it until 1966.
Coconut groves bombed by the Japanese during World War II in 1942. No injuries and little damage recorded.

Documentary called "There Once was an Island" created by anthropologists and published to widespread acclaim in 2010. Depicts the people's struggles in the mid to late 2000s against hunger, erosion, Christianity and potential relocation.
They have over 1,000 traditional songs and dances they practice for events and religious ceremonies. Those converted to Christianity no longer participate in these cultural events.
Their traditional Polynesian religion (Nukumanu) is practiced by most elders and young men. They are the last culture to practice such a religion. Some younger women, particularly those that left the island, have converted to Christianity since its introduction in the early 1980s. This has split the community, as the traditional religion emphasizes ancestors and multiple deities over one god, while Christianity emphasizes God.
The society is a typical ancient patriarchal one, with men laboring in fields and fishing, while women prepare food and take care of the house and children. However, recently women have begun to take on more of a roll in the community- some due to time spent away from the island and others due to the realization that their children's future is in jeopardy. A few, particularly those who only come back to their ancestral home occasionally or those strongly influenced by Christianity have taken a dominate roles in their community or even engaged in business and travel.
Takuu- also known as Taku, Tauu, The Mortlocks, The Marqueen Islands, Marchken, Cocos Islands, Hunter's Islands.
Takuu- name of the people, atoll and their language. No known meaning. Name of supposed founder of island. Meaning- unknown
Mortlock- last name of famous European discoverer who named them Hunter Islands after another explorer, thinking he had already discovered them. Meaning- 1. strong advocate for exposing people to risk that tests their capabilities 2. stream where young salmon swim
A Russian hydrographer labeled the atoll Mortlock in his atlas in the 1820's.
Fish- caught using only a line and hooks or net. Kinds: ruvettas, yelliw fin tuna, black bass, marlin,etc.
Giant taro- root-type food mainly eaten in cermonies. It takes 15 years to grow and the gardens used are being affected by saltwater (destroys taro).
Coconuts, bananas and chickens- grown/raised on island. Originally imported from New Guinea. Most native trees were cut down by Queen Emma to raise coconuts.
The culture is largely untouched outside of Christianity- it has no shops, electricity or regular boat service (ships arrive only every six months or so), though it does have battery-run communicators connected to the Sankamap, the only ship that comes to the island. The few outside influences are imported tools, clothes and food. Anthropologists consider it a representative of other ancient Polynesian cultures despite this.
They have a egalitarian culture that shares resources and land (communal ownership), somewhat similar to some of the Native American societies.
Seagulls/terns are traditonally kept as pets. Younger sons are given young birds to catch small fish for and start catching larger fish as the birds grow.
Speak English and Takuu, as well as Tok Pisin, the language of New Guinea.
100 use taro. One, Na taora, is a
Autonomous Bougainville Government- supplies food such as rice and pork, for the increasingly dependent islanders.
Key issues- sea walls used to keep the tide from overwhelming the island are causing erosion as they are keeping the sand from returning with the waves.
Sinking- climate change and/or tectonic plates. Earthquakes from plates are creating tsunamis further devastating the island. Debates over whether island is sinking due to being on plate that is slowly edging under another one are ongoing. Many activists think only climate change is the cause.
These issues are causing divisions within the community over building more sea walls, and relocation to Banio Plantation (cocoa) in Buka, Bougainville, vs. staying and attempting to save the islands.
The Boungainville government under the command of New Guinea has set aside land so that families can come and farm. It is pushing the people to relocate in three years. Many are conflicted- some want leave early to obtain the best land, while others are outright refusing to leave.
However, the most common stance is one of
uncertainty. Many are afraid of discrimination by current residents, as well the daunting tasks of cultural intergration. Violent crime is common in Bougainville
and an ongoing Civil War that has quieted since
1997 are just a few of the problems faced.
Distrust of the government is high due
to lack of aid and interest.
ceremony celebrating first-born sons. Another,
Tukumai, ends the formal morning period
with a five-day ritual.
