Wednesday, July 9, 2008

2,000 km under the sea

For me, a long swim is about five successive strokes. I cannot imagine swimming 1 kilometer, let alone two thousand kilometers. Fortunately, I will never have to. If I want to travel from Guam to Okinawa, I can take a plane.A sea turtle, however, has no choice but to swim the distance.

Recently, a female green sea turtle was tracked by satellite. A transmitter was attached to one of her feet after she laid eggs on a beach in Guam. For five months, nothing was heard from the turtle. When the signal was picked up again, the turtle was grazing on seaweed near the Okinawan island of Kume. (You can see Kume Island from the airport at Naha.)

Five months is a long time between e-mails. It seems that the satellite can only pick up the signal when the turtle surfaces. Five months is also a long time to hold one's breath. It's amazing that there exists a creature who can live underwater and also on land without struggling for air.

In Okinawan mythology, the turtle is the link between worlds--the world of humans and the world of the gods. Among the relics discovered at the underwater pyramid of Yonaguni is a statue of a turtle. That stone turtle is itself a link between two worlds--our world, and the lost world of whoever carved the statue.

Who were they? Why did they carve the statue there? Where did they go when their homeland submerged? These are some of the questions to which the NPO Marine Cultural Heritage Research Association is seeking answers.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Speaking of Stone ...

Here is an arch from the gusuku at Zakimi.
This is a UN-recognized world heritage site. The original was built during the 15th century and, after its destruction by our 20th century's warfare, the walls were reconstructed.
Zakimi was built by the stonework genius, Gosamaru. Its signature feature is the keystone in the middle of the arch.
The views from the site are spectacular. It is open to the public and is located mid-island in the village of Yomitan.