Tuesday 3 September 2013

Onboard Cub-reporter picks up the story …

When we were kids we were entertained by the TV sitcom called Gilligan’s Island, about a three-hour pleasure cruise that was blown off course and marooned on an uncharted and hitherto uninhabited idyllic tropical island.

Merig, the tiny island in the northern, Banks region, of Vanuatu looks like it could have been a twin of Gilligan’s Island.


A small lush green tropical island supporting one village and 20-30 inhabitants only 1 or 2km in circumference with a small (?extinct volcano) peak 125m high. Merig arises out of the rough sea, silent and solitary, and beckoning visitors who rarely, if ever arrive.

In 2009 and again in 2010 the MSM crew and Chimere were forced by rough seas and time constraints to pass by Merig. We passed by twice making us appear like the Levite and the Priest who passed by the injured man and did not stop to assist (in Luke Chapter 10)!

This time Rob was determined to try playing the part of the Good Samaritan instead, and stop at Merig, albeit briefly.

A volcanic rock conglomerate girders the island like some form of artistically designed, avant garde and impenetrable protective wall. Here and there the wall gives way to large patches of fine white sand hidden behind (not between) the rock “wall”.

Treacherous and colourful corals and rock prevent easy anchorage so Chimere lay idle off-shore whilst Rob, our ever-cautious and ever-ready ‘never say No’ captain launched the Good Samaritan dinghy stowed with goodies.

A small party of Rob, Bob, Gibson, and Graeme went ashore to meet the Merigites and present them with supplies and gifts.

To land on the aforementioned rock wall Rob waited for the crest of a wave to apply maximum throttle resulting in us being washed up on the rocks and we all tumbled out resulting in Gibson sprawled under the dinghy and about to lose his manhood, to fits of laughter and assistance from the locals. As a fender went missing back into the sea one of the young lads ran down and dived in to rescue it.

Following a ‘meet and greet’ with the young chief Adam and the welcoming party we meandered along the footpaths under the shade of the tropical canopy to a large clearing with a dozen or more thatched huts. One new hut was being built on the outskirts of the clearing, clearly a new urban development had been approved by the local planning authorities.
Given the limited time it was down to business: Bob and Gibson translating and looking for food, Rob handing out basic medical supplies and dressings, sporting gear, hats, fishing gear, books, old newspapers and clothes, whilst Graeme ran an extemporary clinic on the patch of grass that formed the local village ‘square’ under a huge Banyan tree.

Fanny at 95 years was doing well but had recently fallen and broken a bone in her hand. As Graeme was trying to remember how to fold a triangular bandage and form a sling he was heard to whisper “where’s a good nurse when you need one?” Absolom (father of Adam) had a torn shoulder muscle and needed exercises and a good physio’. Mary (70-years), Cecil (73), and Lily (90) were all in reasonable health and only suffering the usually degenerative conditions of older age. I guess age is not necessarily a barrier to health: it may even be a pre-selector of longevity?

The Merigites were so grateful that Adam, the chief, insisted we wait whilst he made a short speech of gratitude on behalf of his community, and thanked God that we made the effort to stop and meet them even though was brief. Rob prayed for a blessing on the community and we bid them farewell.

Gilligan’s Island never had a happier ending.

Smooth landings, new friends, and farewell to Merig.

On-Board Cub Reporter.