After trolling an hour east of Larantuka on the fast ferry, we arrived in the main city of Lembata Island, Lewoleba. The ride provided some great views of the myriad of volcanic landforms, giving hints at what was to come. Nova had arranged for a local police chief to pick us up after cashing in on an earlier connection made in Rote Island. The chief, Um Robby and his friend and driver Julius were parked on the boat dock with a rugged Toyota Hilux ready to go. This rigor proved to be necessary for travel across the rough roads on the island.
Our 10:30 am arrival allowed us time to push ahead with permitting and set off to find a site for one of our two installs. By 1pm or so, we were able to leave Lewoleba and move down the line of permitting by going north to speak with the Camat that looked over the group of villages we sets site on for installing. He recommended that we put our station in near his office, but it was not far enough to the north for our pre-determined location. Fast forward to the last day…we installed it where he originally suggested.
After speaking with the Camat the first day, talked with our targeted village leaders, then went on to the next village to the south and agreed on a location. The first village was very skeptical about our presence. After we waited for them to assemble, Nova provided a comprehensive summary of our project and the motivation behind our efforts. Despite this effort, they were not convinced of the benign nature of our project – a prior experience with a US gold mining company has very deeply broken their trust of foreign (especially US) scientists. So we were stuck in a moment of compromise, we wanted to install our station nearby, but only under the condition of complete agreement and acceptance. We were forced to move on to the next village south. It was late in the day, but the village leader led us to a site and we agreed that is would be suitable. He was kind enough to let us store our delicate seismometer and other equipment in his house until we returned in two days. All seemed well despite the awkwardness and distrust of the previous village. We went back to Lewoleba with a sense of progress and feasted on some delicious fish and squid near the harbor. Yum.
|The road along the coastline south from Lewoleba. A newly erected statue of St. Mary (left) was celebrated the next day.|
The next day, we headed south to gain some distance from the previous location. The road was very rough and required slow pace of travel. Some excellent views of a volcano across the strait gave some appropriate distraction from the bone-jarring road. It was a hot day. We made it to the Camat office; he was a sleepy and feeble man, but was willing to help us find a location by our targeted site. We clambered 10 km further south to arrive in a village that turned out to be situated on a large prominent lava flow. Oh boy, who loves digging!? After standing around in the scorching heat convincing ourselves that we did not want to get out the chisel again (and we didn’t have Rosy from Sumba), and heeding the warning that the land to the south was cursed (ha ha), we headed back north to a more appealing location on a village leader’s private property. The drive to the site climbs up an alluvial fan that is spilling out of the flank of an extinguished volcano, elevating above the coast to reveal a stunning view of the 1659m tall Iliboleng, an active volcano that last erupted in 1888. At least the scenery was nice. We did not have much for breakfast and it was hot. The installation was difficult, but we tackled it as a team and finishing in about 6 hours (a few hours longer than normal).
|Iliboleng is hiding under the clouds, but station BAOP is listening to it breathing now.|
After going back to Lewoleba and going straight to bed to make up some much needed sleep, we were charged up to finish off our work on the island. We made good time to get back to the north to meet the village leader who stored our equipment. He presented some bad news: the people of the village did not want our equipment there, fearing the worst for their land. We were back to square one. Even if we could convince them that we would not/cannot do harm to their land, it would be completely unnerving to think about future potential for disaster. So we packed our stuff up and left, trying to preserve our dignity and also be respectful of the situation. We were fortunate that the Camat was available to talk with us on the weekend; he set us up with the local village leader in Hadakewa for a nearby location. No problem. The best parts – the station (and the previous on Lembata) is (1) in direct view of an active volcano (Lewotolo, recorded activity since 1660 and on), and (2) close to the driver Julius’ relatives house where we had some immaculate fresh grilled tuna!
|Ah yeah, Lewotolo is beautiful. It looks like it is puffing a little bit here.|
Our return trip to Flores consisted of a morning boat ride back to Larantuka, then 6+ hours of driving to Ende. We picked up the remaining four set of equipment along the way, leading us ever closer to the completion of this work. The terrain between Maumere and Ende is dramatically different than previous travel. The steep mountain slopes force the main road into a serpentine spiral. Cool, lush climate envelopes the area, hopefully providing us some relief in the coming days.