Two great Jimmy Drekore poems
Orion increases number of voyages to PNG

Carterets: islands disappearing under the sea


THE CARTERET ISLANDS, east of Bougainville, are threatened by a rapidly rising ocean. Forced to relocate, the Carteret Islanders are trying to find ways to preserve their culture for future generations.

This has caused the population to become one of the first indigenous cultures forced to prepare for and implement measures for the permanent resettlement of their entire community.

Relocation of the islanders into communities that are geographically, culturally, politically and socially different will make the preservation and continuation of their culture and unique cultural identity difficult.

This documentary hopes to assist the Carteret Islanders with their relocation efforts and helps focus on the human face of climate change by providing a clearer understanding of the consequences of sea level rise on people living on low level islands and coastal communities.



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Richard Guy

Just look at the sea. It is as simple as that. Just look at the sea. But we just don't look at the sea. I have been for the last 10,000 years. It's receding

Dan Claasen

Wikipedia ( summarizes some of the definitions used for sea level measurements and the many factors to be considered in addressing sea level rise.

It is not perfect but does provide a common knowledge base for the discussion of the issues.

Peter Kranz

Satellite altimeter measurements referenced from the centre of the earth are pretty hard to question.

As the National Tidal Facility has confirmed, the tide-measuring station on Manus Island has seen an annual 8.2 mm rise in sea-levels over the past seven years.

The Solomon Islands station has recorded an annual 6.2 mm rise over the past eight years. Nauru has recorded 5.6 mm per year over nine years.

More scientific info here...

Or can't you trust the scientists, Richard? I think a quick trawl of your publications and interests reveal that you don't.

Richard Guy

The Carteret Islands sit on top of an active plate on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and so does Tuvalu.

The entire floor of the Pacific is in flux, islands pop up and down as the islanders will tell you.

Peter Kranz

A quote from our new contributor, Richard Guy.

He claims there are 20,000 small island states pleading distress from rising sea levels. At last count there were a total of 193 members of the UN.

(Many SICS to the following)

"Sea level rise is a swindle which is yet to come. The sea levels are receding worldwide and have been doing so for a long time. It is a large international swindle intended to be the final subjugation of the small Island Nations around the world. If you think this is impossible just be aware that there are over twenty thousand Small Island States around the world who are running scared of rising seas."

"There is a large scale swindle being perpetrated in Australia on Australians and that is the coastal rezoning. It is a ploy to deprive owners of coastal lands of their lands at largely reduced rates. It is an insidious swindle that will have serious repercussions worldwide because it is a falsehood. Sea levels are falling all over the Planet and I have proof(three books and numerous documented accounts) This Developer should fight the zoning ordinances to a standstill and I will furnins the proof he needs. See my vidoes "The Mysterious Receding Seas" on and my book" The Mysterious Receding Seas" on Google. Dont buy this stupid hype of rising seas its a lie plain and simple. Richard Guy "

I claim TROLL!

Peter Kranz

If you look at the National Tidal Facility measurements over 8 years at Manus, Nauru and The Solomons, you see an average increase of over 6 mm a year over 8 years.

The Carterets are within this triangle which is around 2,000 kms from one end to the other, so it is reasonable to conclude that the sea level is rising for them at this rate as well.

And here's a thought - maybe the atolls are sinking due to processes described by Darwin, and the sea is rising at the same time.

Which makes the situation for the islanders all the more dire.

Don't forget this discussion is about their future prospects, irrespective of the cause.

Peter Kranz

Richard - too often debates about the effects of climate change become dogmatic, rather than scientific.

Here are a few more references...

Richard Guy

The Carteret Islands as well as the Duke of York Islands are sinking into the ocean. The sea level is not rising.

Tuvalu is also sinking because all these islands are the tops of atolls and, as all Islanders will tell you, islands pop up and down as volcanic and tectonic activity occur.

Sea levels are not rising they are receding. See "The Mysterious Receding Seas" by Richard Guy.

Peter Kranz

For anyone interested in further information on South Pacific sea level monitoring, there is good paper by Philip Hall, Project Manager for the South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project, which explains how complex such measurements are and locally influenced by temperature, barometric pressure, El Nino/La Nina events, cyclones etc. This makes long-term extrapolations unreliable until more data is gathered.

Interestingly the Cook Islands recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded at sea level in the South Pacific area of 13.1°C, in August 1998. The poor bloody Cook Islanders must have been freezing!

Graham Dent

Peter - I like your summary, the whole matter is complex and there is no simple answer.

Regardless of what the cause, the fact is that the islanders are losing their home and rather rapidly. As I commented earlier, I have been fortunate to visit these idyllic islands.

I well recall the problems being faced in the early 1970's from storms and king tides inundating the islands and flooding gardens.

I wonder whether anyone checked the other atolls in the area - to the east, Nukumanu and Nukutoa and to the south the Solomons' atoll of Ongtong Java. I have seen no mention of them, it would certainly help the discussion to know how they are faring.

The great problem facing the Carterets is where to relocate to. This brings up the complex problem throughout PNG today of the alienation and ownership of land.

