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An interesting tale!


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#1 John Bantin

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Posted 18 December 2010 - 04:36 AM

We had an interesting trip back from Sorido Bay in a small boat to join Mandarin Siren in Sorong. The heavy rain produced a white-out. It was after about an hour and a half that our boat driver asked if we had a compass. I remembered Sorong being at about 120 degrees from Kri with islands to the right. Out driver insisted on steering North East. After about another hour we were still in white-out conditions with no sign of land and my temper was getting frayed. I was sure we were going the wrong way. At what point does one mutiny and take over the controls? Eventually we got a signal on the Iphone and the GPS showed us to be well north of the Bird's Head on the way to mid Pacific. At this point we needed to steer South West! I took the controls. Our driver was not convinced. Eventually we met a fishing boat and he asked directions! We followed the fishing boat south-west until we sighted land. We got to Sorong on the second reserve tank of fuel. The crew of Mandarin Siren had been getting worried about us. Me? Worried?

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#2 Drew

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Posted 18 December 2010 - 05:05 AM

You wouldn't be the first one to get lost on inter-island transfer :) I am surprised the transport boat doesn't have GPS. Not that the GPS is accurate. I've found in Indo the GPS maps can be up to 700m off. Too bad you didn't go further... there's some good stuff on the north east side of Bird's Head :P

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#3 leonandclaudia

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 06:04 AM

The Papuan people of the Raja Ampat did not all have the opportunity to be educated, not to mention learn western safety standards on boats. One thing is for sure, they literally grow up living and fishing from small boats in this vast area, and they steadfastly refuse to use a compass or GPS (mostly because they do not understand the concept of a compass, and never heard of a GPS). 99.9% of the time, they can take you to your destination without incident, even in the dark on a moonless night. But we all know that during a rain-storm with zero viz, even the best sailor in the world cannot maintain direction.
It is the responsibility of the resort manager to make sure that the boat is properly equipped at the very minimum with a compass, since the 75km trip to Sorong can become quite a long one when the boat driver gets lost! The exact same scenario happened to us in 2007, causing a 2 hour trip to turn into a 5-and-a-half hour nightmare (and the driver had a compass!- he could not understand why the 'bule' (foreigner) was pointing adamantly at the shiny round 'decoration' that was attached to his console!)

#4 Drew

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 10:08 AM

The Papuan people of the Raja Ampat did not all have the opportunity to be educated, not to mention learn western safety standards on boats. One thing is for sure, they literally grow up living and fishing from small boats in this vast area, and they steadfastly refuse to use a compass or GPS (mostly because they do not understand the concept of a compass, and never heard of a GPS). 99.9% of the time, they can take you to your destination without incident, even in the dark on a moonless night. But we all know that during a rain-storm with zero viz, even the best sailor in the world cannot maintain direction.
It is the responsibility of the resort manager to make sure that the boat is properly equipped at the very minimum with a compass, since the 75km trip to Sorong can become quite a long one when the boat driver gets lost! The exact same scenario happened to us in 2007, causing a 2 hour trip to turn into a 5-and-a-half hour nightmare (and the driver had a compass!- he could not understand why the 'bule' (foreigner) was pointing adamantly at the shiny round 'decoration' that was attached to his console!)

Leon and Claudia
While I don't want to belittle the task of educating people, the fact that the locals learned to navigate in their environ (by whatever means) obviously means they have the intelligence necessary to learn to use a compass and/or GPS. It's about methodology and incentive.
Perhaps I'm a bit sensitive about this subject but when someone says the locals are uneducated and won't change their ways or understand concepts of GPS or a compass. I have to ask where the fault lies. I mean seriously, what's the point of having a compass on the boat if none of the employees are trained to use it? Is it for the benefit of the customers, who like John, would have to mutiny to take control of the boat? Wouldn't it be better to make sure the skipper (or at least someone) knows what equipment is on the boat before letting clients board?
And in case that excuse of uneducated fishermen rises again, 2 fishermen in Ohoideratutu on Kei island learned how to use my Garmin GPS after a few days, and my bahasa isn't all that great. I needed them to trek the hit points every time we saw turtles. The guys couldn't speak a word of english and learned to press the buttons in sequence. They spent every evening practicing and showing me data points all around the village from the football field to the beach. They didn't know how it worked exactly although we tried to explain satellites and coordinates on a world map. Kinda hard with no electricity to run the laptop. I'm not saying it's an easy task but I simply played a game whereby they were dropped by scooter somewhere, and then could only lookdown into the gps so they couldn't see more than 3 ft in front and had to follow the GPS back home. Did the same at sea and they got it pretty quickly.

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#5 John Bantin

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 01:44 PM

It is my experience that local people are usually hungry to learn new things (anywhere in the world I go). What was telling was that our driver did not look Papuan but Indonesian. I think he was suffering from too much pride!

(Nice to here from you, Leon and Claudia. I came back to Kri as I promised last January - but you were no longer there!. I met Terry Perry in the Philippines.)

