Storytellers: Set the audience up as The Echo, before you start

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One day, on a small island in the wide Pacific Ocean, a miracle happened.  

The islanders were a happy lot. For generations, the younger island women worked in the gardens and plantations, cultivating vegetation that provided their families with an abundant supply of vegetables and a tropical salad of fruits. The older women cared for the island’s children.

Daily, the strong, younger men set out in small boats, to harvest the surrounding waters and reefs, teeming with an inexhaustible supply of fish, while the older men, gathered a feast of shellfish, from beaches around their shores.

Life for these people was very good. Their bellies were full, they were healthy, their families content. 

But… one day, on the distant mainland, a volcano erupted with an enormous explosion. It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo:  It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

For countless hours, the fearful islanders marvelled at the flames, the explosions, the showers of rocks and plumes of ash, smoke and lava, which belched forth, incessantly, from the mountain on the horizon, and drifted in their direction.

“What messages are the Gods sending us?” the people asked each other, as they gazed at the pieces of pumice and scummy red ash that washed ashore and covered their beaches.

In reply, the volcano roared on. It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo: It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

As the days passed, changes began to take place. Fine, greyish-white powder coated all the vegetation on the island. At first, it seemed harmless. Each afternoon, the tropical rains, washed most of the powder off the leaves. However, the islanders soon noticed their plants were beginning to wilt and die. 

Starved, by the fine ash, coating the surface of their leaves, the plants were unable to gain sufficient nourishment from precious air and sunlight. Gradually, the life-giving vegetation suffocated, withered and died.

The first of their valuable food sources was lost.

Back on the mainland, the volcano thundered on, belching out smoke and lava, into the surrounding ocean. It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo: It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Huge drifts of reddish-grey, scummy ash and pumice washed up on the beaches to clog the island’s shores, suffocating the great beds of shellfish that soon began to die.

Now, when people walked along the shoreline, the stench of dead shellfish appalled them! The smell became so bad, the islanders could no longer bear to visit the beaches.  The second vital part of their diet – the shellfish – was destroyed.

Fish, which fed on the shellfish beds that lived on minute marine life, inhabiting the island’s waters, were also affected by the polluted shores. Schools of fish deserted the island’s waters, seeking elsewhere for unpolluted food sources.

To substitute for the loss of vegetables and shellfish in their diets, the fishermen were forced to over-fish the surrounding waters. Soon, there was almost nothing left. Catches of fish soon dwindled, even though they paddled much further out from the shore, each day. Day after day passed and the fishermen returned with fewer fish than ever before.

Still the volcano thundered on, belching out smoke and lava, into the surrounding ocean. It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo: It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Realising they were facing imminent disaster, with the loss of their most vital food sources, the island leaders quickly called a meeting, electing a deputation, to paddle to the mainland and inform the Government of their plight.

The mainland Government received the island leaders kindly, listening with interest, at what the deputation had to report. They knew of the volcano’s eruption as everyone on the mainland had seen – and felt – the explosions. It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo: It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Sensing a potential catastrophe, government officials were swiftly sent to the island, to investigate the islanders’ plight. Special shipments of food were immediately dispatched, in an effort to save the islanders from starvation and sickness.

Emergency medical teams arrived, to help care for people, suffering illnesses, caused by the drifting clouds of volcanic ash.
One day, a ship carrying a group of scientists and doctors, sent by the World Health Organisation, arrived. All those on board, heard and saw the volcano on the mainland as they passed.

It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Echo:  It went crash! Boom! Boom!  It roared and it shrieked!

Bill, an Australian marine biologist, was amongst those on board the ship, He was sent to help restore the lost fishing resources, around the island.

For days, after his arrival, Bill wandered the beaches and reefs, diving, monitoring catches of fish and taking samples of seawater and shellfish.

Fascinated by this blond, bronzed, demi-god, the villagers flocked around to watch, as he worked. As they stood watching, they wondered, how the simple tasks he performed, could solve the loss of their fish. Eventually, becoming bored by the daily monotony of the repetitive tasks, Bill carried out, the islanders left him, with the exception of a couple of young, male assistants, who stayed to help.   

One morning, after a few weeks had passed, Bill called an urgent meeting of the island leaders. They eagerly flocked around, anxious to hear what he suggested was necessary, to restore the fishing grounds.

“I think we can fix your problem but, I’ll need your permission to isolate some reefs.” he said, pointing at the map he had hanging up. “No-one can take fish from these areas.”

“You must be crazy!” the people cried out.

But we need to fish there!” They cried out. “Fish is the main part of our diet! How can our families survive, without our daily meal of fish?” demanded others.

Bill pointed at specific locations he’d highlighted on the map with a stick. “These areas are going to become breeding grounds for fish.”

Bill calmly replied, “If you don’t do this now, your fish will be gone forever.”

“Oh no!” The elders gasped in horror.

“But, it’s not too late. If the breeding stocks of fish, among these reefs, are given a chance to rebuild, soon there will be plenty of fish for everyone!”

“I suggest you punish anyone, found fishing these isolation zones. It’s vital… for the survival of your fisheries!” he exclaimed.

Shocked into silence, the islanders mutely accepted his request. After all – they thought this scientist, was almost a God. He knew things, they couldn’t even imagine.

Bill turned to the older men. “I need you to rake up all the volcanic ash, debris and pumice, from along the shoreline, every morning, to allow the shellfish beds to regenerate.” 

The people, immediately, followed his instructions, doing whatever tasks he gave them. Days, weeks, and months dragged by, as the islanders waited for the volcano to quieten. Living very frugally, they just managed to survive, on the rations of supplementary food, provided by the mainland government.

As the months passed, the volcano, slowly, began to quieten. Now, the smoke and steam from the volcano’s crater, hissed and fizzed. It went: Hiss! hiss! It went, Fizz! Fizz!

Echo:  It went Hiss! Hiss! it went, Fizz! Fizz!

As the volcano gradually became dormant, people started to notice that the island’s vegetation was beginning to regrow. New shoots began to poke through the soil, and once more, the women tended the gardens, nurturing the vegetables and fruits, they had previously lost.

About this time, the young fishermen, noticed an improvement in the size and quantity of fish, they were catching.

Two years, after the volcano first erupted, the quantities of fish caught, by-passed all their previous catches. Fishing only two-thirds of the former area, they were now bringing back larger catches than ever before! And the fish were bigger than the fisherman had seen for years!

“The fish are coming back! It’s a miracle!” The people said. “Bill has brought a miracle!

Echo:   A miracle, a miracle! The fish are coming back! Bill has brought a miracle!

Bill remained on the island, only a short time, after his two years. Before leaving, he trained a group of men, to manage their fisheries, retaining the isolated reefs, as a breeding ground for the future.

The fishermen, no longer completely fished out the waters, surrounding their island home. From Bill, they’d learned how to plan for the future and were all much wiser.  

Saddened, by the loss of their special mentor, the island communities held a celebration in his honour and gave Bill a huge feast, before he finally set sail.

Special offerings were placed in shrines, to thank the Gods, for using the volcano, to bring them Bill… and the miracle of the fish.

Helen F. McKay ©2009


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