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Posts Tagged ‘Indian Ocean’

Anyone who has not yet heard of the tragic deaths from shark attacks in Seychelles just isn’t paying attention, as the story went global very fast after a British honeymooner became the second victim in a fortnight.

Following on the heels of the future King of England’s own honeymoon here, the story quickly became fodder the world’s media could really sink their teeth into and requests for info, photos, gory details … whatever … have already come in to me from reporters hoping for a local angle competing publications may have missed.

Here is my response to an email from The Daily Mirror:

I’m on a different island, the main island of Mahé, not Praslin where the attacks occurred, so have none of the info you’ve asked for.

As a service, however, you might remind readers that the sea is full of fish and some of them are dangerous and that not all holiday destinations are Disneyland. I am hoping these tragic events don’t lead to a massive shark kill, as it is their soup we enter when we decide to go for dips outside the confines of swimming pools.

As happened in Norway recently, man met beast on beast’s turf and shit happened. Not nice. Not pretty. Very sad. That bear, by the way, was in bad shape

While examining the 39 stone male that was shot and killed after attacking the campsite of 13 people, Norway’s veterinary institute discovered that several of the bear’s teeth were “very damaged” before the attack.

“Under two of the canines and many of the incisors, the nerves were exposed. This causes serious pain and changes the behaviour of bears,” Bjoernar Ytrehus, the veterinarian who examined the bear’s head, said in a statement.

“This could be a factor that contributed to the attack,” he said.

“Starving and suffering, a bear is more unpredictable and aggressive than normal,” he said.

Well, yeah. So am I. And uninvited guests would not be welcome here, either, under those circumstances.

The Indian Ocean is much bigger than a Norwegian island, however, and sharing the water is usually quite okay. Any casual snorkel reveals the vast variety of life under the surface where animals swim, crawl, burrow, float, sleep, breed, eat and get on with the business of living. There is an obvious food chain that ranges from small to big to bigger to huge with each creature filling a function. That’s what’s often called “Nature”.

Shark is a popular menu item in Seychelles, so obviously man-bites-fish is common enough, but contrary to some lines of thought, humans are also a link in the food chain. Sure, we’re top predators and kill more of our fellow Earth inhabitants than any other species, but that doesn’t mean we’re not beyond being considered snacks.

There is no malice in a shark attack, no Gee, that guy just got married and looks so happy on his honeymoon, so let’s put paid to that involved. A big, hungry fish has no motive for mayhem other than lunch and notes no difference in packaging.

We can thank Stephen Spielberg for imbuing us with accusatory dread over sharks … and I have … and the lurking fear and accompanying music that comes unbidden in mirky water, but the fact is we give up our role as top predator when we enter the water and might as well change our name to Frank Furter.

Being on holiday does not convey safety and no amount of stars in a destination’s designation encases a visitor in an unbreakable bubble of protection. The world’s most beautiful beach isn’t a ride at Universal and there’s no keeping your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times option for those who chose to think it’s safe to get in the water.

Sharks are ancient, complex and fascinating creatures that have been around in one form or another for more than 420 million years.

Since that time, sharks have diversified into 440 species, ranging in size from the small dwarf lanternshark, Etmopterus perryi, a deep sea species of only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, the largest fish, which reaches approximately 12 metres (39 ft 4 in) and which feeds only on plankton, squid, and small fish by filter feeding. Sharks are found in all seas and are common down to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater, with a few exceptions such as the bull shark and the river shark which can live both in seawater and freshwater. They breathe through five to seven gill slits. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites, and improves their fluid dynamics so the shark can move faster. They have several sets of replaceable teeth.

Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead are apex predators, at the top of the underwater food chain. Their extraordinary skills as predators fascinate and frighten humans, even as their survival is under serious threat from fishing and other human activities.

That serious threat amounts to an estimated 100 MILLION sharks killed every year by people, many just for their fins.

That, too, is tragic.

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Tonight's sunset.

I think of my son often, and on evenings alone on the veranda watching the sunset he comes to mind in a way that always makes me smile.

The opening line of one of Jaren’s songs, “Swedish Nutball”, resonates as the sun sinks way too fast into the western sky.

