The Medina, shot from the water whilst swimming round the ship

THE CURRENT ROCKS THE MEDINA

The rest of the voyage with Captain Nidun was unspectacular. There was little to report except for a frightening thunder and lightning storm and the fact that, to everyone’s delight, I caught a fish on the third day out. I didn’t understand a word of what my sailor friends were trying to say to me, but the incomprehension was mutual: they didn’t understand what I was trying to say either. And yet must one always ask questions to understand something?

After four days we reach the east coast of Flores Island and, moving down from the north, set our course for Larantuka, our destination. The current and headwind are so strong, however, that it proves impossible to reach the port on our heavily-laden ship. The wind should die down around 4 o’clock, Captain Nidun says and then proceeds to cast anchor. Wonderful, I say to myself, then tie a long rope round my belly, get my underwater camera out ready and, much to the crew’s dismay, jump overboard. No wonder: none of them knows how to swim! Although the current is stronger than I expected, I do manage to swim round the ship with my flippers and take a number of pictures. By around 4, the wind has turned and the current let up. That very evening I meet Antonius Bataona.

And two years later I make the acquaintance of another person in Larantuka, a man standing at the top of a hill on the beach with a tripod and a long lens. He’s a photographer from Maumere who is working with a German team of researchers and with the local government. The object is to use the strong current to drive a tidal power plant. But that’s easier said than done! Every turbine set up so far has been swept away by the current, he recounts pensively, and goes back to his picture-taking.