Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Annual General Meeting (2)

The 4th annual meeting of the Marine Cultural Heritage Research Association was over in a jiffy. The main news was the new camera we had to buy in order to have our underwater research broadcast on TV. How cool is that?

We now own a high-definition underwater video camera--worth it because Channel 12 (Tokyo) broadcasts our research every other month. It cost almost as much as we have--I mean had--in the treasury. It's worth it because research has to be recorded.

This past year's research focussed on the submerged ruins off Chatan, on the main island of Okinawa. Chatan is not Yonaguni, and not being Yonaguni is both the good and the bad news. People are curious about Yonaguni, so not doing more there is a letdown. On the other hand, Chatan is easy to get to and, therefore, more divers can get involved.

Getting involved is good. A diving group from the University of Tokyo has offered their assistance. A group of independent divers from Osaka has also offered theirs.

MaCHRA is alive and growing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Annual General Meeting

I'm off to the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa for the annual meeting of the Marine Cultural Research Association. We'll hear what's new in Yonaguni.

You'll hear all about it on this weblog next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

One Island's Experience

Near Papua, New Guinea, there is a chain of islands that is expected to be underwater in another few years. Twice already the residents of the worst case island have tried to relocate to larger islands in the same ocean neighborhood. Twice they have been chased back to their original homes.

This story (reported by Neil MacFarquhar in the International Herald Tribune, May 30-31, 2009) about the Carteret Islands raises questions about the Yonaguni experience. The times may be different, but human nature is probably still the same.

Did the people of Yonaguni, like today's South Pacific islanders, know their homeland would end up underwater? Did they succeed in an orderly evacuation to a new home? Were they welcomed with open arms or were they driven away?

There are stone tablets in the collection of the Okinawa prefectural museum in Naha that seem to be telling a story in pictures and symbols. In his book, Dr. Kimura interprets the message as a tale of a hasty evacuation.

The thing is, the tablets are inscribed in a lost language. No one knows for sure if that was the last thing the people of Yonaguni ever wrote. Until the Rosetta Stone turned up, however, no one knew for sure what was written on the Egyptian pyramids, either. (Rosetta Stone: created in the 2nd century, BC, in Egypt; deciphered in the 19th century, CE, in France)

All the world's mysteries are not yet solved. Who will succeed in unraveling this one?

Meanwhile, in the South Pacific...

Some people are looking around for new homes. Who will welcome refugees by the hundreds--make that 200 million within the next 40 years, according to the International Organization for Migration--when their islands slip beneath the waves? These are the islands you see on picture postcards--lots of white sand and crystal blue sea, a few palm trees, a ramshackle wooden deck.

So beautiful! But when the seasonal high tides roll in, they almost disappear. Almost...

How many years before they drop the "almost"?