Mortlock Clam & Coconut Delight

“You don’t eat clam? I thought many people in the US eat clam?”

We had just returned from our full day of clam gathering when I was approached with this question. Turns out, that usually when the women are returning in the boats, they snack on raw clam, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Now that we were back on shore, Telo, one of the women’s husbands whose English was nearly perfect, told me that the ladies were shocked that I didn’t eat clam. He also added that since I had politely declined the snack offer, the women had abstained as well, not wanting to eat in front of me. I tried to explain to him that we are not from a place near the sea, and therefore, I was not accustomed to eating clams raw. I stumbled around for the right words, embarrassed that I had stifled the fun.

The creamy bowls of Cambell’s Condensed Clam Chowder that I ate as a child didn’t really count as truly eating clam, did they? Having lived all of my life in inland states, far from the oceans that border the…

Ladies Day out in the Mortlocks

“Hurry up!” I heard playfully called from outside. 
I was grabbing my hat and drinking down the last of my morning cup of coffee when I heard the boat full of ladies calling out to me and giggling. This morning I had been invited to join in a ladies only activity - shelling. This didn’t involve meandering along the beach looking for seashells, nor did it mean we were sitting around beading shell necklaces. This day was all about foraging. Just the week prior, I had been intranced by the whole spectrum of vibrant colors that protruded from the clam shells scattered along Roncador Reef. I think I must’ve taken a hundred photos in my attempts to capture their beauty. Today, the ladies were searching for the colorful clams, too, but not exactly for the same reason!
It was the ladies’ turn to gather food for the village, and they were all very excited to gather clams to make one of their favorite dishes - moo moo. I had no idea at the time what moo-moo was or what exactly I had signed up …

Canoe Racing in the Mortlocks

This was no casual canoe race. This was the big leagues. The men of the village paddled from the beach in front of their own huts and slid their sailing canoes up onto the main shore. Like infantry soldiers lined up in a vibrant row of color against the light blue sky of the dawn. They were serious, quiet, determined.

It was a national holiday, Remembrance Day. The holiday honored Papua New Guineans who lost lives during WWII. The date, July 23, was the same date when the first fighting between the Papuan Infantry Battalion soldiers and invading Japanese troops in 1942. Each year, the people of these islands organize a canoe race as part of their festivities. At least 20 men were participating in the race, readying their sails and making any last minute adjustments.

Meanwhile, the children and older men milled around on the beach or sat under the palm trees waiting for the race to start. I noticed some ladies sitting on an upside-down canoe near shore, but where were all …

Exploring the Mortlocks

On our first morning ashore, we are greeted by a gathering of school children, anxious to simply be with us. It is always very awkward to be the strange, new visitors to a place. No one is really sure what to do or what to say, and often, it is us trying to be friendly and act normal while we have hundreds of eyes looking at us with the precision and intensity of laser beams. I’d love to say it gets easier each time, but I still struggle.

All my insecurities surface and suddenly I’m not sure what to do with myself. With a smile, though, I fight the urge to clam up and stay stuck in my uncertain thoughts. Instead, I turn toward the faces surrounding me - the ears trained on my every word or sound, the eyes that follow my every move and gesture, the precious, curious kids whose every neuron is aimed in our direction.

Like a school of fish, we move across the beach, my tiniest action or word causing instant ripples of response throughout the crowd.

Usually, there are one or two children…

Mortlock Islands, PNG

Our first stop in PNG was a tiny remote group of islands called Mortlock Islands just northeast of Bouganville. It would be the first of many remote village islands we’d visit as we stayed clear of mainland PNG and all the crime associated with the busy port towns there. Matt on SV Perry had been in communication with a professor from Australia who had studied this particular island community, documenting their unique customs and language. Scientists have also been studying the effects of climate change on this island very closely. In the emails, Matt also found out that the people here didn’t have access to medical supplies, so while we were in Honiara waiting for one of our many shipments, we stocked up on some medical necessities and are excited to hand them over to the chiefs here.

The pass into the lagoon was deep and wide. A fish nabbed our lure right as we entered the pass, so I jumped up to helm while Mark dealt with the fish. Unfortunately, it was a big monster with sharp tee…