Kiritimati (Kiribati) – Christmas Island Documentary – Between Sky and Ocean


Well, my name is Timei Keitaua I am 47 years old now. I am old. I am not from this Island I came here back in 1999 I am from the the capital, Tarawa. And I have met my wife over there, or she met me Tarawa is so crowded, my wife and i decided to come to Christmas Island where there is more opportunities, job opportunities here. Until now we have six daughters no boys We are still hoping to have boys but as we are getting old I don't know if we gonna have boy or not. When we first came here back in 1999, until now we are still having that problem the shortage of food no food, you know? all we always ran out of food Especially… rice, flour and sugar. We are more dependent on this food. As you can see, on this island will don't have a lot. Only coconut trees. Thats all we can eat. …and fish.

But then, this new generation… They don't like to live on the coconut and fish. They like to live on rice, flour and sugar. Most time we run out of food. There are times when… everybody is hungry. There are times when everybody gets sick. Because they can't eat that coconut alone, everyday. You know, when I first came here, -this is the fact- I always saw tuna fish around this area you know just by standing on the shore, on the on the beach, you could see tuna jumping out of the water. You can see a lot of birds after the tuna I haven't seen that for five years. You know what happened? There is a ship over there There is a fishing vessel. Thats the cause of why i haven't seen tuna around here anymore. if you want to eat tuna, you have to go very far away to catch them. I believe that this fishing boat fishing vessels from Spain are wiping out our fish are hunting our tunas. Whatever they they catch with that net..

. they catch everything. It's not only the tuna inside the net it goes with a lot of other fishes you know they don't need other fishes so they throw that fish away. Thousands and thousands of 'Kingfish'… Thousands and thousands of 'Uau' Undersized tuna… Thats sad, you know? They waste our resources the deplete our resources. That's very sad That's my bellowed, my bellowed Irena. The nun said… told me to, pray that I find or right wife. Irena was a little bit of a 'tomboy'. And not really interesting getting married She went to work for China the Chinese store in Gizo away from here and I realised I missed her! and the voice said and my ears "Perry, that is your wife" -What? -"That's your wife" Okay, except that I wasn't interested in getting married and then I said, well yeah then i realised then – she is, she is! That is the one that sister told me about! That great smile she has here… It's a wonderful, wonderful lady..

. This in an Almanac. It is the Kiritimati Almanac. Eaten by worms. It gives details of weather, navigation details also. These are cloud conditions here I have seen all those different clouds when being at sea and other I haven't seen before. But over the centuries they recorded all these things. This is where we are. Right on the tip of this peninsula here. We just come from about here. So its quite a long island… And this is the 'Role engineers fossil road' here. It goes all the way down to the end of the island. If you leave the main road, you will get lost in this area here. These are the lagoons and the inner roads. Hundreds of lagoons. And the island is not sinking! Sea levels are not rising. That is a farse. I say it's not true, they are not rising. We know. They are not rising.

You see that lagoon over here? It is all a dry land now. It is all dry land… It used to be a lagoon. We used to catch Mullets in there. Now it is all dry land here. So if anything, the area of the island is increasing every year. We don't know how much, but it is increasing. -Why do people say that it is sinking? Politically it is a right thing to say so we can get more of aid money. Maybe I shouldn't say that… In the Western and Central Pacific there has been a sea level rise. But the Christmas Island… There's no really good solid data At one point the sea level actually dropped here. So the sea level rise and fall here is really dependent on the El Nino You know, it's called the Southern Oscillation. Like Perry said, the islands seem to be ecreeking now. So sand is continuously being produced on the reef by animals that grace on the coral reefs and so forth. That sends the deposit on the beach. In these atolls, sand is very really lost completely to the Ocean. it's always it moves around depending on the currents and so forth…

So whatever is eroding in one area – might be building up in another. so often a lot of the studies and the interpretations of sea level rise and erosion and so forth… I think are a little bit far-fetched because they often measure places which are eroding because they fit the pictures that they want to convey that the islands are slowly disappearing. When in fact They don't measure the areas that are building up. A lot of the the rhetoric and the hype, along with global warming, I think it's is geared toward islanders looking for funding. Looking for adaptation. Funding for adaptation for the future. This is a long-term project were talking about. It's not an immediate threat. One of the problems is that we haven't been measuring sea level long enough, to determine trends. And a lot of these trends may be very long-term trends. For example sea level on the island here was about a meter higher than it is now five thousand years ago that's why we have a lot of exposed coral that's been the case everywhere everywhere the world. That's five thousand years.

