Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Archive for Ursula Rakova

Journey of a Lifetime

PNG mapEast, Dan, east. The Carteret Islands are in the east of Papua New Guinea. Not, as you said three times in the course of the programme, the west. Idiot boy.

That apart, I really enjoyed listening to the programme (which can be downloaded here), maybe more than anyone else who did. I could remember every moment; the heat, the music, the taste of the fish eyes…

Simon Elmes at the BBC did a great job stitching it all together and I’m really proud to have worked with him on it. The programme has also been made the Radio 4 ‘podcast of the week’. My Aunty Sue says they should give me a badge.

Latest news: This just in from the Carteret Islands…

Read the rest of this entry »



Dan at work 001I will make it. I caught the only flight out of Buka today, to Port Moresby, a jungle-hopper that stopped first in Rabaul and Lae. Tomorrow I fly to Brisbane and from there, a few hours later, to Singapore and London. I arrive late on Thursday afternoon, in time for the service at the crematorium on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

Can you help?

I’ve just heard from Ursula again. The evacuation has hit a stumbling block, with too little money available to build houses for the families to live in on Bougainville. No donors are willing to fund building these homes, she says.

Any ideas? Can you help?


It worked! I knew it would. Going public to say I hadn’t heard from Ursula for ages (see last post) meant that she got in touch with me almost immediately. That’s the way the universe works- it goes out of its way to make you worried and then, just when you are about to break, it does a quick about-face in order to make you look daft for worrying too much in the first place.

In accordance with this rule, I have just had this email from Ursula:

Plis arrange your flights and let me know.  We will arrange for your trip to the Carterets.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually take me any further forward, as I still don’t know what date to book the flights for. I’ve written back to ask (again) when she expects the evacuation to start, but am starting to suspect that we what I am experiencing is the failure of my english brain to accept the reality of tropical island culture – where everything is fairly relaxed and groovy and if something doesn’t happen today, it will probably happen soon. So that’s OK.
Odds are, I will turn up and find the boats aren’t actually due to leave for quite a while so will have to wait. As far as I’m concerned that isn’t a bad thing. I’ll be on a tropical island. It might not go down to well at home though with my fiancee Elle, who won’t be on the tropical island but will at home in the snow, earning money to pay the rent. Fortunately, I have given her plenty of opportunity in the past to practice being both patient and understanding with me… 

A rising tide (of panic)

People often ask me “When are you leaving?”

Good question.

Ursula Rakova

Ursula Rakova

Over the past six months, I’ve been in regular email and phone contact with the woman who is leading the evacuation of the Carteret, Ursula Rakova.

Considering she’s living in a pretty wild and wooly part of the world, Ursula has always been really good at staying in touch. And then, as soon as news came through that I would be getting funding from the Royal Geographical Society to travel to the islands, nothing.

Hopefully, she is just out of contact on one of the islands. Or has dropped her mobile into the sea. And her computer. Hmmm. I need to find a way to get in touch with her soon, so I can sort out tickets, and a visa, and so on and so on. Ursula, if you are reading this…

Joking aside, I have had one email, a week ago today, which gives you a pretty good idea that Ursula may have a lot on her mind at the moment:

Hello Dan,
I was away on holiday for 4 weeks and only returned a few days ago.  We have great difficulties with finance but we have some land secured in 2 locations.  Money is very hard in coming though, for purchase of land, survey and building homes for the families.  Most crucial aspects that not too many donors wish to support, I am afraid.  Our work on the relocation site is on going but we’re not getting enough financial support as expected.
Yes, we will be moving only 5 families in March and hopefully 20 by October if the funds come in.  thank you so much.