April 18, 2008
Carteret Islands: That sinking feeling
Watch the program: Part 1 | Part 2

A week on a tropical island in the South Pacific? It sounded like the job of a lifetime.

But in reality my crew and I were about to experience first hand what life was actually like for the Carteret Islanders.

The Carteret Islands are sinking into the ocean. The locals blame global warming for the rising sea that has swallowed their food crops. Soon they’ll be forced to leave their idyllic home and live in Bougainville, an island still troubled by a civil war that claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Like most assignments the plan was to visit the location for five days, gather elements for the story and bid farewell.

We left Bougainville Island on the 100km trip east onboard the MVSancamup, a rusting freight and passenger ship that limped across the ocean on one engine.

The ship was making an emergency rice drop to the Carteret Islanders who had once again run out of food.

Stepping foot on the Carteret Islands was like stepping onto the front page of a travel magazine. Pristine white sands, topped with coconut trees amid an aqua blue lagoon.

However a different picture soon emerged as the locals showed us their home.

They had built sea walls with giant clam shells in a futile attempt to beat back the rising ocean. Coconut trees lay fallen at the water's edge.

If the sea wasn't breaking over the clam barriers then it was rising up through the sand and swamping gardens. It was a haven for malaria carrying mosquitos.

After five days, the MV Sancamup arrived at the outer reef. But word soon reached us that the ship was not returning to Bougainville and instead was heading east for a medical emergency.

We decided to stay on the Carterets and wait for the ship to return.

One day turned into two, two into three and it soon emerged the ship was not coming back.

We too were living off the relief rice shipment supplemented by the odd fish and drinking from coconuts.

After six days things hit rock bottom when the island ran out of drinking water. Coconuts used to be a treat, now it was the only source of re-hydration. This was life on the Carteret Islands.

We had no option but to use local banana boats or 20 foot dinghies to make the 100km journey across open seas to Bougainville.

After a four hour bone-jarring journey we arrived in the Bougainville capital, Buka.

In coming years the Carteret Islanders will also be forced to make the same journey as their home disappears into the ocean.

-- From Steve Marshall, PNG ABC Correspondent
Hi Steve,

Has this doco gone to air on the ABC in Australia? Or are you planning to put it to air on foreign correspondent?
Perfect! I liked the report of Carteret Islands. It is only an example about the future of the islands around the world.
Awesome documentation

beautiful islands

i fell sorry for them

I think that you need to do a documentary about Tuvalu islands too. It´s on the risk to disappear of the map in a few decades, maybe years!

A question to think about it: Where the population of the islands will going to live?
Hi Steve i´m florentino from CapVert islands, and i think that that one is just an exemple of what will happen in a soon future and i live in islands too so í'am wore with this catastrofic fenomenon ,my islands are very beautifull they are in afrcanocidental coast
I think our international Geologist should keep a close watch, if they are not already doing so, and maybe when the situation gets worst find alternative homes for the Islanders.
Hi Everyone,
Well I didn't catch all of the documentary this time but if it seems the sea level is rising then the earth is in trouble and there is no one else to blame but ourselves. I think the Tsunami which happen 3 years ago if I'm not mistaken should teach us what could happen if the sea level does rise very high. Not only should we be concerned about sea level rising but the water pollution. I live in Manila, Philippines and one Summer vacation me and my wife took a boat ride across Manila bay going to Corregidor and as we passing through the waster you can see how dirty the water is garbage has been dumped into that bay and many fish died so you see we should really concerned about water enviroment.
What a documentary, wonderfull, well researched and I really feel sorry for these people. May be u should do more of these in Africa too. Thanks you for enlighting us.
Thanks for sharing the story. Most people never make it out to one of these islands. I just got back from Tonga at the end of September. Western "types" are just clueless to life in the islands. These stories help us to see real needs of real people on real islands.
Yours Faithfully,
It is the horrible consequence of man made whence nature is behaving ruthlessly.Now is seen in the Carteret Island,thus many islands will be submerged one after one.The global warming has been significantly bringing destruction to this earth plnet.Steve has catered the related facts very keenly to the civic world.
the carteret islands are an atoll island system; they sink. Naturally. Is this mentioned in the program?! If sea level so much in one place, it would be reasonable to assume this 'phenomenon' would be happening everywhere! I feel this report should mention this alternative, sensible, explanation. I actively work to clean and preserve our planet but I feel this type of sensational report promotes uneccessary panic to the uninformed.
HI Steve
it is a tragidy! Please i want to know when possible to visit the island?
I want visit them.

I will like to pick just one person out from the island to live with.

I feel like saving or helping someone.

Please,reply this.

shut up!cnn,I hate you
This is another example of CNN misleading people with bogus stories. Throughout the program, it is always implied that global warming is causing the sea level to rise inundating the island. What actually is happening is that the island is sinking because of its structure and has nothing to do with glogbal warming. I live in costal Florida and if the sea had risen 6 ft or more, we would notice.
very interesting stories! where can I get the transcripts of these programs? I'd love to work this material with my students
World’s Untold Stories showcases courageous correspondents telling intimate stories of society's most vulnerable people. Often gritty, always powerful tales that open our eyes to a world that is at times disturbing and captivating. Storytelling that is raw and unyielding in its impact. World’s Untold Stories will bring the viewer tales from all corners of the world, and shine light on activities almost never exposed.

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