Surrounding the island of Rarotonga well off in the tropical South Pacific is a crystalline lagoon called Muri. Muri Lagoon is what you have always dreamed such a lagoon should be — clear, warm, and pulsating with finned creatures the colors of the rainbow and more; angel fish, Moorish idols, wrasses, trevallies, puffer fish, cornet fish, parrot fish, the odd ray, and even sharks and barracudas in the darker depths. The decor is punctuated by corals of again magnificent hues. It’s heavenly.
On the far side of Muri is a network of tiny islands — known as ‘motus’, in Maori — and they look like everybody’s image of the tiny tropical desert island: white sand beaches surrounding a dense jungle of palms, hibiscus, frangipani and hundreds of other tropical plants.
We took little kayaks over to one of them on a particular day. When we disembarked we stood on the beach and practically orgasmed over the absolute stunning beauty of it all. How could it get better than this? We knew not how.
Since the motu wasn’t so very large, we decided to walk right around it. We pulled the kayaks well up the beach towards the jungle so the tide wouldn’t catch them. We then beat a hasty retreat back towards the water, since the mosquitoes were attacking us in droves — hey, even paradise can have a downside, like dengue fever and malaria, and we weren’t about to take chances. Anyway, back closer to the water, the ‘mozzies’ were no problem. We set off on our trek.
On the Muri side the water was still and serene, but as we rounded the bend we could hear the ever-increasing roar of the open Pacific. The Pacific is hardly ‘pacific’. It roars. It sounds like a 747 taking off. Energy spawned by thousands of miles of water finally finding a point of land tends to lead to a thundering presence that is mind-boggling. You could not sleep on such a beach, so great is the magnificent crashing of the waves.
We wandered along in sheer delight, but then I noticed there was a downside in being on this open ocean side. The ocean is not clean. All along the beach there was garbage, the effluvia of humanity. I don’t shock easily, but I was shocked, nevertheless. How could this be? The Pacific is so massive. Hawaii is five hours flying time to the north, and the mainland of North America five hours more. French Polynesia is a few hundred miles to the east, but it’s pretty small geography-wise, so it couldn’t produce much. Australia and New Zealand are a few hours to the south and west.
I looked at the crap — cartons, bottles, disposable cigarette lighters (lots of disposable cigarette lighters), even tampon injectors. Those that had discernible labels had writings from around the globe, Asian languages, English, French, German, Russian, Polish. And, even more distressing, fish nets. Tangled and ugly fishnets. We were in heaven on earth and were also up to our ankles in the shit of earth. And, I could only conclude that this shit is all coming from ships. Our waterborne transport believes it has the right to jettison it’s crap into this exquisite and huge ocean. Problem is, even it ain’t large enough to handle our ‘disposables.’
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary concerning an expedition made to the northwest Hawaiian Islands by a Cousteau group. And there, on Midway, Laysan, Hermes Reef and French Frigate Shoals, it was the same old shit. We, with impunity, fill the ocean was stuff that is not only unsightly, but a huge risk to wildlife. The beautiful green, sweet and benevolent sea turtles, with eyes too sweet to ever be in the head of a reptile, think that plastic bags are jellyfish — a mainstay of turtle diet. Plastic bags aren’t jelly fish. Turtles eat them and either choke to death, or tie up their guts. Makes you want to weep, those of you who have ever swum with turtles.
Wayward fishnets, meanwhile, snare dolphins and turtles, and even whales, since the hideous craft that deep net fish (often illegally) will cut off the nets rather than risk arrest. If that isn’t their fear, they will also cut them off if they get snarled.
I don’t write this is a rabid environmentalist, and I do get tired of those who would politicize that which should just be common sense among the less than brain-dead, but goddamn, when I see the disrespect we have for a huge body of water, and the way in which we violate it, I am saddened and can only conclude we deserve whatever is coming our way.