SI Vault
Clive Gammon
December 26, 1983
More than 200 years after Captain Cook came upon Christmas Island, the remote Pacific atoll and its splendid fishing have been discovered by a wave of modern adventurers
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December 26, 1983

Greetings From Christmas

More than 200 years after Captain Cook came upon Christmas Island, the remote Pacific atoll and its splendid fishing have been discovered by a wave of modern adventurers

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Eddy began to explain, entirely seriously. "These trevally," he said, "I can catch, kill, eat. They not my devils. My devils you see yesterday. Tropic bird, man-o'-war bird. Also sailfish, manta ray, porpoise. I must not hurt my devils. If I eat them I die, very quick, two or three days."

Now I remembered Eddy's concern over the tropic birds on Motu Tabu; remembered, too, that barely a generation separated him from tribal life on the Gilberts. I remembered a little anthropology also, about the extended family system of Micronesians and their old animist religion, with its tabu creatures—different ones for each family.

The toddy was low again. I fetched more. "You want to talk to my big ghost-devil?" Eddy asked confidentially. "She is Neikana. She comes like a very old woman. I can hear her in the night sometimes, messing with the dishes in the kitchen. We go."

We left the party, heading through the star-bright dark toward London, and came to a rusting group of oil storage tanks, left, of course, by the military. "We bring her a smoke," he said as we parked the pickup, and I followed him to a recess between two tanks. He struck a match that showed a neat circle of coral, inside it three stones that made an arch. "Light a cigarette now," he said. "Take three puffs, lay it down. You can leave the whole pack. And some matches. This devil likes to smoke. Now you tell her what you like to have. Tell her you want big trevally." It was dark, warm and mysterious. I wished.

"Good for get womans, too, if you want to make more wish," he said.

"I thought you told me you went to church," I said evasively.

"I stop when I'm 15; one day I will go again," said Eddy. "My father go back to church when he is 50, when he is old and don't like womans. Also because my mother burn up his magic book and don't make cookings for him. My devil woman is better than church because she says, have a good time, make a big party. She gives you what you want right away without waiting."

In the morning, what had passed at the storage tanks seemed a little remote. With Richard Anderson we headed to Y-site, and it was a pleasure to see him hook his first bonefish. "Nearly as good as our kawahai at home," he said, which was wild praise from a Kiwi. We both immersed ourselves in the limitless world of the bonefish flats, drifting away from where Eddy had run the boat ashore, drifting back when the equatorial sun demanded we drink some cold water.

By then Eddy was busy. He had brought his own trevally outfit, a mighty surf rod left behind by a previous client. Now he was wrapping his leader in an oily palm frond, threading it into a baitfish and leaving the hook clear. "Devil in this oil," he said matter-of-factly, tied the rig to his line and plopped it out into the deep lagoon channel.

It was time to wade the flats again, picking up bones, small trevally, too, on the fly rods. You lose your sense of distance very quickly on the flats, and when I first looked back the boat seemed tiny. Nonetheless, I could see Eddy's big rod, which he had set in a holder, bouncing wildly. I shouted, and the three of us started to run through the shallows to the boat. By the time we got there, little line remained on Eddy's spool, but his mighty muscles had the boat off in seconds and the pursuit was on.

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