Saturday May 14 — We have been very busy on Yap these last few days! It’s impossible, of course, to describe everything that we have done, but I should take a moment to describe our work on Yap. I am certain that other Lagoon Letters will describe our play!
Yesterday, we met with our work counterparts to discuss our joint projects, and came away very excited. As in past years, all of our projects entail using GPS units to map selected features of the island. We then incorporate this new
information into digital maps (using an approach called Geographic Information Systems) to help the Yapese improve their resource management and cultural preservation efforts. I should point out that every aspect of our work is locally determined. The Yapese select the projects, their goals and objectives, their priority, and how much time to spend on them. In the local vernacular, they are navigating the canoe; we are simply the paddlers. All data and map products are shared with the Yapese before we leave.
This year, we will be working with the following groups:
- the Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry to map the extent of an invasive grass species (Imperata cylindrica or “Cogon Grass”). This is a longstanding project for Queens on Yap, with annual data being collected since 2001. In fact, from this partnership, Yap has very likely the best such dataset of any island in the Pacific. They are very close to getting complete control of the grass – something virtually unheard of.
- the Yap Visitors Bureau (YVB) to map the location of ten significant sites related to World War II. These include the wreckage of downed US planes, the lighthouse built by the Japanese, and locations where remains of US servicemen have been found. Thomas Tamangmow , the Director of YVB, is truly inspirational in his efforts to keep local (and international) memory alive of the impact of war. He is hoping that by mapping the sites, then photo-documenting them and linking the photos to Google Earth, people will always remember what happened here.
- the Yap Historic Preservation Office to map the locations of 18 significant cultural treasures, including men’s houses, traditional dancing platforms, and stone money banks. These represent part of the deep and traditional history of Yap. This history is still very much alive, though. The men’s houses and dancing platforms continue to be hubs of village life.
- the Yap Fire and Police Department to GPS previously unmapped access roads to remote locations likely to burn. This will help them plan their fire control efforts.
Our work starts Monday morning at 9:00 am, and we can’t wait. Before then, though, we have a very full weekend. Today, we have students finishing their scuba diving certifications, followed by everyone going mangrove kayaking in Maa village. In the evening, there is a big local going-away party for a family moving to Pohnpei. We have been invited to come, and we definitely will! Tomorrow ….. well, it’s hard to plan that far ahead on Yap. Maybe folks will do some laundry. Maybe we will go on a walk on a traditional stone path. Or, maybe we will just sit and listen to the waves shush against the shore (as I have done while writing this note). I will let you know.