Sailors for Sustainability: Trouble in Paradise

Paradise Anchorage at Cocos Keeling

“There, palm trees!” Five shouts. “Finally”, replies Floris. “According to the map, we’re almost there.” We are going Cocos Keeling Islands. The group of islands is flat like a pancake. There is a ring of coral around it – about 6 to 8 miles – which we still have to “go through” first. We send Luciapara 2 An opening in the ring, to the north-east passage. To the left and right the sea waves break violently on the rocks, but once through the pass we quickly enter the lee of the waves. In flat water we follow the buoy to the anchor. Now we see how big the pool is. “It looks like an atoll in French Polynesia,” enthuses Ivar. “What a paradise, in the middle of the Indian Ocean!” Are we really in Valhalla or are we threatened with destruction?

Heaven on earth

Sailors for Sustainability

Many sailors came before us

The anchor drops to a depth of 10 meters where we see it sink into the sand. The water here is crystal clear. We call Australian Federal Police to announce our arrival. Because even though we are more than 1,000 miles behind mainland Australia and we are close to Sumatra, this island is still part of Australia. As we waited for the authorities, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Snow-white beaches and towering coconut trees draw us ashore. After we clean up, we can Direction Island Go and explore. This is an exclusive area for yachts, miles away from villages on other islands. We stroll along the pristine beach until we find a picnic area with shelters and tables and ready-made barbecues – it’s still Australia. There’s even WiFi! We also see many works of art with the names of boats and crews. Painted wooden signs, plastic floats and shell creations are silent witnesses to the many sailing yachts that have come before us and docked here. Don’t blame them!

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Snorkeling with the current

Sailors for Sustainability

Snorkeling at The Rip

A footpath leads us to ‘The Rib’ on the southern side of the island. Ocean waves wash the outer rocks here, creating a steady current in the lagoon next to the island. According to other sailors, this is a beautiful snorkeling spot, but we hesitate to enter the water. It flows like crazy and the bottom is covered with razor sharp coral. “Well, it gets deep quickly, so it has to be possible,” Floris concludes. He puts on his snorkel mask and dives deep. Ivar jumps after it. Immediately the water drags us along. We steer with our hands and feet, so we float safely through the rocks, in the deep. Mother Nature pulls out all the stops here, as we soon see. Coral of many types and colors and countless species of fish – small, but especially many large ones. Dozens of parrotfish gnaw motionless at pieces of dead coral while a gigantic Napoleon fish swims calmly in circles. A sea turtle watches us curiously from behind a coral reef, while sharks lie below, waiting for prey to pass by. As we swim to the beach, we see a colorful Picasso-inspired fish on the white sand. “One more time!” Five shouts. We can’t get enough of this enchanting place. After a long time, tired from swimming, we paddled back to Lucy. Sipping fresh coconut milk, we couldn’t believe our happiness.

Sailors for Sustainability

Lots of big fish on The Rip


Coco Keeling A popular hub for global sailors en route to South Africa from Australia or Asia. But more than that. Many information boards Direction Island Tell the amazing story of a former radio station that fought hard in both world wars. This is where the important radio cables come together. Nowadays, the island is unfortunately becoming a hub on a completely different level: a stream of waste plastic. Garbage piles up on the ocean side of the islands, making it nearly impossible to clean up. Garbage mounds stretch as far as the eye can see. We fall silent. “You have to think that 95% of ocean plastic is sinking. So we’re really just seeing the tip of the plastic iceberg,” sighs Ivar. “Residents cannot solve this. This complex problem really needs to be tackled at the source,” Floris concludes.

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Sailors for Sustainability

Plastic was washed as far as the eye could see


If the wind is light for a day, we paddle more than two miles to the inhabited area HomeIsland. The first thing we see there is the local cemetery. A substantial amount of sandbags should be used to prevent it from washing away. A few fallen coconut trees on the nearby beach are silent witnesses to the water. “Currently, sea level is rising by an average of half a centimeter every year,” says Ivar. “Add to that the fact that the hurricane is getting stronger, and it makes the low country here even more threatening.” At the sailing club next to the village, a piece of waste plastic marks the high water mark, almost at street level. Nothing is raised here. Streets, houses, vegetable gardens: everything is flat and low. “How long will this go on? “The island is actually very vulnerable to sea level rise,” Iver notes.

Sailors for Sustainability

Sea level rise threatens cocos keeling

An eventful history

We get the keys to the local museum at the town hall. We can wander around on our own and learn about the history of the island. It was named after British Captain William Keeling in 1609 when it was uninhabited. That was the case until about 200 years ago. In 1827, Scottish sailor and trader John Clunys-Rose established a settlement here with his family. He started a coconut plantation and brought in the necessary workers from Malaysia and Indonesia. The Clunys-Ross family ruled the island in a dictatorial manner for 150 years, earning it its nickname. Kings of Cocos resulted. Today it is home to about 600 people, most of whom are descendants of coconut workers. Together with their beliefs, they determine the street scene on the home island. We pass a large mosque, see texts in Malaysian everywhere and smell Asian food.

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We create the future

Sailors for Sustainability

There is no upland anywhere in Cocos Keeling

Most coconuts are no longer harvested; Tourism has become a major source of income. But for how long? Is the age of human civilization over on this island? The IPCC’s most recent climate scenarios differ: sea level rises range from 40 centimeters to more than a meter by 2100, depending on how much we ignore the climate crisis. “The so-called danger endpoints, These projections don’t even include things like the breaking up of ice sheets in Antarctica. So if things go wrong, things can get a lot worse,” notes Ivar. “The residents here are not contributing to the climate crisis. How unfair it is that they are surviving its consequences,” Floris adds. A week later we leave with mixed feelings. We leave a paradise behind us, but one that is in danger of being choked by plastic and swallowed by the ocean. Something must be done!” Ivar once again reminds us, “After all, we know what to do on a large and small scale. We have encountered solutions throughout our journey. Apply now. Not just for the residents of Cocos Keeling, but ultimately for all of us.

More information? see Here Sailing Adventures of Sailors for Sustainable Solutions and Sustainability.

More departure stories? Read all Column bro, black moon And check out the Vlog Yndeleau.

Tags: Blog Sailors for Sustainability Last Modified: January 31, 2023

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