Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cocos Island: A Changing of the Guards - William Henriques


Cocos Island Sunset


After dinner, I wandered down to the beach and lay on my back looking up at the stars, up at the Milky Way, that hazy cloud of faint light, the swirling centerpiece of the night sky. No light pollution - just an unadulterated, starry sky. The chirp of the crickets was incessant, and the swell had died down, waves washing up on shore with the faintest rush of air. What a contrast to last night, rain pounding steadily down, drumming the corrugated metal roof outside my window as I drifted off to sleep.

But that’s not unexpected. Such changes in the weather occur on a daily - even hourly - basis; it rained steadily for a half hour at lunch today. Change - as the hackneyed phrase goes - is the only constant. That holds true for the cycle of residents here on the island as well as the weather. Of the 20 people staying at Wafer Bay when I arrived, only four of those people remain. None of the rangers that were here when I arrived on the island thirteen days ago are here now. Their thirty-day shift has finished, and they’ve all left for their thirty days of leave on “The Continent”; Esteban and Moises were the last of the “original” funconarios to go. But new faces have arrived to take their place. It’s just another changing of the guard, and such is life on the island.

And yet, there’s also a magnificent permanence about this place. Kayaking in Wafer Bay this afternoon after the day’s work was done, I could feel it. The south-western shore of the bay was silhouetted against a golden haze of low-angle, evening sunlight, and the north-eastern shore was bathed in it. Blue-footed and brown boobies soared over the bay, flapping in and out of their comically small nests of leaves perched precariously on thin branches overhanging the water. Waves rhythmically pounded the glistening black rock where crabs scurried up and down. And beyond the bank of clouds sitting low in the western sky, the Pacific stretched on, wonderfully interminable, unfathomable, and mysterious. This same Wafer Bay has been here for hundreds, thousands of years. An eternity, on a human scale.

In today’s world of minutes and seconds, where change is more of a constant than ever before, I am relieved and comforted by the sort of changelessness that Cocos Island represents and embodies. And yet, I am disquieted when I think about the impact of poaching (two more extensive lines hauled in during this morning’s patrol) and other sorts of changes happening today, in particular climatic ones. How will they affect this permanence which I turn to as a source of solace, a refuge? How do they affect it?

And once I know the answers to those questions, I can answer this one: What can I do to protect and preserve this place?

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

It sounds wonderful Will. Thank you for sharing the sights and sounds so eloquently.