Bougainville Environment and Tourism Stories : Taming and harnessing the sea – Simon Pentanu


The sea offers precious gifts but it can also be fearsome.

How do you manage to keep your balance against the awesome power of the sea. Is it friend or foe? Is it benevolent – as we often know it to be – or is it malevolent, wishing us ill?

The sea. Surfers and sailors love riding and sailing it, near and far out at sea. But they know the sea is not merely a plaything. They respect its capacity to change moods quickly. When it changes, it is indiscriminate, doing no favours for anyone. But by gosh, it has paid dividends to everyone, including explorers who have conquered and harnessed it to venture far out beyond their shores.

The ocean is bigger than any supermarket, hypermart or grocery chain in the amount and variety of food and other resources it holds. Its bounty supports whole populations.

Almost everyone has some connection with the sea. It occupies more than seventy per cent of the earth’s surface. It is everywhere. The liquid cartwheels around the globe, carried by cloud storms, cyclonic winds and rains. We know it from our own experience, as well as through the stories of sailors, fishermen and explorers, whose (sometimes tall) tales are re-read, re-told and re-imagined through the generations.

Stories of the sea are interwoven with the history of human endeavours down the millennia, from Christopher Columbus to Capt James Cook, from Carteret to Bougainville. And Mendana too.

Louise-Antoine Comte de Bougainville’s sighting of this Island is being recognised as a public holiday in the Region every year on 2 July, starting 2018. Let us not read too much or too narrowly into this or politicise it. It happened. We cannot rewrite history and say Bougainville didn’t or shouldn’t have come to these shores. He braved the seas and oceans to get here.

There were many other explorers who took courage and unfurled their desire to catch the wind and find out what lay over the horizon.

I can’t help but admire the feat of anyone who is prepared to wet their feet and whet their appetite to satisfy their curiosity on a quest like that. Most of those explorers set out with little more than rudimentary navigational aids and the stars – and with them they circumnavigated continents and mapped archipelagos. They had nothing like the science and technology at our disposal today.

Humans are not cats with nine lives. Those that have gone before us made their one life – between success and failure, between survival and death – count for something.

Let us acknowledge and recognise them, not ridicule them.

The indiscriminate sea, vibrating with menace and fury is real. Participants in surf competitions, yacht races and canoe journeys may feel genuine fear when faced with swells and canyons of giant waves out at sea.

And sometimes each of us feels fear and trepidation when we face choppy seas in our personal lives. More adventurers and explorers have gone up into space than into the deepest trenches of our oceans. It can be like that with our personal travels. Sometimes the hardest journeys are the ones to our inner selves.

Being honest about ourselves, our weaknesses, our worth is not easy. But it is not impossible. The sweetest and most satisfying endeavours are often those that are hardest, most complex and which take longer to achieve.

I believe the place to begin is to feel worthy of ourselves. Because when we say ‘in God we trust’ we are saying we are worthy of His creation.

If we don’t have a sense of self-worth, we are like rudderless vessels without keels floating listlessly at the mercy of the elements. We can easily be broken into pieces and scattered to oblivion, leaving no sign that a human being with a soul once walked upon this land and ventured out by sea.

Let us take courage – like the explorers of the past – and be prepared to face the swells and troughs of the journey to our inner selves.

When we know and appreciate our own worth we can take on the challenges of the world around us with more certainty and a lot of positive sense, and benefits to reap.




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