We currently have two marine biologists staying with us at Lissenung. Daniel Godoy is from New Zealand and is the only turtle researcher over there, so it was great to have him here. Ian is also from New Zealand, but is currently completing his PhD in marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville. He researches the impacts of climate change on the connectivity of reef fish populations in PNG. Both are partly sponsored by Lissenung Island Resort in that they are being charged a nominal amount for accommodation, meals and diving. 

Dan offered to hold a presentation about turtles at the Enuk Community School on 10 August. Turtles are declining drastically in numbers, and PNG is one of only a few places in the Pacific that still has a reasonable population of these critically endangered species. However, Papua New Guineans eat both the turtle and her eggs, commercial fishing is substantial and rubbish often gets thrown in the ocean. Time to educate the kids so hopefully, their generation will look after turtles more!!
The kids were very interested and listened intently. Dan did a great job, keeping the talk in easy-to-understand English as the kids only learn English in grade 5. Lots of questions were asked and answered, and we even had a turtle drawing competition, with the first three winners getting a small prize.
Daniel explaining about turtles to the kids at Enuk
Community School

Lythia, the teacher, as well as 6 student teachers from the Port Moresby Teachers College, who are on their practical at Enuk, were also engrossed in the subject. Lythia wrote down a lot of points on the blackboard so they could discuss more later. 
Next week, we'll have the kids over at Lissenung for a snorkelling session, should be great fun! 

Building a human leatherback turtle so the kids get
an idea about just how big they are
The next morning, Dan, Ian and I went to Ral Island for a snorkel session, and also to check out something that Silas had talked about the day before. Apparently, when he had taken Ian and Dan to Ral the previous time, he saw some locals collect what appeared to be turtle eggs. This had happened a few days ago, but we still thought it'd be worth checking out. 

As we were getting closer to Ral Island, we could see a banana boat and some local people on the beach. Ian joked "Haha, they are probably taking eggs now!". Unfortunately, he was right, the people had collected approx. 100 eggs from a fresh nest. Bugger, we were about 10 - 15 minutes too late to rescue these eggs!!! 

Local turtle egg collectors at Ral Island. They say they
just stopped for a break on their way home to their island
and saw the turtle tracks on the beach. The tracks led
them straight to the nest. They will eat the eggs and/or
sell them for 20 toea (approx. A$/US$ 0.09)  
Tracks of a Green Turtle at Ral Island. You can just see
Ian's toes at the bottom of the pic, so you get an idea of 
how big the tracks are. 

We talked to them for a while, explaining how bad it is to eat all the turtle eggs as only one out of 100 - 300 eggs (depending on species) will actually survive long enough to produce eggs herself. I wanted to take all of the eggs of them as I know Ral Island's traditional resource owners, and these people were not them, which means I had as much right to the eggs as these people did. But since they found the eggs before we even got there, Dan was more diplomatic than I and asked for 30 eggs only. 

Negotiations with the locals about how many eggs we
can take from their collection so we may rescue them.
The plan is to "nest" them again at Lissenung. After a
while, we are allowed to take 31 out of approx. 100 eggs.

Nope, not ping pong ball, but eggs of a Green Turtle.
The shell is very soft and can have some dents in it.
After approx. 55 days (normally between 50 - 70 days,
but probably sooner here due to warmer climate), the
baby turtles will hatch.

Me digging a new nest on Lissenung Island

Carefully picking the eggs out of the esky and placing
them into the new nest. The turtle embryo attaches to the
side of the shell. This is the embryo's "placenta", it's how
 the  CO2 goes out and O2 gets back in. Remember, turtles
need oxygen to live, you often see them at the surface.  

 If the egg is turned, the embryo may become detached
from the  shell, and with that, the air supply to the 
embryo is interrupted. It's a bit like your reg coming
 loose from your dive tank....

One by one, the eggs are placed into their new nest,
under the watchful eye of Chivas

"Mum, are you doing that properly??"
31 turtle eggs in their new nest

"Awesome, 31 more turtles to swim
with from my beach!!"

Last week, our friends Dan & Sian went to Enuk Island, kitted out with an old sheet, some paint and paint brushes and their creative caps firmly on their heads. The plan was to make a sign to say Thank-you to the school that had donated the chairs and desks, Cairns West High. Here are some happy snaps: 

The kids are taking this very serious, and are very
careful in drawing and painting. 

Every kid places his or her hand print on the sheet.
Luckily, it was water-based paint!!

Me, too! Me, too! I want to put my hand print on, too! 

Thank you Cairns West High!

What a work of art! Well done, Enuk kids, and thank you,
Cairns West High! 

After some pretty shitty diving conditions over the weekend and on Monday, the weather finally started to improve yesterday. A large stingray, a devil ray and a school of big-eye jacks as well as the usual array of sharks at Peter's Patch was a good start to yesterday's dive day. The second dive at Matrix was a nice drift dive, with a bunch of titan triggerfish, a large crocodile fish and some smaller stuff. 
Last but not least, the group stopped at the "Stubborn Hellion", a B25 plane wreck for a quick look. As the plane lies in only 12m of water, we do this as a residual air dive, i.e. keep 70 bar in your tank on dive 2 and use it here. After about 20 minutes, you've seen it all anyway, and there isn't much else around to look at. 
Today, the sun is out, hurray, and the Der Yang shipwreck and a Catalina floatplane are on the menu for the morning dives, with our special Mandarinfish dive to follow this afternoon. 

Tiny, but oh so colourful fish!

