Carteret Islands: Five Flights and Three Days Later

The Carteret Islands are some of the most remote islands in the South Pacific. Three days after leaving New York City and five flights later, we arrived in Buka at the tip of Bougainville, where we plan to catch a boat to the Carterets to document how climate change is impacting this low-lying atoll.

The trip was marked by serendipitous encounters including a chance meeting with my main source on the island, Ursula Rakova, at the departure lounge in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Ursula founded Tulele Peisa, an organization with a mission to relocate the Carteret Islanders to mainland Bougainville over the next ten years.

Our plan was to film the first five families as they traveled from their homeland on the Carterets to higher ground on mainland Bougainville, but Ursula told us yesterday that the relocation is on hold. The houses they are building for the families in Tinputz, a district located in the northeast corner of Bougainville, are incomplete.

The good news is that Tulele Peisa is just about to launch a speaking tour. Twenty-somethings from the Carteret Islands and Tinputz will travel around Tinputz together for three and a half weeks to meet with community leaders, talk about climate change, and explain why the Carteret Islanders must relocate from the islands to the mainland. We plan to meet with Ursula tomorrow to shoot our first interview and hope to join the tour later this month

After collecting our bags from a pile outside the Buka airport, we set off for the Kuri, a small hotel nestled on the water's edge where banana boats (small motorboats) zip across the brilliant blue waters of the Buka passage. The hotel has an air of intrigue exaggerated by cliques of men who huddle around patio tables to drink beer and broker deals. One glassy-eyed local with an unsteady gait introduced himself as the American ambassador, a claim that became more suspect as he hurled abuse at us.