It is not a problem exclusive to the Carteret people and has been discussed at various times in PNG Attitude. It is a subject PNG will have to address if the country is to progress.

Maybe it could be approached in the same way as the Constitution consultative process; certainly all the people need to be involved if a solution is to work.

Alex Harris

Thanks Paul, that makes the most sense to my linear brain.

As water expands when heated, it would also make sense if there was localised heating of the sea, as in the case of undersea volcanic activity.

As I understand it, hot ocean patchs also mean coral bleaching events. Certainly noticeable increase in global seismic and volcanic activity lately...

It would be interesting to know if anyone has looked at coral bleaching, and undersea vents, fault lines or plate boundaries with regard to these islands, don't you think?

Peter Kranz

Peter - How do you measure 'absolute rise' in one place, when there are so many variations from one place to another due to tidal movements, wind, subterranean volcanic action, current and sea floor gradients?

Even maybe distortions of the Earth's crust through movements of tectonic plates (eg Iilands are appearing off Iceland)?

Satellite measurements take repeated readings from the sea surface to try to adjust for this. Over time this will become increasingly more accurate when equalised and averaged over the earth. I believe this is what the NASA measurements are based on.

If you average sea level changes over a wide area you can make allowances for local variations.

I agree it is complicated, but here's a bit more evidence -

"Australia's National Tidal Facility, a specialist centre based in Adelaide, has for the past decade monitored sea-level changes across the Pacific, but said it does not have enough long range data to explain what might be occurring with certainty.

"Their tide-measuring station on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, 1,100 km west of the (Carteret) atolls, has however measured an annual 8.2 mm rise in sea-levels over the past seven years.

"The Solomon Islands station, 750 km to the south, has recorded an annual 6.2 mm rise over the past eight years. Nauru, 1,200 km northeast, has recorded 5.6 mm per year over nine years."

I believe that there is a consensus that sea levels are rising globally, but local conditions may influence particular localities.

Nevertheless the problems facing the Islanders are real and dramatic, as these documentaries show.

If you combine the sea-level evidence with other measurements - such as the dramatic melting of tropical glaciers (eg Puncak Jaya - amazingly shown via satellite imaging), the increased altitude at which malaria is now found in PNG, changes in high-altitude tropical biology etc. then I think the evidence is pretty conclusive that we are seeing widespread climate changes occurring in our lifetimes. And PNG is one country at the forefront of this.

Paul Oates

Are these islands coral atolls built upon volcanic peaks? When I was stationed on Cocos (Keeling) Islands it was well known and documented that the sands there are not permanent but actually move around.

Some parts of the islands disappear and other parts appear as the ocean shifts the sands around.

Many islands are initially created from volcanic activity and rise and fall depending on the movement of the underground forces.

It seems that if some areas of land are disappearing and some are not, this surely cannot be a constant.

Water tends to reach a common level. Ask any old timer who still uses a 'wallaby level'?

Peter Warwick

Peter, it may be that the rising sea level at the island is being caused (to some or considerable degree) by the sinking of the island.

I am having trouble with the concept / proposal that there is a particular and persistent upward swell right at the island.

I certainly agree that sea levels are rising (what happened to the submarine cities?) but they surely would rise equally (or as near a damn it) around coastlines (on the vertical column).

I am of course not referring to the speed of the rise but the absolute rise.

And of course the horizontal displacement of the (rising) coastline is what is going to cause the projected problems.

Aren't those who have fiords for coastlines lucky?

Peter Kranz

Alex and Peter - It is complicated, but sea levels are rising everywhere - however, not at the same rate:

Charles Darwin himself proposed the accepted theory of how coral reefs are formed - and can subside - way back in 1842 after the voyage of the Beagle.

His theory allows for coral atolls to subside over time, but this effect is accelerated by even small rises in ocean levels, which can outpace the speed at which corals grow (ref: Darwin, C. 1842. The structure and distribution of coral reefs. London).

In fact you can read it online -

More refs here -

Terrestrial measuring was rather inaccurate as a global indicator until NASA implemented satellite-based measurements in the early 1990's. They can also measure differences in the moon's distance from the earth down to a few mms.

"If the sea level continues to rise in a linear fashion, it seems that we may expect sea level rise of between 40 and 55 mm (1.6-2.2 in.) above present sea level in 2020.

"Bearing in mind that an average beach gradient is about 1%, this translates into shorelines moving inward by 4 to 5.5 m (13 to 18 ft.) by 2020."

Peter Warwick

Alex, agree. Surely if the sea levels were rising then similiar rises would be experienced on all coastlines, taking into account tides etc.

I find it hard to believe that the sea is higher (and climbing) there than anywhere else.

What are the scientists saying about this particular island?

Alex Harris

Is it rising ocean or sinking island? If rising ocean, wouldn't all islands, all continents, be facing this exact same situation? Genuine question.

Peter Kranz

Tara - Sun Come Up by Jennifer Redfearn is also an excellent film and was nominated for an academy award at the year's Oscars for best documentary.

Here's the trailer -

And an article by the producer -

Tip - to view the clip posted by Tara turn off the Noscript addon!

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