A SHELTER FROM THE STORM

 

Pitcairn Island received a bit of wind during March, 1983. A hurricane passed over Henderson Island (one of the Pitcairn group, 125 miles distance) on the 15th, bringing stormy weather to the island, but an even worse storm hit a week later.

Late Monday evening, the 21st, the wind blew so strongly that I had difficulty standing on Niger's edge, overlooking Down Isaacs. But the breeze increased to about 65 mph by two o'clock Tuesday morning, and few Pitcairners could sleep. The trees around us bent before the wind, and the mission house quivered. The phone rang repeatedly for over an hour as islanders checked on each other's safety and the conditions around town.

The wind tore roof-iron loose from the homes of Charles, Ivan, Jimmy, Reynold, and Tom, and several people spent part of the night tying long ropes over their roofs to keep them from blowing away.

Damage to the vegetation was more severe. From half to three-forths of all the banana trees were destroyed. Gardens sustained heavy damage, many trees were stripped of their leaves, and others toppled over. Several unoccupied buildings collapsed, and Brian's dunkin tipped over in the wind. (A dunkin is an outdoor toilet [WC, Privy, etc.].)

The wind whipped the sea into swells of up to 40 feet high, and waves thundered into the harbor, inundating the jetty. Water swirled around the new supply shed, and floated the longboats in the boathouse.

Several men worked most of Tuesday morning down at the landing. They hauled the longboats further up into the boathouse, and lashed them stem and stern to keep them from breaking up in the wild seas. They moved all the private canoes (private fishing boats of all kinds) into the upper-most sheds, and braced the supply shed to strengthen it against the tide.

The most harrowing experience involved the rescue of the new boat engine which had been stowed next to the supply shed, and was now in danger of being carried away by the savage current. Dennis drove the blue tractor down the hill, waited for the water to subside between waves, and then steered up the ramp beside the supply shed. He turned off the motor to check the hydraulic oil, but then couldn't restart it. A big wave rumbled in over the sea wall of the jetty, and struck the tractor with such force that it slid sideways about three feet. When the wave subsided, several men pushed the tractor backwards by hand so that Dennis could jump-start it.

By this time Jay had brought the red tractor down in the hope of saving the blue one. A wave rolled in and the water rose up to the pedals, moving his tractor sideways. Jay saw the violence of the torrent and almost decided to abandon ship, but the flood subsided leaving him still on the tractor. The men soon scooped up the boat motor in the blue tractor bucket and, with several men riding in the rear basket to balance the load, they made for high ground.

The heavy sea toppled a utility pole, tore away timber from the jetty, washed away most of the road near the jetty concrete, lifted large rocks up onto the road, and carried new boulders into the harbor channel.

In spite of the danger and the damage, we all rejoiced in God`s protection, for no one was injured by the storm. Once again we remembered God's promise to be "a shelter from the storm," Isaiah 25:4, (NIV).