We started out survey by walking clockwise round the island. By my calculations the coast was no more than 3km but it was not all Bounty adverts and beauty calendars. There were some nice sandy stretches true, but the first part in particular was sharp knobbly coral rock and rubble. We logged all the features we could see. Any jetties (that might potentially clog up the natural dynamics of the sand on the beach), bits of sea defence, walls, sewage pipes.
As we started moving away from the eastern shore the beach was more settled. We saw a lot more sand and the water itself was calmer and less damaging. Not only were the palm trees protected, but other trees hung down into the water, or grew in the sand itself. We started to see some mangroves. In front of us was a long stand of mangroves then a substantial channel on the sand, with a small coral island beyond, covered in vegetation. I was going to be the good surveyor and make sure I walked the entire coastline, so I decided to wade through the channel. I took off my shoes and socks and placed them in my bag, then I carefully unzipped my trousers. Let me explain. I was wearing long field trousers, partly since I knew with the meeting we had to be semi-formally dressed. But they had zips just above the knees where I could take off the lower legs and convert them to shorts. I placed these leg-ins in my bag then took my wallet, handkerchief, hotel room key and placed them deep in my knapsack. I patted these top pockets to make sure they were empty, then zipped up my bag and placed it high on my back. With GPS in hand I wandered round the mangrove, leaving my colleagues and the village heads walking round the back.
At first the water was shallow, but my feet sank slightly into the soft sand. But then as I came around into the channel itself the water level hit my knees. I realised that there was deeper to come and even my shorts would get wet, but hey ho, this is a warm climate – they will soon dry.
So I took one more step and sank up to the top of my thighs. I tried to keep my bag, notepad and GPS high above the water and was realising there was little to note here that I would not have seen from the bank, when I realised my left thigh was vibrating vigorously. I knew immediately what was causing it and I ran to the bank. I say ran, what it was really was a violent wade. Once out I dumped my bag on the dry sand and dug into the leg pocket of my shorts, retrieving a very wet looking mobile phone. It was still vibrating and making pitiful noises at me. I flipped it open and water trapped inside flushed out. The screen flashed a couple of times then went dark. I tried to turn it off but the vibrating went on. It was like watching the death throes of a small mammal. In a last ditch attempt to save it I ripped the back cover off and took out the battery. The vibration stopped. I reached into my bag for my handkerchief and wiped the battery down, then dabbed inside the phone casement and all round the screen and buttons. Maybe it was just the contacts that had got wet and now it would be OK. I gingerly put the battery back in and closed up the cover. With a deep breath I depressed the on button. Two seconds later the horrible vibration started over again. Then it stopped. Silence. My phone was dead.