Monday, June 14, 2021

Chagos with Pictures (part 2)


After a week moored off Boddham  we moved down to Fouquet. For most of our time Chagos the weather was good, but we did have the occasional squall come through.  (We anchored in two places on Ille Fouquet. 05*20.645S,072*15.484 in 15ft on sand. This end of the island had less swell making though the pass. Later we anchored at the larger sand area at 05*19.961S,072*15.87Ein 15 ft on sand)

Not all is easy going in Chagos. This is the wreckage of a large cruising catamaran. In the foreground is the tall mast laying in the clear water.  Sometime, apparently after this wreck, BIOT started requiring Wreck Removal Insurance prior to issuing a permit to visit.

Red footed Boobies are everywhere on the islands.

While Chagos has experienced coal bleaching incidents similar to the Maldives, the general health of the reefs and abundance of coral seemed very good. It's really nice to be diving with such a variety of corals an coral colors. The water clarity was not crystal clear while we were there, but fine for our daily snorkel. Water temperature is perfectly legal in my book, we're guessing it was mid 80sF!

No shortage of Parrot fish.

Quite a garden

This is an 18-20 inch long Giant Clam shell. I remember watching some black and white movie as a kid where the hero got his arm stuck in a Giant Clam. Been leery of them ever since.

This is a live Giant Clam almost as big. It turns out Giant Clams aren't big threat to skin divers, as they are plankton eaters.

Add a little red to the coral colors

This coral colony is probably 10 or 12 feet wide.

Got my eye on you!

Turtles cruising by weren't too concerned about us.

A little closer view

A juvenile snapper of some sort.
Banner Fish enjoying their coral surroundings

The beginning of a nice forest

Tide pool starfish

Practicing taking selfies on the sandbar while shell hunting

Had to stop and investigate this large buoy washed up on the beach. Looks like it may have come from some Naval exercise down in Diego Garcia. Too big to take home as a souvenir, even though I think it would make great yard art.

There are Hermit Crabs almost everywhere to land in Chagos. They are the bane of shell hunters, as they claim all the good ones early.

This is a smaller Coconut Crab using a coconut shell as her home. The young Coconut Crabs use shells and coconuts for protection. The adults use claws.

Coconut Crab looking to me for protection.

Not sure why, but you sometimes see a party of Hermit Crabs up on the trees.

Met up with our old friend Wilson.

A nice shiny Cowrie shell.

When you walk around the islands the bird pass by at eye level for a look. 

Grouper, checking us out

There's a lobster (crayfish) hiding under that coral shelf.

A close up of the crayfish.

Extra low tide on the ocean side of the island

Pre-sunset view

My beach toy. Notice the clean shaven model holding it.

Georgia at anchor. The light blue is about 15 feet deep and where our anchor is. The dark blue is about 50 feet deep where we came to rest. It is very convenient that they color code the water for us.

Boobies nesting with young, fluffy white nestling in the center.

Space alien eyes

This was a less than clear day snorkeling. Mark, this black-tip reef shark, decided to start circling us. He made at least three loops around us that we could see. Needless to say, Chris managed to keep the dinghy or me safely between her and Mark.

Check the length of this Unicorn Fish's horn

A little green coral to add to the seascape

These two pictures are hard to make out, but they are of an octopus hiding among the crevices in the coral. 

It was a windy late afternoon and Mark and his friend stopped by to see if we had any shark treats to share.

The friend even wanted to show of his black tip.

The Noddies decided to take up residence on the bow pulpit.

All in all, Chagos is a pretty magical place. Glad we got the opportunity to stop by and add to the memories.



Chagos with Pictures (part 1)

Sunrise on our approach to Chagos

You can see one of the islands that make up the Salomon Atoll on the horizon.

As we got closer to Chagos (also known as British Indian Ocean Teritory or BIOT) the seabirds began to show us the way - who needs GPS? Chagos is really a pretty magical place. It's about as remote as you will get when it comes to tropical atolls. Being completely uninhabited is an alluring plus. And for me the highlight is the left over rusty stuff from the copra plantation and the previous, now exiled, population. The United Kingdom evicted the Chagossians between 1967 and 1971, including about 50 from Boddham in the neighboring Salomon Atoll. The atolls are corraline structures topping a submarine ridge that was volcanically formed by the Reunion Hotspot in the center of the Indian Ocean (at least that's what Wikipeda thinks). Chagos contains the world's largest coral atoll. The atoll that we spent our time on, Salomon, is about 13.8 sq miles of total area that contains about 1.4 sq miles of land. The entire area has been a marine reserve no-take zone since 2010 --- not counting the poaching.

The early Maldivians knew of the Chagos islands, but they were too far away for them to care much about them. The Portuguese discovered them in 1512 or 1532 or there abouts. They were named after the holy wounds of Jesus -- chagas being wound in Portuguese.  The French began issuing permits for coconut plantations in 1770s. In 1793 the first colony was successfully created under British rule, using slave labor imported from Africa until 1840. An earlier blog goes into a little bit on who should own Chagos now.

   When we arrived our friends Matt, Jenn and kids Conrad and Mark on SV Perry stopped by. They were the only other boat in Chagos. They brought along the black tip shark you see in the background. these sharks were our constant companions while there.

Putting our British Indian Ocean Territories courtesy flag up. But, now that the courts say the islands should belong to Mauritius instead of he UK, maybe it's not appropriate.

 There are two places to moor when in the Salomon Atoll, Boddham and Fouquet. Fouquet has a couple of wide, sandy areas to anchor. Boddham is covered with coral bommies and has no place to put down anchor. There are many old moorings chained around bommies that were left from cruisers over the years. We picked up this one. The upper picture is the heavy, coral encrusted line tied to the bow of Georgia. The lower picture is he bommie that this line is chained to. After tying up and backing down on this mooring to test its strength, we took our stern anchor rode, made a loop with the chain and shackle, dropped this over a near by bommie as a backup. (05*21.212S,072*012.468E)

Looking at Boddham Is. from the anchorage you'd never know how many old buildings there are on the skinny island. About center of this picture is the remains of the old, rock landing pier. The island is about 500 m (1,600 ft) wide at this point.

Just a reminder where we are in the middle of the Indian Ocean

In the old days, when cruisers were allowed to visit Chagos and stay as long as they wanted, there were a group of modern day Robinson Crusoe wannabes who spent half a year or more at a time in Chagos. This was the Yacht Club.

The old buildings from the copra plantation are now overrun by jungle and coconut trees.

The most notable residents of Chagos are the coconut crabs.

The church was built in 1932.

A closer view of the neo-gothic, Catholic church.

Your blog hosts braving a large coconut crab walking up a coconut tree -- just to deliver this adventure picture. Notice who is closer to the man-eating crab (ok, actually they are strict vegetarians. They are the largest terrestrial arthropod  and can weigh up to 9 lbs and get to 3 ft leg tip to leg tip).

Something only a mother could love.

The settlement wells are still full of fresh water.

The cemetery is in a large clearing. Lots of cement graves but no readable tombstones.

It's a shame that the tombstones are not readable. 

Coconut crab enjoying it's namesake treat.

And my favorite, Rusty Stuff: the old windlass mounted on the pier.

(Part 2 of Chagos includes the underwater shots)