Bikini Atoll, Bikini Island
11 February 2018 | Marshall Islands
We left the beautiful Rongerik Atoll yesterday. Unfortunately Bud's ears were playing him up so he did not get to go snorkelling to enjoy the excellent underwater scenery. For the first time we had proper bird colonies and went ashore to the next island to see them roosting in trees (boobies, white terns and brown noddies). Being older Bud's skin is thinner so he injures himself easier and although treating these cuts with Neosporin, they were not healing and getting inflamed. We changed him onto Povidone-Iodine (which you can no longer buy in the UK) and there was an overnight improvement. The key is that iodine is an antiseptic that 'dries' rather than remains 'wet' on the wound which is not good for healing in the tropical atmosphere.
Bud's wife Marilyn and her sister Janice now have their tickets and will arrive in Majuro on 26 February. Before they arrive we have to thoroughly clean the boat so we will aim to be back a few days early plus Andy and I have to book our flight from Majuro to San Francisco.
Without stabilisers the passage to Bikini was uncomfortable to say the least. Andy and I are not prepared to go ashore on Bikini because of its atomic bombs testing. The most we will do is snorkelling as the sea water is changed daily! Bud's scratches have become very inflamed and Sunday night he started antibiotics as he had a temperature. The iodine had improved the older sores but his new one, the main source of the infection, is sufferating badly.
Fungal infections are promoted in the tropical climate. Keeping the skin cool and aired helps to avoid these. The scalp, between fingers or toes and the groin are usual problem areas. Infected areas should be washed with disinfectant, dried well and an antifungal powder (like tolnaftate) should be applied.
Monday 12 February :- We were called on VHF by Bikini this morning to see if we had any cigarettes they could buy. It is manned by scientists and construction workers; the original Bikinians who had to leave their homes in 1946, are still "nuclear nomads" with half the population living on Kili while the rest have made their way to Majuro. Bud was going to visit ashore but his leg is painful so he is resting and letting the antibiotics take effect. Andy and I took the tender to the nearest reef and had a good snorkel. The coral is pretty dead but there are lots of shoals of fish, many we've seen before but here the fish are larger sized- no one is eating them!. We were visited by a 4 ft Blacktip Reef Shark. It swam within an arm's length of Andy then calmly disappeared off. Swimming across the very shallow part of the reef I spotted a Green Sea Turtle tucked under a coral ledge resting. We hovered over it watching for a while then moved off without having disturbed it 's 'down time'. We saw only one living Giant Clam and one dead clam shell. It is quite breezy here so we had to concentrate otherwise we were quickly taken out into deeper water with a harder than usual swim to return to the anchored tender. Compared to elsewhere in the Marshalls, there is a lot of weed over the coral and sea bed.
We have only caught one fish so far. We make sure we catch them outside the atolls. Ciguatera fish poisoning (resulting from eating reef-dwelling fish that have eaten plankton-produced toxins) is a problem throughout the Pacific and the Marshalls have a high incidence of it. Cooking does not destroy the toxins. Symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, paralysis, tingling and numbness of the face, fingers and toes plus a reversal of temperature feelings so hot things feel cold etc. Extreme cases can result in unconsciousness and even death. Treatment is to empty the stomach and get immediate medical help ... not easy in the remote atolls. Ciguatera stays in the body so anyone who has had it has to be careful not to eat more contaminated fish thereby increasing the toxins. We have met one French sailor, JP, who has to be careful for this reason having had the symptoms twice.
PICTURE : Lizard on a coconut from a previous inhabited island