Chagos Conservation Trust

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Desert Island marine scientists

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Matt GollockClaudia was a name I had always quite liked. Until now. Claudia is the name of the cyclone that has been in our life for almost a week, and has made work increasingly hard – we have not been able launch the boat we use for tagging for the last three days, and almost all the planned science has had to be stopped due to high winds, squalls and relentless swell that makes the deck akin to a paddling pool. As you can imagine this is incredibly frustrating, and mixed with increasing cabin fever and the wave of seasickness that comes with constantly being thrown in every compass direction, morale was not at its highest. This, unfortunately, is the reality of field science in the middle of the Indian Ocean, when it’s good, it’s amazing but when the weather turns, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. We all knew what we had signed up to, but it didn’t make the fact we couldn’t deploy a lot of our gear any easier to swallow. It also made me think of all the people who had looked at me in disgust when I told them I was coming here for work, their idea obviously being us with pina coladas in hand on deserted beaches. You know who you are.

Luckily, we were moored near a group of islands that had enough shelter to allow one of the small boats to make an excursion onto land for an hour. After an ‘interesting’ journey in, we all skipped ashore, thankful for the fact that the ground beneath our feet was stable, even for a brief moment. The island was one of those that had not been previously used as a coconut plantation and as such is rat-free, and had thousands of birds nesting on it – this was real ‘deserted island’ stuff. Juvenile red-footed boobies looked at us with curiosity rather than fear, and frigate birds – best described as prehistoric – circled above us in a rather unsettling manner. Possibly one of the most bizarre things we saw was moray eels rising out of the water onto land in order to catch crabs.
Hawksbill turtle in ChagosAs we continued our stroll round the island we stumbled across a hawksbill turtle that had been washed onto the some of the exposed coral flats, and become lodged in a crevice. It was still alive and seemed in good shape apart a look of embarrassment from being rather unceremoniously stuck at an angle turtles were clearly not built for. Now while turtles probably fall into the category of ‘cute’ as far as marine species are concerned, hawksbills have a mean beak that would easily take a couple of fingers off, and even though we were doing our best to help it, I reckon it would have taken a pop at us if we’d given it the chance. So we very gently braced it as we chipped away at the rocks that held it in place, and after about 5 minutes of tactical erosion, we managed to lift the turtle free. 10 meters of precarious handling and we had it in the water, and it swam off with us looking on, feeling a sense of achievement. A real ‘Animal Hospital’ moment.
So even though we weren’t able to carry out our work, this rag-tag band of conservationists were still vigilant, ready to leap into action when there were helpless animals to be saved. Now where did I leave my cape…

Matt Gollock

Creole: Claudia ti en non monn toultan kontan. Ziskan prezan. Claudia i non en siklonn kin dan nou lavi pou apepre en semen, e in fer travay tre difisil – nou pan kapab larg bato ki nou servi pou mark reken pou deryen twa zour, e preski tou bann sians in bezwen arête akoz gro divan, laroul ase gro ki tourn deryer lo bato parey en pti basen delo. Pare you kapab mazinen sa it re fristre, ansanm avek dan kabin ek laroul maldemer kin vin avek gany avoye dan tou direksyon konpa par move lanmer, moral pa ti lo son pli bon. Sa, enfortinetman, i realite dan travay sians dan milye losean endyen, ler i bon, it tre formidab me ler letan i sanze, napa nanryen ou kapab fer.  Nou tou nou ti konnen pou ekspekte nenport kwa, me sa pa ti ranplas realite ki nou pa ti kapab larg nou bann lekipman. I ti fer mon osi mazin tou sa bann dimoun ki ti get mon avek zalouzi ler mon ti dir zot mon tip e vin isi pou travay, zot lide, nou avek pina coladas dan nou lanmen lo en lans. Ou konnen lekel ou.

Avek lasans, nou ti pre en group zil ki ti annan ase landwa kasyet pou les enn bann pti bato pou fer ekskirsyon ater pou en erdtan. Apre en tre traze tre enteresan, nou sot ater, an remersiman ki later anba nou lipye i stab, menm si zis pou en pti letan. Sa zil i enn ki pan gany servi koman en plantasyon koko e osi napa lera, e ti annan de milye zwazo ki ti lo nik – sa ti vreman en zil dezerte. Bann zenn red-footed boobies ki get nou avek kiryozite san lafreyer, ek fregat – ki gany dekrir koman prehistoric – i fer letour parlao nou. Posibleman en keksoz pli bizar niun trouve i ler kong moray i sorti dan delo pou atrap krab.
Koman nou kontiny nou letour lo zil nou dekouver en torti lanmer kin gany trennen ate ravel laroul e tonm ant ban koray, e pri dan en trou. I ti ankor vivan e ankor dan bon leta apar ki i ti get anbarase par i ti dan en pozisyon ki torti pan gany fer pou ete.  La ki tort ii tonm dan kategori ko zot zoli koman bann lavi marin i konsern, sa torti i  annan en labek ki pou fasil koup ledwa, en menm so nou pe fer nou mye pou ed li, mon mazinen k ii ti pou esey mord nou s ii ti gany sans. Alors nou tre zantirman met pare antretan ki nou kas bann pti bout ros ki tip e fer li pri, e apre 5 minit erozyon, nou reisir pou tir li. 10 met pou manez li nou finalman met lid an delo, kot i ti naze pou retourn dan lanmer avek nou pe regarde, e santi tre fyer. Sa ti en moman pou lopital zannimo.
Alors menm si nou pa ti kapab er nou travay, s group conservasyon tit re vizilant, pare pou pran aksyon kot ti annan zanimo ki bezwen led pou gany sove. Alors kote ki monn kit mon lavwal…
Matt Gollock