Duke of York

I wish we could share our self-isolating situation with our family and friends … we are amongst the most blessed self-isolators  I think. The PNG government gave us permission to cruise around New Ireland and New Britain, where there are some beautiful anchorages.  The only restriction is that we aren’t meant to make contact with the locals.  Papua New Guinea has gone down into lock down for 14 days, I am not sure everybody observing it but there is certainly a lot less canoes and “Banana” boat traffic around. We are anchored off Makada Island, it is in the Duke of York group of Islands (off shore of Rabaul).  We plan to move on in a few days but while the weather is settled we will stay here.  We all went snorkelling the other day … not far from anchorage there are two Japanese tanks, in a couple metres of water. It was a simple snorkel and a great way to spend a few hours.  I have managed to get a few hours reading in and I want to take this opportunity to recommend / promote a special book to all of our readers, who like me are fascinated by Russia and Russian history. I have just finished Sophy Roberts recently published book “The Lost Pianos of Siberia” it is a great read. This morning, after several days of preparation, we finally launched and tested our Blueye Underwater Drone. We made a few tentative dives, exciting times ahead. We are working on understanding/perfecting the camera functions before our next dive. 

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Self isolation

Our thoughts go out to you all in the many countries that are asking you to self-isolate, we hope that you will be able to use the time constructively and meaningfully. I am imaging all the unread books and articles that could be read or the many photographs that need cataloguing. Whatever you do try and enjoy the time.     We are self-isolating here in Papua New Guinea on board Strannik. The Customs Department approved our revised voyage plan, on the understanding that we don’t take on any other passengers. So this afternoon after topping up our fuel tanks (we have 15,000 Litres on board which will keep us going for months) ,  filling up the freezers and fridges (we estimate we have at least 2 months food on board) and stocking up on more fishing gear  we sailed for the  Duke of York Islands. We plan a few days here before slowly cruising down the south coast of New Ireland and beyond. We also have over 2,000 movies and similar number of books on the ships hard drive….    Self-isolation for us is not a hardship …. But we wish we could share the experience and time with friends and family. 

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New Britain Trench

From Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Just a few weeks ago I was thinking that I would be getting underway for New Ireland on a trip of a lifetime with a team of  International researchers to study Becks Petrel.  It was an ambitious project that was one of the reasons I was supporting it. We had hoped to catch and tag at least another 6 birds, locate nesting burrows at 2000 metres in the mountains of southern New Ireland and visit local villages to enthuse them about the bird and conservation in general.    Instead I am on board with my crew, Simon, Martha and Riccarda planning where to anchor for the next month(s) to avoid the virus.  All the researchers that were either here or on their way were recalled to their home countries, many of them arriving back only hours before their borders closed.   There is only one reported case of the virus in PNG at present but I think it is only a matter of time before many more are reported.  We have stocked up on food, fuel and fishing gear,  there are a lot worst places to sit this one out and there are a lot of people a lot worse off than we are.    During the last two weeks we completed a cetacean survey along the section of the New Britain Trench which runs along the south coast of New Britain.  We ran transects during the day and anchored at local villages during the night, enjoying their hospitality and clean clear waters for swimming and snorkelling. The results of that survey will be published soon, some of the researchers are on compulsory self-isolation in their respective countries, so will have plenty of time to analgise the data.    We have a meeting with PNG immigration on Monday to discuss our revised plans, once they are confirmed we will get underway and we will keep you posted. 

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Papua New Guinea

We can’t escape the effects of Coronavirus virus... not even here in Papua New Guinea.  We are anchored in the Port of Lae .. the second largest port/city in the country, this was not in our plans.  We had originally planned to sail from Palau to Rabaul and “open borders” in Rabaul.  However in response to the Virus the New Guinea Government closed all but three PNG ports for International clearance.  Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul remained open. However, in defiance of the central government, the governor of Rabaul closed Rabaul Port to all foreign ships.  Central Government then reopened all other Ports, so we headed for the Port of Madang, only to be told that the local Quarantine officers didn’t believed they were qualified to clear our vessel and so we were redirected to Lae.    Concerned that this could get even more complicated we engaged the services of local shipping agent to expedite the process as time was running out.  We arrived this morning shortly after midnight with assurances that officials would be on board at 10.00 (local time).    We have just been advised by the agent that there are just two quarantine officers in the Port. One is missing, nobody knows where he or she is, the other was discharged from hospital this morning after an operation.  GREAT. There is nothing we can do but wait. We will update you with our progress or lack of later 

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Squid boat

We are into day 3 of our journey from Palau to Papua New Guinea (at this stage Madang). We are finally south of the NE Trade winds  and sea conditions have improved. There is still a large N – NE swell on the Port Beam but our stabilisers cancel them out and it really is quite comfortable.  We are crossing the West Caroline Basin with depths of up to 4500 metres.    Today we cruised past a fishing vessel … they called us up obviously keen to talk to somebody. It was a Philippine registered squid fishing vessel. They offered us some dried squid in exchange for cigarettes !!!!  It transpires  (from what we understood .. their speech was rather slurred) that they are here for 4 – 6 months at a time, this crew is due to go home in June. There are 24 crew on board and in addition to the ship they have three tenders that they fish from.  They are hand lining (or jigging) for squid, which is then obviously dried, how we are aren't sure.  The vessel is moored to a buoy … which it would appear is anchored to the bottom (4500 metres down) !!!!. We had seen several of these boats and a number of buoys prior to speaking with this vessel.   

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