27.07.2010 - 03.08.2010 30 °C
Good day. Currently writing this from the hostel back in KK where I arrived a couple of hours ago from Kudat. Was out on the boat last night and so am feeling pretty haggered- not really in the mood for writing, but I've got nothing better to do at the moment. The last week in Kudat has been all in all down right stressful, so I am very pleased to be back "home" in KK and looking forward to diving the next couple of days- although this isn't likely to be too relaxing as it's the rescue course.
We've had a lot of problems with the device this week as well as the boat crews. The TED has undergone some major cosmetic surgery since the first design, which failed miserably. We've tried all sorts of things to improve it under the direction from Nick, who is currently in the USA. Between us you can barely say we have an ounce of knowledge on TED design but that has been the soul focus of this week. And 7 days later we still haven't got very far. We completely removed the flaps yesterday and replaced them very specifically, but the video we got back this morning shows that we are still losing catch. All this faffing around means that we are wasting valuable time in actually trialling the effectiveness of the TED and I'm starting to get a bit worried for my report! But I've decided that I'm going to alter the title and now designing a TED is going to be a significant proportion of it. Furthermore, we've not been able to get out on the boats as much as we would have liked due to a barrage of excuses from the captain and crew. I think we still managed 4 out of 7 nights though, which isn't too bad.
There are just two things that I want to share from this week really, as I say it's been really stressful. On a couple of the nights that we had off we headed up to the tip of Borneo, which is about a 30 minute drive away. It's supposed to be a sort of tourist site I guess, but tourists don't go there. There's nothing else around to do so it basically means a 3.5 hour drive from KK just to take in scenery which I'm guessing most people aren't bothered about, but I'm glad they're not as it's absolutely heavenly. At least it felt that way anyway. It felt at times this week that we were living and breathing the work we were doing. The first night we went out on the boat then worked through the day on the video footage as well as modifying the TED and then went back out that night on the boat, with more video editing the following morning. It worked out as pretty much a 36-40 hour day. And when you are spending every waking minute with the same people, constantly talking about work, tempers can easily fray. I think we did ok in that respect, we all kept our cool, but it was uncomfortable at times. So to escape up to the secluded beaches at the tip of Borneo after that was just amazing. We took some takeaway Thai food and sat on the beach eating it. Immediately we all felt ourselves relax and work slowly drained out of us for the first time in days. It was magic. I decided to clear my head further and took a long walk up the beach by myself as far as I could get. The water was warm and the sun was setting and no one else was around. There was a little fishing boat propped up on the sand and a pack of stray dogs were playing with each other and that was literally it. Just writing this is taking me back there now- I'm so so glad we went as it was one of the best experiences of the trip so far, to properly unwind. We hung around until the sun went down and then headed back to Kudat for the night. I'll tag some photos on to the bottom.
The second experience was the first night on the new boat- KT3232/F. All the nights out before we have been running on the same boat with a TED fixed. But for a comparative analysis we need to take 2 boats out at the same time and trawl them together, one with a TED and the other without. We ended up on KT3232 for a couple of nights and the crew were absolutely fantastic to us. Despite not being able to speak a word to any of them, they made us feel right at home. But one of the coolest moments was on the 12am haul, which I was recording. There is a lot more catch on the TEDless boats (mainly because our TED isn't working) and it took around 2.5 hours to sort the catch out. I was just watching them sort through all the stuff and noting down everything that I have to. Then almost out of no where the young guy on the boat, Nazir, I don't know how old he is but probably not much older than 18/19 turns up with this plate of seafood that he has cooked and a bowl of rice. He pulls out these two little stool things they sit on when sorting the catch and invites me to sit down to eat. Whenever we've been offered on anything on the boats before we've declined- we eat before we go out and the hygiene of these boats is questionable at best, and getting sick out at sea when there's no land all night is something that I really don't want to happen. But I couldn't refuse this offer when it was all there in front of me, it would have been too rude. But thank god I didn't as it was absolutely amazing. On the platter there were scallops, baby squid, some kind of fish and the thing I have feared most since I got here- the mantis shrimp. I had seen the fishermen put this thing aside for the pot every day I've been out and I always wondered why. It is the most grotesque looking thing I have ever seen in all my life. It's called a mantis shrimp because it looks like a preying mantis crossed with a shrimp surprisingly. See picture below:
Ok well it doesn't look too bad there- but trust me in real life it's horrific. Anyway, I started to eat away with this guy- obviously started safely with the scallops which were amazing. Worked up the courage to try the fish, which too was just brilliant. The squid required some work- I had to get him to show me what to do- you pull out the tentacles and eat them, then you bite a bit of the main body off and pull and out pops this black line thing- not sure if it's ink or it's intestines like you get down the back of a prawn but then you chuck that away and can munch down the rest of the body. The squid too was good- I was just trying my hardest to avoid the dreaded mantis shrimp, of which there were quite a few. He was tucking into one and signalled that it was good. I wasn't going to be able to get away with leaving them all so asked him what to do. He prepared me one- you rip of the legs and peel off the shell to reveal the tiniest bit of meat- maybe 3 or 4 cms, which you just pick off. But oh my lord, it is one of the nicest things I have ever eaten from the sea. It might be because I was expecting so little, but it was soft and sweet a bit like lobster. I ended up having 3 of them, something I never thought I would. But it was just really cool eating with the fishermen and it was almost like I had been accepted as part of the crew. We washed up afterwards and he offered me a cigarette, which I didn't decline either as things were going so well haha. It was a menthol one and tasted sort of minty. Don't know if he smokes them all the time or if it was like pudding, but it went down well post feast.
But yeh that was my week pretty much. Very stressful with a couple of amazing highlights. I don't really mind the stress if moments like those keep coming. Anyway enjoy the photos and I'll write again maybe after my rescue course. Off to edit some more video, the joy x