Sorry all images uploaded in a hurry as I am trying to catch the ferry to Tulaghi...
The island of Savo, north West of Honiara is reputed for not having much of an anchorage so wasn’t worth taking KUNA there. As Guadalcanal’s weather coast, Savo presents a very steep coastline but the south western side shelves gently between 5 and 10 m, providing enough shelter to consider anchoring on calm days (and nights, attending the boat closely). The ground is sand, gravel and small coral bommies so the holding wouldn’t be very good but conditions are better than described in the cruising guides!!
Now, to this volcano business. Unlike other active volcanic islands such as Nupani (800m, in the Temotu province), Savo is not very high (400 m only) and, a very young island, eroded in steep ravines. So far, nothing much to different to any other island until one sticks their feet in the creeks that lead to the so called “crater” hidden in amongst the rainforest: warm water is flowing down the sides of the island and as one goes up the valley, soon enough, vapour clouds burst out of waterfalls of boiling water. A slip into the creek means a second degree burn now! As I hang on to those thin tree roots on a narrow slippery passage overhanging a boiling pool, I imagine the Risk Assessment Form to be filled in at the BBC, for example, to go filming a volcano! Apparently a guy slipped there and did a lot of damage. Lets enjoy the OH&S freedom of the Solomon Islands, where one can still be responsible for their own actions!!!
After the 3 km walk up the creek, the volcano confirms itself to be the antithesis of the typical volcano anyone would picture in their head: no crater, no lake, no lava, no smoke: just a few bare hills eroded by the rains, yet of a distinctive yellow colour due to the sulphur crystals forming in the surface. The track is very ill defined and the ground collapses under foot, and is very well above boiling water temperature, as I discovered by accidentely sticking my finger in it. The guide actually had placed an egg and a raw fish in it to demonstrate the cooking process!
This guide is lighting matches above some holes in the ground...
...to make the volcano smoke!!!! This is a bit a peanut vocano but nevertheless a tourist attraction!!!
Megapodes and volcanoes:
The purpose of the shoot is to demonstrate how a species of bird, the megapode makes use of the heat generated by the volcano to incubate its eggs (the name sounds cool, but really, it is not far from being a black chicken that knows how to fly!). The megapodes dig a deep hole (up to 1.5-2 m?) in the ground to lay their egg, which they bury by carefully covering it back so the surface looks undisturbed. They then leave it to the elements to do the work: the heat contained in the ground brings the chick to hatching stage, a chick which will not see its parents when it makes its own way to the surface!
On Savo, the megapodes lay their eggs in sand fields just behind the beach. It is very unlikely that the eggs laid there benefit from volcanic heat to incubate, though some people believe that some underground hot water streams travel under the megapode fields. So the solar radiation in the black sand probably is enough. On other islands, the birds definitely use volcanic heat as much as humans use it to cook their eggs!
Megapodes coming early morning: it's too dark and this shot is blurred ...
The eggs of the megapode are quite large, and quite sought after by the communities so generation after generation, the megapodes, returning to the same egg laying site, have been exploited by the villagers nearby. Megapodes come every morning to lay their eggs at dawn and every morning, as the church bell call the prayers (7 am), men rush into the field, once the birds have gone, and dig the sand to collect the eggs. It’s a men’s job and each family has an allocated plot delimited by coconut fences. The scene leaves me wondering if it is sustainable: it looks like megapodes keep coming back but how many chicks get a chance to escape that fate?
megapode field after the harvest: holes everywhere for the birds to use the next morning
Anyhow, some of the eggs are sold to the humble Savo island “resort” and I enjoyed them for breakfast!