The Mystery of the Sinking South Pacific Islands
Climate Change or Tectonic Shifts?
The island rises out of the ocean like a crenellated fortress. The trees on its slopes stand so close, their crowns so impenetrable, that the island appears to be wrapped in a blanket of green velvet.
Below, palm trees line the beach and the shapes of huts, some emitting smoke, stand out against the blinding light of the rising sun.
A team of French researchers steer their motorboat carefully through the reef toward Vanikoro, this fleck of earth that's part of the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific. They've come here to uncover the island's secrets. "It feels is if we were on an expedition 250 years ago," says Valérie Ballu, 44, a geodesist from Paris. Geodesy is the science of measuring the Earth.
Ballu jumps into the shallow water of a sandbank, then pushes the boat ahead of her. The village on the shore is now showing signs of life. Women in brightly colored skirts appear at the entrances to their huts, babies in their arms. Naked, curious children with frizzy blonde hair run down to the edge of the beach, while men in dugout canoes paddle out to meet their foreign guests.