We know this planet as EARTH. But over 70% of the surface of our planet is water and within that water exists 90% of all living creatures. Life on this planet began in the water and the oceans of this world are vital to our existence. Our planet should be called OCEAN. (Glen Cowans, Beyond the Edge, 2009)
Fishing was very relaxing but eventful. Everyone knows, it appears, that you shouldn't take bananas on boats. I won't dwell on how bananas are successfully transported around the world and accept the taboo as fact. In any case, I hadn't heard about it and transgressed the rule by taking a banana on the boat. As a result, apparently, the boat almost capsized. I stood up to cast my rod just as a 1ft wave came from nowhere to slightly upset my balance. I tumbled and the boat almost came on top of me, taking our catch, fishing gear and Haji Wahiib with it. Thankfully Haji Wahiib responded quickly and righted the balance. Then, we spotted turtles. Jumping in to photograph them, I got quite close and could see the head and shell but none of the pictures could be found when I got home. They also swam off extremely quickly. Obviously, they were hantu (ghosts).
Back to more worldy matters...As I walked home through the village, Nek Kyya called out "balek mancing" (finished from fishing)--it's a kind of idiom.We ended up with quite a bounty, most of which will be placed in the freezer for dinners during the week. Haji Wahiib’s wife, Hajah Atie, is a talented cook and we have engaged her to prepare meals for us. A few guys I have spoken to say they have large freezers full of fish, obtained from angling around the lagoon, and I have noticed these large freezers in a couple of houses. I’d like to see how common this is.
The photographs below document the day, while AV footage combines two separate incidents--a reef shark that got away and a sweet-lipped emperor that didn't.
|Connecting boat trailer to 4-wheeler|
|Lowering boat at ramp|
|Kepiting ketam balong (land crab) to attract fish|
|Spreading land crab to attract fish.|
|Hook has octopus for the littler fish to nibble on. Then gong-gong (spider shell) for the larger ones|
|Ikan gerapu (Rock cod); meat is soft and great to make ikan sambal (a spicy condiment) but scaling is difficult, so we returned these to the lagoon.|
|Ikan babi (trigger fish)|
|Ikan kakap kuning (Sweet lipped emperor)|
|Ikan mak keripuk (wress)|
|Later on...Haji Wahiib and his wife Hajah Atie, who turned part of the catch into a delicious dinner|
[We fished] on the lagoon mainly. Most men went every weekend because every single weekend we had to go to South Island to feed the chooks [chickens] because we had a pondok [beach shack]. So on the way back we would fish. We would anchor the boat to fish. Once you got extra you share it around. And when you cook it you put extra oil it will last a couple of days. My parents said as long as you don't touch it [the fish], it will last.... [We did] not fish for fun that time.When, in mid-February 2014, volcanic dust from an eruption in Indonesia saw flights to Cocos Islands cancelled, Pak Imannya said even if there are no shipments, and fresh food doesn't arrive, he joked "don't worry, here in Cocos we have plenty of fish". But I think this reflected a truth, fish are truly plentiful. But fishing is not just about survival, it also says a lot about society and culture.
|Woman (left) and man (right) fishing at beach|
Fishing reflects a gender divide. Angling is largely undertaken by adult men. You can see women and children fishing, casting from the shore sometimes. I've also been told that women do go fishing on the boats. However, I have seen no women fishing out on the lagoon. While women are highly integrated into the capitalist labour market (see the photos in Blog “Earning a Living”), fishing seems to be something of an obsession for men. This might compare to rearing roosters for Balinese men, surfing for surfers, or motorcycle maintenance for bikers.
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Finally, in the broader context of human culture, oceans have played a crucial role. Incas and Aztecs built civilizations in mountains. The Mongols built a civilisation on grasslands. Generally, however, civilisations have been developed in river valleys (Ancient Egypt on the Nile; Mesopotamia built around the Tigris and Euphrates). Sometimes these are a fair way up river, such as Indus and Angkor. Others are near the sea. The Indian Ocean has provided a freeway of sorts for trade in goods and ideas for two millennia. It was in this context that the Cocos Keeling island were inhabited in 1826. Through the fish and trade the Indian Ocean has supported the Cocos Malays and peoples on its shores in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
(For anglers who might be reading this Blog, I am learning about fishing as we go. Anyway, in the fishing excursion pictured above, we used mono line. We used no sinkers and, after we lost our rigs on the bombies (protruding reef and coral), no swivels; just the hook and bait. The idea was to get the bait to move around, attracting the smaller fish, and then the sweet lips we were after. Haji Wahid used a hand line; I used a small rod. The boat was anchored and the water was probably 2-4 foot in depth on the mid-tide.)
Postscript March 8: Fishing is real
On a subsequent fishing trip, I also found myself thinking, without reflection, "this is real".
|Haji Wahiib was idly sketching this while passing time. It's a drawing, but fishing is 'real'. You think about fishing even when you are not fishing. It is a deeply meaningful activity.|
On the one hand, of course it's real, like your experience of your nose or my experience of the laptop I'm writing on. But there are experiences that strike us humans as much deeper--the kinds of experience or behaviour people are referring to when they say "keep it real" or "the real thing". Haji Wahiib has invited me on another fishing trip, "but no camera" he insists. And now I understand. The camera just gets in the way--on the boat, when I cast the rod, and stop to take photos. It's just a distraction from what really counts; the fishing.