By Brian Jones, Community Research Coordinator, Belo-sur-Mer, Madagascar
It was early May when we were planning our upcoming activities for the next two months, what with the pending mid-June departure of Charlie, our fearless leader and project coordinator here in Belo-sur-Mer and Thomas, preparing to lead a turtle festival turned travelling road-show throughout the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area in early June.
“The last show is over around the 8th or 9th, so Thomas will sail back here on the 11th or 12th and then go to Morondava . . .” Charlie was saying when she was cut off.
“Ohh that’s not going to work…” said Eloi, our skipper and ex-fisherman, shaking his head.
“Why not?” I inquired.
“Because, there’s going to be bad weather on the 11th and 12th of June.”
“Huh? Why do you say that?” I asked sardonically.
“I saw some stars come out last night… bad weather on the 11th and 12th of June.” Eloi stated wisely.
“No seriously… come on now” as I notice a pensive look come over Thomas’ face. “We’re not going to let our activity planning be influenced by what sounds to me like borderline witchcraft, now are we?”
Don’t get me wrong; I put plenty of stock in ‘traditional ecological knowledge’ and these Vezo fishermen will always be infinitely more in touch with nature than anyone like me from the west. However, to suppose that one can predict a storm a month and a half in advance, based on the appearance of a certain formation of stars (and besides, even my poor understanding of astronomy tells me that those stars were probably always there, and have been for quite some time) when highly-paid meteorologists in the developed world, with state of the art equipment, repeatedly fail to accurately predict where a snowstorm’s going to hit two days in advance is unbelievable to say the least. Add to this the fact that we are approaching what is typically an 8-month dry spell where absolutely no rain falls on the entire west coast of Madagascar and the word ‘questionable’ promptly springs to mind.
So, imagine my chagrin when now, in the early hours of the morning of the 11th June no less, I have been awoken by violent winds and now listen to my coconut-thatch roof being pounded by rain and the herd of my neighbour’s goats clamouring for shelter on my porch.
Eloi isn’t surprised, I’m sure. He probably already had the buckets placed under the leaks in his roof so he wouldn’t have to get out of bed. He’ll be waiting to see the expression on my face tomorrow morning as he bails the rain-water out of our boats.
Good thing Thomas opted in advance to take the cross-country bus.