Memories from Australia…
With everyone in the team taking numerous flights and some of the crew travelling from the other side of the world with a 10 hour rollie ride aboard Ice from Nuku’alofa which left everybody on board wanting to get onto dry land to top it off, meant that Nomuka Iki had to be special……in no way did it disappoint!
We had a nice distant view of the higher southern side of the island coming in and when we rounded the eastern corner I saw close-up for the first time what would be my home for the next 10 weeks; with coral reef stretched out before it in every direction, beautiful sandy beaches, tall swaying coconut trees and a lush green undergrowth we had made it to paradise!!
First job setting up camp and was a major mission on its own, and after clearing room for the tents and designing our site around the local fauna we were going to have everything we needed and be quite comfortable, Don had definitely thought of everything and tucked it away "SOMEWHERE" on Ice.
With all the problems in the world ours consisted mainly of mozzies at dawn and dusk (sometimes midday), a bit of rubbish at the high tide mark, wind coming into camp and not being able to get the coconuts – all easily fixed! Hide in our dining tent at these times or repel up, clean up the rubbish, make a track to the other side of the island away from the wind, build a timber ladder and use a long metal hook, the coconuts never stood a chance!!
I wanted to do this trip to be able to have the experience of trying to find wrecks that had never before been dived on and to search for the unknown artifacts that could be down there. After around five weeks of sitting around waiting for permission to search it started to get a bit frustrating! I say sitting around but really I was having "LUCKY "swims with humpback whales, exploring the island, fishing, snorkelling, kayaking, doing the odd dive, getting to know our team from all over the world and just relaxing, so it was hard to complain. But then the day arrived when we were finally allowed to look and it wasn’t long before we were rewarded! Whilst looking for what John thought could be an anchor he had seen the day before, Uwe came across what looked like a large winch next to a ballast pile lying in about 15m of water. So I donned the scuba gear along with the metal detector and descended to check it out and was over the moon in finding certain things that would cement it as a wreck site!!! Along with Don, our study of the NAS guide then lead us to be able to do all the survey work and pre disturbance work required as we knew that some dredging and moving objects needed to help us find and recover things on the site. (The NAS guide also helped us to work out what some of the can food was that was dug out of the depths of Ice at different stages!)
With a few more things found at different places around Nomuka Iki there will be plenty to do next year on all sites so it will be very hard not to make the trip back again at least for a few weeks and this time with my wife as I’d also like to make it to Tafua and Eua. Whilst we didn’t have a lot to do with the Tongan people while I was there, when we did we found them very friendly and always ready for a chat, you just can’t expect anything to happen fast in Tonga or be reliable as we found with the ferries, phone coverage, banks and some of the cars on the roads – things that don’t seem to worry the people in the simple, beautiful kingdom of Tonga.
The whole trip was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a unique adventure. I can’t thank Don and Jane enough for allowing me to be a part of it and I was very sad to be leaving Nomuka Iki and the blue base team but I know I will be back there one day and be able to catch up with them all at some point….ALEX!