Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drilling Around Town (Going Viral on Christmas … the Old Fashioned Way)

by Hussein Sayani

Having resuscitated both the drills the night before, we [except Chucky] set out on a quick morning dive. The goal was to try and drill a two foot modern core which would hopefully get us past the 97-98 El Nino. Our target coral looked very promising, but was unfortunately much deeper than previous heads drilled. That wasn’t a problem for us as we’ve become master innovators (just check out our ghetto fabulous ride a few posts down). We quickly rigged up an elaborate system consisting of ropes, a buoy (we rescued from the Bay of Wrecks) and a snorkeler to help shuttle air tanks from the boat to the drill site. Everything went well, but we were only able to retrieve a 20 inch long core.

Onto the afternoon:
As our avid readers may remember, we spent just two hellish days of scouring the eastern beaches of the island, mostly along the ominous sounding (but ultimately disappointing) Bay of Wrecks, and had almost given up hope of finding any large fossil Porites corals. However, fortune smiled upon us on the bumpy ride home when Diane, aka Coony, spotted a large Porites simply ‘chilling’ in someone’s yard. Jackpot! With fewer eyes on the road (and the road bumps, ouch!), we began noticing the abundance of large fossil corals being used around town to line flower beds, stacked to build walls, etc.

Diane and Kim checked various locals if we could take/drill some of the rocks in their yard.  Most were very accommodating, especially one very helpful man who not only offered the rocks sitting in front of his house, but pointed out other potential drill targets in his back yard.  One lady, however, was very adamant that we return the corals even after they had a hole in them.
So, we crammed 10 tanks of air, two large boxes, some buckets, and a drill into our rust bucket and drove to our first in-town drill site near the Tennessee Primary School. The drilling operation began just as school was letting out, so we quickly built up a crowd of eager onlookers.  Our first audience was a group of small boys who were very curious about the hole we had just put into a large fossil coral.  Their curiosity was short lived as one of the little boys yelled “TRUCK!” and they all ran towards the road and very impressively catapulted themselves into a moving truck.  This is apparently is probably the equivalent of a school bus on Christmas Island, as we saw many of the kids do same thing all afternoon. Pretty soon we were surrounded by kids of all ages and even a few adults. The large crowd drew even more people in and just like that we had gone viral on Christmas Island.

As our audience continued to grow, we began wondering what they made of us – 5 very sweaty strangers, drilling rock, vigorously working a water pump, and shuttling tanks of air and buckets of water back and forth.