Journey to the Sinking Lands

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

Where is Dan going?

Alright, the Carteret Islands are actually too small to show up on Google Maps, but click on ‘Sat’ in the top corner and zoom in to see what the islands look like from space (using a very, very good camera).

Or, if you came down from space to visit the islands themselves, they would look like this:

Young girls wait for night to fall before going out to collect sea cucumbers. Photo by Toby Parkinson.

Young girls wait for night to fall before going out to collect sea cucumbers. Photo by Toby Parkinson.

The first european to travel to the Carteret islands was Philip Carteret, a British explorer whose ship, the Swallow, sailed there in 1767. Below is the most recent map of Carteret’s voyage I’ve been able to find, published in 1811.

Source; RGS-IBG

Source; RGS-IBG

 

I’ve traced the route Carteret took in black so you can follow it. I have to admit, I find this kind of thing incredibly exiting – probably because I read too many Adventure Books for Boys as a child. But, humour me, it is worth a look.

For one thing, the names are strange. The map is framed on one side by South America, whose parts are named, in descending order, Mexico or New Spain, Terra Firma, Amazonia, Peru and Chili. Facing them, across the sea, is New Holland – modern day Australia. South-west New Holland is called The Land of Lyons, and above it, running north, are New Guinea, Celebes, the Philipine Isles, Cochin China and there, in the top most corner of the map, China itself.

The outlines of the hand-drawn coasts and islands are strange too, as if misremembered, dreamed or, I realise, not yet fully formed. They represent only the best understanding of the time; so the south-east coast of New Holland – now the states of South Australia and Victoria, which Elle and I drove along the Great Ocean Road to John’s wedding a few years ago – is filled in with only a dotted line, as if the map’s maker was unsure where the land he was describing truly ran. The coast of New Guinea, too, is drawn in dots and not the shape we know it to be today. And through the middle of this fragmentary, half-imagined world, runs Captain Carteret’s route.

Carteret travelled west to east, rounding the southern tip of South America and heading out into the unknown currents of the Pacific. There he discovered the Pitcairn Islands – where the survivors from the mutiny on the Bounty were washed up and more recently British police investigated serial rape and sexual assault among their descendants – before sailing on past the Isles of Danger, Queen Charlotte’s Island, past A Volcano to the Carteret Islands themselves. Pausing only to name them after himself, he continued, passing in quick succession Joseph Freewills Island, A Dangerous Shoal and Mindano before finally setting his sloop Swallow through the narrow sea-lane between Sumatra and Batavia and north, for home. It is utterly, unforgettably romantic, and I am so exited to be travelling to the region myself.

Though, unlike Carteret, I will be travelling by plane, which is less romantic and has marginally worse food.

4 Comments»

  Eleanor Kirby wrote @

Wow, what a wonderful trip you have planned. I look forward to following your journey from my living room. Be sure to post lots of pics and keep us all updated with videos and regular blogs.
Have fun!

  tom wrote @

Hey Dan
When are you going? Sorry if this is on the site somewhere, but I couldn’t see it?
Hope all is well
Tom

  Jamie Fagg wrote @

Hello Daniel,

Wow!! This looks so amazing.

Fantastic project – when is the evacuation happennign. This would be a fascinating natural experiment for someone interested in social research to find out the health effects of moving an entire population from one place to another…gutted I didn’t know about it before and get the research grant in!

Speak to you soon buddy, and good luck, look forward to hearing you chat about it on Woman’s Hour!

J

  DEREK C KOKOLAY wrote @

HI! DAN LISTENED TO YOUR REPORT ON THE ISLANDERS PLIGHT FOR HELP FROM THE WESTERN WORLD, VERY INTRIGUED, I WAS WONDERING IF THERE WAS A PROJECT I COULD GET INVOLVED WITH AND HELP VOLUNTARILY. I WOULD ONLY BE TO GLAD TO OFFER MY SERVICES AS AN TECHNICIAN IN THE ENGINEERING INDUSTRY.

MANY THANKS ! LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

DEREK


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