The island does have an education system. Children can have up to twelve years of primary education, although this can take longer due to the tsunamis destroying the school buildings and supplies. Some have received secondary education and there are five known Ph.D. graduates.
Note: Bougainvilleans are Melanesian and have a very different culture. Islanders will need to earn money, not have free access to the sea and be exposed to new diseases such as malaria.
The Pacific Small Island Developing States is discussing the problems facing the eleven member nations with the United Nations. They are asking for assistance and cuts in greenhouse gases.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has promised to provide "$30 billion over the next three years" and "$100 billion by 2020." Key nations are New Zealand and Ireland.
Some Irish music bands, such as The Blackbirds and Rebecca Ireland, have participated in Island Aid to raise funds for The Takuu Trust.
Water- freshwater is being contaminated by the sea water. It is foul and causes rashes.
German health fanatic established a nudist colony of thirty people in 1903.
Take Highway 51 to I35, and I35 down to OKC. From Will Rogers Airport, take United Flight UA65365 to LAX.
From LAX, take Catahay Pacific Flight Cx883 at 10:30PM to Hong Kong.
The Mortlock Islands, one of which is Takuu, have temperatures that range from 70 to 90 F, and an average rainfall of 7 inches/month in their "dry" season.
Takuu atoll is one of the places on Earth most strongly effected by climate change. Rising sea levels threaten the small island, which has become a face for the dangers of climate change.
The atoll consists of 13 islands formed by a coral reef.
Discovered again by Captain Mortlock in 1795, who then named it the Hunter islands
The island is currently a prime example of the effects of climate change, erosion and plate tectonics.
Variety of fish, including manta ray and moray eel
Hermit and Coconut Crab
Spinner dolphins and others
Fairy Terns, Frigate Birds, Geese,Noddy Terns
Whales, such as orcas
Clams, starfish, sea urchin
Takuu is a communal farming and fishing community where resources are shared among the tribe. Money is not used by the islanders and there is no tourism or exports.
Bouganville government funds relief efforts and sends supplies through the Sankamap cargo ship.
After 1975, only those with special permission from the chief were allowed on the island until 2008. Now most researchers can enter the islands easily, although regular tourists cannot.
Allowing commercial tourism has been discussed by younger islanders, but no plans have been made yet and many dislike the idea.
Matt: No
Rachel: No; I believe that only those that can provide aid or policy expertise should visit due to the food shortage.
Take Cathay Pacific Flight CX103 to Cairns, Australia.
Take Air Niugini PX91 to Port Moresby.
To get to Takuu Atoll from Port Moresby, either rent a helicopter, or wait for the cargo ship Sankamap, which makes a trip every couple months to Takuu.
Takuu is yet another conquest by stronger peoples that has suffered greatly and has been forced to serve dictators (Queen Emma).
The island is the last haven for what is now a unique culture. When the island is lost, the people will be forced to follow modern practices.
Would anyone like to raise their own seagulls?
Would anyone be interested in fishing with only a line?
Should the people allow commercial tourism?
Would you visit the island, particularly if you could provide aid or scientific expertise?
Do you think Takuu is a culture worth preserving?
Tridacna gigas- giant clam people harvest
Tridacna Gigas- largest living bivalve mollusk up to 47 inches long and 440 lbs.
Queen Emma Forsayth- ruler of Pacific Island trade
Their leaders are five hereditary elders called the matuua that rule a patriline (large family unit). The traditional order of power: 1. Avo-religious/political leader lives in Fare Ata 2. Kipu- similar to Avo. Takes care of cemetery and lives in Fare Mania. 3. Kikiva- tatoos and master of passage. Fare Massani.
4. Putahu- former executioner. Only he and his sons areable to use the food pounder, Ttuki. Fare Naaoro. 5. Tenehu- religious assistant to Akiri. Fare
Ania. All positions are held by elder male family members and
passed down to sons or younger brothers. All positions have
assistants that chant and distribute food.
Full transcript