Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where are we now?

We left Bigee Sunday morning and arrived in Rongelap early Monday afternoon. Rongelap is one of the atolls in the Marshall Islands that got most of the fall out of the hydrogen bomb testing the US did in the 50's on Bikini atoll. As a result, the residents have all been moved to other atolls while they clean up and rebuild Rongelap. They're on their last phase of that rebuilding and we've had the luxury of seeing it before everyone moves back. Right now there are about 50 people on the main island working mostly in construction, with a few looking after the facilities. We have found the people here to be the friendliest we've met so far in the Marshalls...maybe that's because they never see anyone new?

The first full day at the main island, we went ashore and started our looky loo around. Fred, the island guy in charge (for all we know), met us about half way through our tour on the back of a flat bed truck ready to drive us around and complete the tour. He showed us the bungalows that have been built for tourists, the brand new airport complete with over 4000 ft of runway (big enough to land a small jetliner), as well as the place where American doctors and scientists used to stay while the tests were going on in Bikini. After spending a couple of nights here, we asked Fred if it was alright if we went north to explore a few more islands and wait out some high winds that were in the forecast. After getting his ok, we headed off.

So we've spent the last few days exploring a little island north in the atoll, mainly looking for glass Japanese fishing floats and giant clams. We've had good luck on the clams, not so good luck on the fishing balls. We've found bits and pieces of them, and even some evidence of some very large balls that washed ashore at some point...but none of them seem to be able to withstand the huge rocks and reefs they hit on the way to the beach. Surprisingly, light bulbs and wine bottles, don't seem to be phased by the sharp pointy rocks. Speaking of things washing up...there is more crap on this beach than I could ever imagine. Some of it is kind of neat...buoys, floats, pretty bottles...but most of it is just sad. Plastic bottles, flip flops (do you have any idea how many people are out there walking around with just one shoe?), toys, light bulbs, tvs, fishing nets, soccer balls, dolphin bones (Nancy, I totally thought of you...Andy wouldn't let Jake keep the skull), lobster traps, life rings...I could go on and on... In the end, we probably averaged 3 miles a day just looking for floats and rummaging through trash. I thought of my friend Terry with all the pretty seashells...Nancy with all the bones...and Kelly with all the "treasures," her and her husband have always been good salvagers.

We'll stay here another day or so, then head back to the main island. They actually have internet there that they said we were more than welcome to use so I may be able to post some pictures within the week.

My final thought this afternoon as I was contemplating what shape the clouds were making...My degree sure did help us get here...after all, I had a decent job and the knowledge of what planning and saving was necessary...but now that we're here, I sure do wish I took that basket weaving elective...I tried with the palm trees today and couldn't make anything useful at all.

We'll stick around here a few more days and depending on what news we get or don't get about the job in Kwajalein, we'll decide whether or not to head to Bikini. In the meantime, Andy's in the water taking pictures, as usual, and Jake and I are finishing up the first grade.

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