I can feel the rotation of the earth …

I pretty much stop right there, as the rest of the lyrics aren’t exactly conducive to contemplating a lovely end to a day, but there is no doubt I do … feel the rotation of the earth.

Those who’ve never seen the face of Sol plunge at speed into that end of the ocean called Horizon near the Equator are missing one of our planet’s best thrill rides.

From the first kiss of sun to sea to the last wink of brightness over Horizon’s lip all of about 4 minutes pass … the sucker drops like a stone, so fast there is no question or quibbling over just how fast this globe we’re stuck to spins. Whooooooosh!

I own a vast amount of E tickets for this ride and try not to miss it as it comes around almost exactly every twenty-four hours, year in and year out. Being four degrees south of the North/South dividing line, the time varies by no more than a few minutes. Rather than longer days and shorter nights, or vice versa, we in the middle just see the sunset swing from one area of ocean to another, then back over the course of the year. (Google “Declination” if you’re interested, as for some reason the link won’t post.)

Most days I sit and watch, either a cup of tea or glass of wine at hand, but sometimes I do choose to stand for the event. Staring at our star as it does its dip, the beautifully illustrated awareness of how bloody fast this planet spins, can almost make me dizzy.

I live on the west coast of Mahé, a situation I love since it gives me this drama rather than the early morning show of the sun doing his impression of a Pop-Tart emerging from a toaster.

I tend to avoid the bugger as much as possible during that chariot ride it takes across the sky, seeing as how fried is not my best look, but when I see him heading toward the high dive to prepare for the plunge I will drop what I’m doing to watch the form, the style and the amazing ovation the sky and clouds give once he’s gone and the way that echos across the ocean.

That the show is all mine is special, but sharing the ride makes it even better.

Here’s Jaren NOT singing about sunsets …

And, yes, what I’m thinking now, he thought of first.

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About as dangerous as wildlife gets ...

About as dangerous as wildlife gets ...

Although I live in what is technically Africa, and there are many trés African elements ici, wildlife on the continent takes far different forms than on this rock.

Across the thousand miles of Indian Ocean to the west, lions, leopards and hyenas hunt, venomous snakes are legion, rhinos stamp out fires and elephants munch bouquets of wildflowers at the end of the rainy season. Caution is vital under all conditions, and lone random wanderings by the novice in city or wilderness are rarely a good idea.

Thankfully, it takes no special vigilance on the part of the tourist to successfully navigate Seychelles … on land. The sea is rife with dangers, and even more so now that pirates have joined the list of maritime threats, but terra firma? Nah.

We have no poisonous reptiles or insects, and although mosquitos may be annoying there are none of the family anopheles, so no malaria.

My visitors get a very quick orientation before I send them out exploring. If they’re not British and driving, they get an X marked on the back of the right hand to reference on which side of the car the middle of the road should be positioned. If swimming or snorkeling is part of the agenda, I warn about sunburn, stonefish and the need to rehydrate.

If deciding to walk in what passes for jungle here, this is what they hear:

1) This is a fairly small island, so getting lost isn’t easy. You can see the sea from just about anywhere, so if in doubt either walk toward it or away from it, depending on where you’re heading.

2) You can run into people just about anywhere, so if you come upon folks in the bush, assume they are either, a) out for a stroll like you, b) collecting fruit, or c) looking for a place for a quick bang out from under the gaze of significant others.

3) When walking through the forest, if you hear a rustling in the undergrowth it can only be, a) a chicken, 2) a lizard, 3) a hedgehog tenrec, or d) the above mentioned tryst seekers

.

Of course, there are dangers and bad things do happen … bags get stolen from the beach, people drown, car wrecks do great damage … but far too often the disasters occur because folks tend to think they’re in some Disney version of the world where the very fact that it’s a holiday somehow protects and makes common sense unnecessary.

It may be possible to leave a backpack full of money, passports and camera unattended while on the Jungle Cruise through Adventure Land, but on a public beach for two hours while snorkeling happens? Getting soaked sitting in the front of Thunder Mountain Railroad is not the the same as taking on the Indian Ocean. And anyone thinking Somali pirates are anything like Johnny Depp needs to give yacht rental a second thought.

Duh.

Thankfully, my friends are, for the most part, sensible. Sure, they come to Seychelles to swim, hike, dive and partake of all things island, but so far they’ve all managed to make it safely back to my veranda where cocktails and conversation are the biggest dangers.