A bunch of very happy divers returned from Albatross & Kavin II yesterday! With the current still coming in for the first dive, Albatross was the obvious choice. A blue-spotted stingray, several white tip and grey reef sharks, as well as a big school of batfish and some Spanish mackerel kept the divers entertained. Unfortunately, the current changed towards the end of the dive and after an hour surface interval, the second chosen spot Danny's Bommie was so murky that vis had dropped to only 15m. Not good enough, so the divers went over to Kavin II instead. The trusty Pygmy seahorse still sits on his fan in 17m of water, but no photographers in this group, so after a quick look, they went on along the wall. Photographers can't seem to be torn away from the Pygmy, missing everything else around them. They would have missed the turtle and a school of 7 bumphead parrot fish!! That's not a big number for a school of those parrot fish, but apparently what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size. Sandy reckons they were HUGE!! 

Hundreds of massive bumphead parrotfish in the shallows of Barracuda Point
Bumphead parrot fish at Sipadan. Photo courtesy of our good friends Stella
and Yogi Freund, who came across this large school during their WWF Coral
Triangle Photo Expedition in 2009/2010. Check out their amazing journey on
http://blogs.panda.org/coral_triangle/about/. You can also see more of the
brilliant photos that Yogi takes on  

More photos from our donation run: 

Enuk Island Community School now has new desks
and chairs, thanks to our friends Andrew Bowes and
his wife, who were the instigators in all this! 

These three nurses are so happy that all they have to
do now to sit a patient up in bed is to pump the back-
rest up by food. No more bending over, good-bye back-
aches!! Thanks to our friends at the Calvary Hospital
in Cairns!

Uncle Pete (Peter McEwan) and the boys, busy off-loading
the beds at Kavieng hospital. Uncle Pete is the president
of the Kavieng Rotary Club.

Finally, photos from the hospital delivery! :) 

Busy unpacking in the hospital mess. Not all the stuff
in this picture came through us, but we helped with the
unpacking anyway!

Hot and sweaty, but happy! Matron, Dr Kuk, me and
Meryenne (left to right)

Our driver Benson, or rather his wife Margreth, got to benefit from some of the above goods just recently, when she had her first baby boy. Ten years in the making (they just loved the practice so much, I guess), Elijah Benson was born after 6 hours of labour and weighed in at 2.7kg. Sandy, our relief manageress, almost became a midwife on the boat to town as contractions came in quickly. 
Benson is now learning to change nappies, and came to work real proud the other day after his first "nappy change experience". Lets see how long that lasts, before he hands the dirty work to Margreth.....

Happy Families!
Benson, Margreth, the new addition
to the family, and proud Mama
Margreth, who is happy with her first
grandchild! Congratulations!!!

What a day!!

On one of his visits to Lissenung, our good friend Andrew Bowes from PNG Holidays  and I talked about how Lissenung had bought some school chairs for one of the schools at Enuk. Well, we bought the chairs....our guests that had visited Enuk Island during their stay at Lissenung had actually paid for them.
Anyway, a few weeks after he went home to Cairns, Andrew skyped me and asked whether we would be interested in some school desks to go with those chairs. Is the Pope catholic? I asked. Of course we are interested in those chairs. How to get them here, though? How many chairs are we talking? Oh, about 55 or 60.... Well, we'll need a container for that, so lets see if we can't get other stuff as well.
Cue Peter Mc Ewan, our friend here in Kavieng and president of the Kavieng Rotary Club. He got onto the internet and through a friend of a friend got in touch with Jennifer from QLD Health. Another friend of ours, Greg Parr, got me in touch with the Calvary Hospital in Cairns. Last but not least, Andrew Bowes has friends at Wicked Campervans, who's storage room we also raided for pillows, sheets and blankets. Funny that, the backpackers don't want to use the pillow of another backpacker, they want to buy new stuff. Never mind that no hotels throw out pillows after each use..... Never mind, though, we are happy with this attitude, it netted us enough pillows and sheets to kit out the hospital in Kavieng and have some left overs. Mike Ball also came to the party and donated a bunch of sheets and pillow cases, all still in the plastic wrapping from the laundry service!!
After a week of picking stuff up, packing it strategically into a container, having said container road-delivered to Townsville where it got trans-shipped to Port Moresby and eventually Kavieng, customs got in the way! Of course they were trying to charge import duty on the donated goods, but eventually,

Yesterday, I went to Kavieng town and delivered 3 hospital beds, a gurney, 4 physio beds, a weight chair (for people that need to be weighed, but can't stand) and a box full of blood pressure cuffs to the Kavieng Hospital today. The three hospital beds are the first ones in our local hospital that can be raised and lowered semi-automatic. Most of the hospital beds in Kavieng are just standard beds, like in your bedroom, but much more basic and uncomfortable. Imagine having an op and having to sit yourself up, without the help of the bed. The gurney that takes patients from surgery to the ward doesn't even have a mattress!

It is truly humbling to see Dr Watt (head doctor of the hospital) and the nurses so happy with new beds for their patients! Kenji, who is our Japanese Physiotherapist friend (those of you that have enjoyed the magic of his fingers will remember him), was jumping up and down with joy over his physio beds. It puts life into perspective, makes you wonder why you were so upset about who left the toilet seat up. And it also made me determent to get more stuff up here. So, if anyone lives in or near Cairns and has access to hospital stuff, please let me know. We need the following items urgently, plus more, of course:
  -   wheelchairs
  -   walking frames
  -   crutches
  -   a couple of corsets for spinal injuries, such as spinal compressions fractures etc.
Photos of the delivery yesterday will follow as soon as I have time to go through them all.