Friday, April 2, 2010

DISAPPEARING ISLAND

Here's a picture of a small, un-inhabited island in the Bay of Bengal.

It disappeared last Wednesday. India and Bangladesh both claim it belonged to them.

The head oceanographer at Jadavpur University, in Calcutta, reported that a satellite image indicated that the island was no longer visible, and sea patrols confirmed it.

An official in India's foreign ministry told New Delhi newspapers that the island was gone, and asked that his name not be used, explaining, "I am not authorized to speak on international disputes."

Bangladesh officials were not available for comment.

I found four very brief articles on the Internet that said the island was gone.

"Gone..." It takes a second to translate "gone" from a feeling of death into what it means when an island that was on the map in the atlas, completely vanishes.

India called it "New Moore Island." It was 2 miles long and 1 ½. miles wide. Bangladesh referred to the island as South Talpatti.

There were no permanent structures on it, but India sent soldiers to hoist its national flag there, in 1981.

One of the online articles mentioned that another island in the area, Lohachara, disappeared in 1996.

I've seen pictures of homes on Fire Island and in the Hamptons losing most of their beaches, and houses that are in danger as well, and islands have disappeared in the Everglades, so why do I pay attention to a tiny, hardly ever used place on the other side of the world?

Maybe because my house feels as if it's in danger ... When the street is attacked by jack-hammers my house shakes. When trucks lower and drop onto the street, with a bang, huge steel plates, my house shakes. I worry about our electrical fixtures disconnecting, our sewage pipes cracking, and our plaster walls, which already have cracks.

Would that some worrisome places in my mind, not large thoughts, but troubling ones, could just vanish, disappear, un-heralded, not mourned, in the way New-Moore-South-Talpatti did.

For instance -- global warming is not so slowly changing the depth of the seas, which are washing away land, and submerging other small islands. Some endangered species are already gone. People all over the world have lost homes, and most of their possessions, because of rain, earthquakes, tsunami, and whatever else that's making the weather into an angry, punishing enemy.

Is this the story of the forty days and forty nights of rain, and Noah having to build an ark -- the same story with different numbers, different meanings to how long is a day, how long is a night and what protective something can be our ark?

When it happens to homes and land in the Hamptons, Fire Island, or Florida, with visions of the luxury, wealth and the casual "fun" the owners have, I don't feel very concerned.

But the disappearing island -- hardly noted -- is noted by me and mourned, with me quietly wondering where are we heading and what does this mean?

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