(Editor’s note: Sanjayan, The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist, is traveling in the Solomon Islands to explore the amazing diversity of life and the fast vanishing marine and terrestrial habitats on these islands. As part of this expedition, Sanjayan’s experiences will be made available to students across the United States by the interactive curricula company Promethean Planet. Sanjayan’s stories from the field, photography, video and more will be developed into innovative lesson ideas to be used in classrooms equipped with interactive whiteboards. To learn more, visit Promethean Planet.
We are in the Solomon Islands. And it was an amazing experience just to get here.
First, the flight over the long long empty Pacific was devoid of any islands or atolls — 3,000 miles of emptiness. You realize just how big the Pacific is. Then, a small speck, clouds, forming over mountains. The Solomon Islands!
Next, our arrival is an event. Men in traditional costume great us at the airport — playing giant wooden pan pipes.
Honiara, the capital city on the island of Guadalcanal, is a sleepy town of about 70,000 people. But many people come and go on the giant ships in the harbor. The Solomons form one giant ocean nation, speckled with islands. Outside Honiara, in the harbor, are the remains of dozens of ships sunk during WWII. It’s called Iron Bottom Sound because so many ships (and their iron) litter the bottom of the ocean here — some 50 or so Japanese warships, troop carriers, cargo ships etc. The whole island of Guadalcanal was a big war zone, the location of the first ground forces engagement between U.S. and Japanese troops — made famous in the book Guadalcanal Diary.
We are only here for a day — then we’re off again to Gatoke in the New Georgia Group, an archipelago in the western Solomon Islands, to meet with communities deep in the jungle. We cross wooden bamboo bridges to get across the rivers — and there might be crocodiles lurking in some. And many have giant eels — 3 or 4 feet long, as thick as my forearm.
I made friends with a hornbill — Blythe’s Hornbill — a young male, who fell from a tree being logged in the forest. Destructive logging is a big problem here, and it is having a big impact on the forests.
Next to Tetepare — often called the last uninhabited island in the South Pacific.
(Image: Blythe’s hornbill and Sanjayan. Credit: TNC.)