Journey to the Sinking Lands

A witness to the world's first evacuation of an entire people due to climate change

Island blong Wiley

Island blong WileyHere’s a sad story. During World War II, an American airplane crashed into the sea near the Carteret Islands. Almost all of the crew died; only one survived, injured and cast adrift in a life raft amid the sea. He washed up on the islands, whose people took him in, gave him food and tended to his wounds. The pilot, whose name was Wiley, stayed with the island people for a long time, learning their language and eating their food. He kept a pet white bird, called knakna in the people’s language. In time, a group of islanders paddled a canoe to Honaira, in the Solomon Islands, where there were other Americans. The islanders told the Americans about Wiley, who was still injured and could not make the journey himself. The Americans arranged for a Catalina sea-plane to fly to the Carterets and rescue him. While they were glad to see him go home, the islanders were also sad, because they had come to love Wiley. Before he left, they gave him an island, which he called Wiley’s Island or, in Pidgin, Island Blong Wiley. When Wiley returned home, he sent money to the islands, for the people to build a school and buy school equipment. That school building is still here. It is called Willey House.

Before I left Britain Wiley’s son wrote to me, and told me about his father. Since I arrived I have heard the same story from half a dozen different people. Some remember Wiley himself. Unhappily, Island Blong Wiley – which was only small – has since sunk beneath the waves.



[…] August 1942: Im Zweiten Weltkrieg erreicht Delmar Wiley, Funker eines von Japanern abgeschossenen US-Flugzeugs, im Schlauchboot die Insel. Der Verwundete wird von den Einwohnern aufgenommen, Monate später kann er nach Hause zurückkehren. [mehr] […]

  Sinking worlds wrote @

Thank you for raising awareness about those disappearing lands and cultures. The Carterets are beautiful islands and I hope its inhabitants will be able to resettle, even though it’s a heartbreak to leave their land 😦

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