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So, sure, we break out in spontaneous parties, have fab friends, lovely weather and azure-blue seas, but anyone getting the idea that life on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean is all sunshine and lollypops was clearly not around the past couple of days.

Thursday: Just after 6pm, when I’d just finishing the agonizingly slow process of uploading a photo to this blog, the Internet crapped out. Phone call to Internet Service Provider prompted.

You must understand that the term “ISP” in this part of the world is misleading in that they often do NOT Provide any Service, and since I’m such a raging bitch I call whenever my connection fails. (Keep in mind that this is how I make much of my living, so live and die with my connectivity.) All the guys at Kokonet … my “I” not quite “S” and flaky “P” … know me too well, and answer any call with a number of mine they recognize with a roll of the eyes I can hear and a consigned-to-their-fate “Hi, Sandra” that carries the same tone conveyed by a 10-year-old whose mother just caught them smoking … crack.

Here’s the conversation from Thursday, 6:20pm:

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ad nauseam (and this is the HOTLINE number) which doesn’t daunt me one single bit.

“Hello … ”

me: Who am I speaking to?

Richard … Hi, Sandra …

me: So …

him: Routine maintenance. We sent out an email.

me: Funny, but I didn’t get any email.

him: Well, we sent one.

me: Not to me.

him: Not my job …

me: Fine … so when are we back on?

him: Eight.

me: Really?

him: Well, around 8 …

me: sputter, sputter, doubt, sputter …

him: Maybe before.

me: Yeah, right. You do realize that every time you all do maintenance the system craps out?

him: intentionally obtuse blah, blah, blah …

me: So … 8 …

him: Definitely …

Of course, 8:00 comes … and goes …

By 9 I’m back on the phone …

him: Hi, Sandra …

me: Well … ?

him: Just heard that it will be another 45 minutes.

me: And then … ?

him: blah, blah, blah …

But, miraculous as it may be, 45 minutes later we’re reconnected and I’m working away … only to have the bloody thing die in 15 minute chunks every half hour or so.

So … I dial the hotline again, and … no answer, ever.

So … at 1:30am I call the mobile number of another guy who works at Kokonet, Selwyn.

Here’s that dialog:

Selwyn, sleepy sounding: Hi, Sandra …

me: What the feck is going on tonight … rant, rave, rant, rave ….

him: I have no idea what you’re on about. It was working fine when I left the office …

me: Well, it’s not working at all now.

him: Why is it always you?

me: Tell me!!!

him: I left my computer at work so I can’t check if the problem goes further than your place …

me: Selwyn, what DO you do for a living? You left your feckin’ computer at work?

him: Yeah … forgot it.

me: How bloody comforting. Now, give me some hope, please …

him: I’ll get into the office early tomorrow and sort this out … I promise.

After trying like crazy to get him to give me his bosses private number … “You know I can’t do that, Sandra. I’ll get sacked if I do,” … I give up, turn music up loud and do my nightly stretching exercises that spring my unstrung springs. (I am VERY bendy … even at this advanced age. Former dancer, you know … )

So … Friday dawns to … no feckin’ Internet.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring …

Selwyn: Hi, Sandra …

me: And, so …

him: Big problem. I have no idea what’s wrong. Basically, though, we’re screwed.

And that’s were it stayed until half an hour ago.

One aside, that’s is SO more than an aside, but will sit there for blog purposes …

When I woke up this morning, not only did I not have Internet, my freezer had defrosted and my 50 bags of frozen bananas … along with everything else … had defrosted. Ever seen bags of thawed out frozen bananas? Well, they leak sweet, sticky black gunk. (It’s lovely warmed up on ice cream, actually, and in smoothies, which is why I had 50 bags of bananas in my freezer. When my bananas are ripe, there are hundreds of the buggers.) These had leaked the black gunk down every shelf and out the bottom of the fridge door all over my kitchen.

We have no such things as refrigerator repair people here. None. And there are no spare parts even if we did have someone who could diagnose the problem and tell me which parts were needed.

In other words, I’m screwed.

But, at least I can write about it.

(I must, however, throw in the NaBloPoMo towel for the month, as I missed a day, and that’s a no-go.)

Feck!!!!!!

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