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#6 leonandclaudia

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 04:28 PM

It is my experience that local people are usually hungry to learn new things (anywhere in the world I go). What was telling was that our driver did not look Papuan but Indonesian. I think he was suffering from too much pride!

(Nice to here from you, Leon and Claudia. I came back to Kri as I promised last January - but you were no longer there!. I met Terry Perry in the Philippines.)


John! Good to hear from you:) Actually we aren't too far away! only 29.98km NW of Kri....did you not receive our newsletter?
In essence, we are all speaking of the same thing here. Of course in an ideal world, it would be great if someone could (Drew, you sound keen) come in and teach these guys how to use a basic compass, and GPS (since they could never afford to buy one though, perhaps someone could also donate a GPS to each and every boatman operating a boat out of Sorong). Of course, people are always keen to learn, in the right context (we just had a Papuan guy install our broadband satellite internet on Pef) ...although at that very moment, on the boat, when the frustrations levels are high, and pride is on the line...learning is the last thing that they want or need...
At the end of the day, the operator should be the one ultimately responsible for 'teaching' safety issues to his staff, and ensuring that hired boats have the minimum safety equipment on board.

If not, avoid sending that particular staff member or avoid hiring that particular boat!

#7 Drew

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 07:30 PM

Perhaps a stronger indictment to that flawed thinking is that the Indonesian(note I refrain from singling out Papuans) boat staff of Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, many of whom are local to Papua Barat, are trained to use compass and GPS navigational aids.
The driver in John's case asked for a compass, failing which he wrongly trusted his own judgement, only for an iPhone to prove him wrong! yet another endorsement for an apple product!
Training staff to technical proficiency IS the task of the resorts, especially if it is part of the requirements of the job. I think if the resorts hire boats without navigational aids for whatever reason, then responsibility falls on them should anything go wrong. No one can foresee squalls with whiteout conditions but a resort which charges €00s+ a day for diving and accommodation per person, should be able to supply and train for the use of navigational aids for the transfer boats with well trained staff.

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#8 John Bantin

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 05:34 AM

I donít want to make too big an issue of it. I've since enjoyed the failures of Emirates and its staff on the return journey from Jakarta. My experience is being reflected all around Western Europeís airports at the moment. The only difference was that Jakarta had no snow!

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#9 Poliwog

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:03 AM

The heavy rain produced a white-out. It was after about an hour and a half that our boat driver asked if we had a compass.


Out driver insisted on steering North East



Eventually we got a signal on the Iphone and the GPS showed us to be well north of the Bird's Head on the way to mid Pacific.


Our driver was not convinced.


Eventually we met a fishing boat and he asked directions!


The parts of your story that I quoted suggests to me that your boat driver was experiencing something akin to loss of situational awareness of the type that can affect aviators,long before anyone was aware of it. In layman's terms, it means, he was fearful to the point of being unable to process and formulate a correct course of action. I suspect he would have been incapable of executing any type of corrective action even if had been painted on a billboard and stuck right in front of his face until well after the danger had passed.

This type of phenomena tends to be caused by a high degree of stress (i.e. a boat load of tourists to look after, loss of familiar navigational aids, extreme weather, no compass, etc.). It probably caused the boat driver to reject information that didn't agree with the assumptions that he has made and considered to be right, It wasn't until afterward when the bad weather had passed that he could re-consider the position he had taken regarding the direction in which to navigate back home.

This can happen to any of us. I have also seen this type of thing happen when an ill equipped, but well meaning, individual attempted to provide first aid to a victim. Thankfully, the victim in the case I am thinking of, had only fainted (we didn't know she was pregnant). It took several attempts to get this person to place the victim in a recovery position to let the blood flow back to her head. This was after he forced his fingers down the victim's throat so she did not swallow her tongue. Well meaning but very uninformed.

It is always better to ask questions regarding a vessel's preparedness and crew before stepping off the dock on to the boat. The use of your iphone in this instance was critical but in no way would be a good substitute for proper navigational equipment.

Having mucked around in boats most of my life here on the Great Lakes, I have found it advantageous to carry a small compass, gps, and VHF handheld radio whenever I step off the dock and on to the boat no matter how well the boat is provisioned. Shit does happen, even to the best equipped vessels.

Anyway, I don't think the reactions of one boat driver can be any indication of how the rest of the population will react when confronted with the same situation, and I think it says even less about the cognitive skills of the population in general.

Just glad that everything eventually worked out well and that your back here to relay the story to us.
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#10 Drew

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 07:24 PM

Anyway, I don't think the reactions of one boat driver can be any indication of how the rest of the population will react when confronted with the same situation, and I think it says even less about the cognitive skills of the population in general.


Absolutely so! In fact, I checked on the resorts and Misool Eco Resort, for instance, has a Papuan run boat with compass and GPS. Let's just drop that ludicrous idea permanently! WP is not a place for people to make such prejudiced notions.

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