Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the night before...

Plans. Oh plans. You always make them, but a golden rule for fieldwork in Indonesia is that nothing EVER goes as you planned it. This doesn’t mean that things don’t work out, in fact I would even dare say that things often turn out better than expected – just not anywhere near how you planned to expect it. Yet in spite of this rule, one still always plans, you can’t help it, it gives a pleasant sense of security I suppose.

After Yogya we flew to Sorong and headed out to Raja Ampat. Here we met up with Feby, an enthusiastic student from Papua University who has volunteered to help in our project. The initial idea was just to stay a day on the island Kri, where Papua Diving is located, to pick up a boat and figure out logistics. However the forces of nature once again proved stronger than mere human plans. The heavy stormy weather kept us at Kri for four days. Luckily a marine biologist is never bored, so we filled the days by doing surveys of the sponge diversity in the reefs of the area (more about these surveys will come at a later entry!).

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will truly make the long cross over to Misool. This evening after dinner, Max Ammer – the owner of Papua Diving and director of the Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre, and without whom this whole expedition would be a meager attempt at a success – asked me into his office to discuss the final logistics for the trip. We had already organized the boat, the food and water for the remote location. The plan is that we will head out first, then Max will catch up with us later in the day with his water airplane to meet us in Misool. The whole trip should take about 4-5 hours. As we were reviewing the maps for a suitable meeting point, it became apparent that none of his boatmen had in fact ever made the trip from Kri to Misool before and as a consequence no one actually knew the way there. “It will be up to you to navigate…” What, really? I have navigated boats to specific research sites in the past, but this is on a completely different scale, i.e. a trip of over 150 km with a large stretch in open sea. That put matters in a rather different perspective! This needed yet more planning….On Google Earth Max indicated the route we should take (see image). From Kri, first to go to the western tip of Batanta (indicated as Route 1 on image) and then head directly in a straight line south to Northern Misool (Route 2) across a stretch of over 80 km of open sea sprinkled with treacherous coral outcrops. Considering the dark cloudy days of late, this is mildly concerning. As we were discussing this, Jams our boatman came in with another Papua Diving staffmember named Romel. It turned out that Romel had worked in a big pearl farming company in Misool for over 12 years. SO the good news is that he knows the specific area well, the bad news is that he couldn’t point it out on a map and has no idea about the long way from Kri to there. Together we decided that we will meet Max at the island Sate, near where Romel used to work.

It was late in the night when all the plans had crystallized, all the coordinates were in the GPS, and we finally could go to bed to catch a few hours sleep before the 4:30AM departure. In all honesty I’m more than a little excited about the trip tomorrow. I guess Papua is, as all the guidebooks indicate, indeed the final frontier of adventure….

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