Letter In A Bottle
I have been washed ashore a tropical island. I cannot recall how I came to be here… I am also not entirely sure where “here” is. The island is mountainous, the lower slopes are thick with trees and the beaches are stunning – white sand with dazzling turquoise water, and it is hot. Very hot! I am sticky, itchy and dirty due to the humidity of the day and the vicious insects of the evening. The only escape from the heat is the rain, and it really rains. For three days straight I have not been able to step outside without being forced to have a natural shower, and my feet are constantly wrinkled from the damp.
But it’s not so bad. I have met a very friendly tribe of people who call themselves “Staff.” The “Staff” also have a small band of followers, not yet full tribe members, who are referred to as “Volunteers.” The Staff have a number of strange rituals, which they carry out during the day with help from their troop of followers. Some of the rituals I have joined them on include counting birds, digging up the hatched nest of a sea turtle and standing in shallow water at dusk with large nets hoping to catch a shark… Very curious behaviour.
The strangest ritual, however, that I have been part of is something the Staff call “Beach Profiling.” Beach profiling is done to measure the amount of sand on the beach and track the changes in the shape and gradient over time. The Staff do this as they believe their Sea God rewards them with sand, thus when the beaches get smaller the Staff know that they have sinned and must repent to the Sea God. At least, I think this is the reason… I did hear one of the followers mention something about “long-shore drift”, which occurs when waves come in at an angle to the beach causing the backwash to rip sand off the shore and carry it off at an angle. I am not sure whether this phenomenon has anything to do with the aforementioned Sea God, but either way the Staff take it upon themselves to measure the changing beaches around the island.
The ritual of Beach Profiling is done using two long ceremonial staphs and a small telescope-like object called an “Abney level.” The staphs are placed over a small section of beach where the gradient is constant, and the distance between them is measured. Then the small telescope is used by lining up two points on the poles and calculating the angle in degrees and minutes. All this data is recorded and the process repeated down the beach towards the sea, until just after the “offshore step” which the Staff believe is a line drawn by the Sea God to mark the end of his oceanic kingdom. This beach profiling is done at a number of points along the beaches. Once collected, the data is entered onto a computer which provides the Staff with a visual account of how much sand has been lost from the beach (and, therefore, how angry the Sea God is).
I have enjoyed watching the Staff’s various rituals, and joining in with their followers. However, I’m not sure I could ever become a full tribe member, so my dear reader if you possibly recognise my description of this curious island, I wouldn’t mind a rescue…
Jemima Wilson – Castaway.