We started off our first full day at port in Neiafu with a splendid breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, English muffins, and hot sauce. Afterwards, our class mustered on the quarterdeck to apply sunscreen and a heavy shield of Deet before we walked down the street to attend a educational presentation by the Vava'u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA). They taught us a lot about many of the environmental problems Vava'u is currently facing, such as invasive species, waste management, and overfishing. Overfishing and marine pollution are big problems in Tonga due to the Kingdom's heavy reliance on the ocean to support their economy through tourism and fishing exports. After our lecture many of us went back into town to explore while Cam, Malika, Deborah, and Lizzy ( Team Vava'u) stayed with VEPA to discuss their waste management project.
After exploring Neiafu and befriending many feral dogs and pigs we all returned to the ship to eat lunch before we started working on Team Vava'u's waste management project. Their waste management project involved our class going to a popular nearby beach to perform a beach cleanup. We all rolled up to the function in Mazda wagon taxis, some with subwoofers, some, unfortunately without. We then threw on some gloves and baptized ourselves in Deet and sunscreen in preparation for an afternoon of trash pickup. Sadly, there was a significant amount of rubbish around the beach. However,
there were a lot of unique pieces of trash to discover. For example, I found an inflatable whale floaty with an ant colony living inside, a bag of UFOs (Unidentifiable Flavored Objects), a couple diapers, and hundreds of beer cans. After doing our part to help the community of Tonga it was time for some fun!
After the trash cleanup we threw on our culturally appropriate swim attire and began snorkeling around the beach. While snorkeling we saw lots of tropical fish, sea urchins, bleached coral, and the crown of thorns starfish, which is currently threatening the biodiversity of many marine environments in Tonga. We then hopped back into our Mazda swag-wagon taxis and went back into town. Once there we were given some free time before dinner. Many of us got ice cream and explored more of Neiafu.
When we returned to the ship we ate dinner with the members of VEPA crew. We had fish and veggie burgers, papaya salsa, and breadfruit chips. During dinner we chatted with the members of VEPA about our research projects as well as their background and culture. After dinner majority of our crew went out to explore the Tongan night life while I stayed back to clean the galley and watch the ship. Absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing!
- Fletcher Tague Shell, A-Watch, Southern Oregon University