Tabuaeran, (aka Fanning Island), Kiribati

Fanning Island is an atoll some 3 degrees north of the equator.  It is part of the 33 mostly uninhabited Kiribati (pronounced Keer-ree-bahss) Islands which are a long chain that stretch thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.  Fanning is 3225 km east of Kiribati’s capital.  Until 1994 it was on the eastern side of the International Dateline.  In that year the Dateline was moved east in the area surrounding Fanning Island so that the Island and the capital were on the same side.  As a result, I explained that we did not have a March 14th when we crossed the Dateline.  We will be crossing back tonight (March 17th) and will repeat March 17th again tomorrow to make up for the lost day.  The Irish on board are quite happy about that.  Our visit to Fanning yesterday was shortened because we had a medical emergency on board and we were going to divert last night to Christmas Island to put the patient ashore.  Christmas Island has a hospital and airport from where you can fly to Fiji and from there get back to a few major international airports. However, I am glad the patient was not me.  Fanning island is very primitive. The island is a coral reef in an oval form resembling the shape of a human footprint. Its land area is approximately 13 square miles with an enclosed lagoon of 426 square miles. About 2500 people live there with no running water or sewage system, a medical clinic which at the moment has no nurse or doctor, very little electricity, only a few vehicles and only primary schools.  For all else they go to Christmas island which is about a 9 hour sea voyage away.  They get a supply ship in a couple of times per month and I have a photo below of one waiting our departure to unload.  They dry seaweed and coconut and the sale of those commodities are their only income.  A few cruise ships call in each year and passengers and the crew collect school supplies, clothing and medical supplies  for the island (photo). The ship also carries some supplies acquired in Hawaii by the local Care Mission.  The Rotterdam floated out in the ocean and we used the ship’s life boats as tenders to go ashore.  Tendering can be difficult.  A platform comprising stairs down to a level area is attached to the side of the ship at a low level door. You walk out, down the stairs and onto the tender usually with the assistance of some crew. Back in Lahaina, the seas were very rough and though the ship was anchored, we still had a difficult time entering the tenders at the ship side.  It took four crew holding onto you to get you safely into the tender.  The ocean was calm yesterday and though the ship was not anchored, we had no difficulty.  Ashore, the local people had set up a craft market with goods made of shell and woven reeds (photo).  Some were offering truck tours to the end of the village, about one and a half miles, and back. I took one of those and our guide, Christmas, was very informative about life on the island. Many mothers had their small children out dressed up and dancing for donations (photos).  It is the kind of place where you are happy to make those donations.  On our tour we saw the school (photo), the village hall (photo), and many homes (photo).  It was a hot day and the lagoon looked inviting (photo).  However, we had been warned that all of the sewage goes into the lagoon and it was strongly suggested not to swim.  Some people ignored the warning so we shall see if anybody gets sick.  They did on the January cruise into Fanning and the ship went into quarantine.  I will describe that event if it happens.  Our next stop on the 19th is Roratonga, in the Cook Islands.

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