Thats long before the industrial revolution and greenhouse gases got loose in the atmosphere and created global warming. So that's a natural sort of cycle. And then there's always the up lift in the down welling of the Oceanic Islands as they move across the Pacific in any oceans really on these sub oceanic plates. It's a good idea i think to adapt. Adapting to climate change and to sea level rise. Here's it's really difficult in these islands where you go. The island are all about six or eight feet above sea level so you can't go to the high ground. I mean the only high ground is a top of the coconut trees. So it's really it's tough to get away. Kiribati does have the 'KAP'. It's The Kiribati Adaptation Project. And Its based out of Tarawa. And it's very well-funded and they are trying to come up with first of: The sea level rise scenarios that really will affect the island and then they are trying to come up with ways to prepare for it. One of the things that they're doing is looking at water conservation.

Right now we depend on water lenses which are below the surface now. The fresh water table sits atop the sea water table and we draw fresh water off of that through wells. But it's the level rises you know those freshwater lenses might get inundated with seawater in which case it would pollute the fresh water supplies that we rely on. It's just in general coastal engineering and the paying attention to what what you're doing with the land it's really important that you want fried is preserve your land for as long as possible. They basically created a camp of five thousand servicemen here it was down in their main camp which is now fifty miles up the road from where we are sitting right now. There still is a lot of remnants of that leftover And in fact my water tower out here… I have got a steal 'I beam' that says 'Operation Grapple' on it. Its a historical piece here to the house They were not quite what they have hoped for.

They were not the big thermonuclear hydrogen bomb blasts that they really wanted. They were not in that range. Several tests were carried out here. They really wanted to join the 'Thermo-Nuclear Club'. The 'Hydrogen Bomb Club'. They were horrible. When they first did their testing he was still on the island. And they were… He was still sitting in his house and the doors were ripped off and the windows… And some of them were taken out in to the sea, on ships away from the islands. He was with those people who stayed on the island. There was a playing lying about communicating back to them through the speakers and they kept listening they were even told that the bomb is finally released from the plane and is going to explode.

They were aware of that. They were kind of given a choice. during that time they were given things to cover their eyes and ears. especially those who had big families they went on ships, because they have found it hard to put on those things in one time. They were really afraid. But what else could they do… So they just sat and accept whatever might come. I left the Island just before the testing and arrived back in 1993. It was decided by the leader of the British Army to divide the local population to 3 groups. We were dispersed to different camps. One stayed on the island and worked on a military ship. The second was relocated to other islands of the Republic. And the third aboard for more than one year at which preparations for the bomb testing were made. Since my departure Island has grown in population dramatically. At the time in my village there were about 200 people, including 60-70 British Government Civil Servants. Today we count not in hundreds but in thousands. We feel we need to reject people from Kiribati group as more land is occupied.

So much have changed… Some of the changes I can see concern fish which are poisonous. Such as 'Milk Fish', 'Banauewa', 'Red Snappers'… Explosions caused many cases of radiation sickness. Not to bad mouth the British, but the ministry of defense in Britain basically stonewalled any kind of queries any kind of information anything about the nuclear testing here and also in Maralinga. basically – making a long story short – the British didn't claim that any servicemen were burned with radiation. But there were intact. And now there's a class-action lawsuit being just brought within the past 2 years there seven hundred plaintiffs already in this lawsuit and their composed of Brits New Zealanders Fiji Islanders who were also here and i don't know whether any Kiribatis were actually in that suit, although couple people here did get burned by the radiation.

Some children during that time got their eyes problems. They found it hard to see properly. -Did British Government help them out afterwords ? No. (Still) no until these days. The company that was here during the 'Big Cleanup' didn't find any radiation. They found some hazardous materials the radiation was mostly in radium dials and some other gauges and so forth so there wasn't really any radiation. And one of the directors of that program (or managers) told that they have checked a couple of times with geiger counters or whatever and found nothing. But then -again- they were hired, this company was hired by the Brits so I don't know… you know… Whether the guy was… I don't know… I kind of… tend to believe him, you know but i don't know.

You know I'm not sure he didn't want to blow the whistle on them… "We are the first nation in the world… " "To see sunrise of new millennium" "Oh, word 'Kiritimati'" "Lead the world" "Oh, word 'Kiritimati'" "Lead the world" "To see the sunrise" "Kiritimati – lead the world to see the light" "See the light" "And share the best of two thousand years to the world." "And share the best of two thousand years to the world." "Kiritimati – Lead the world" "To see the light" "See the light" "And share the best of two thousand years to the world." "Greetings and peace" "We send to the world" "From Kiritimati" "On the new millennium" "Greetings and Peace" "We send to the world" …We've decided to have a place where we can rest in quiet Where there is nobody to make noise… My family and I decided to clean up a site. Far from the village Far from everybody. So when we are tired one day when we are stressed, we go there.

And we cleaned up that place… It is not ours though. It is the government property but we did it. We cleaned it up. We are doing fine, you know? We are in paradise. Christmas Island I call – its a paradise, you know? Less crime over here… We almost know everybody We almost know everybody's name. "Kiritimati – lead the world" "To see the light" "See the light" "And share the the best of two thousand years to the world" "Oh, world – Kiritimati, here we are" "Oh, world – Kiritimati, here we are" "To see the new break of the day…" "The day…".