Science and fiction

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DEAR EDITOR, I read with keen interest an article by Mathias N. Sao. Waifo from Patutiva entitle “The Creation of Rennel-Bellona” in Solomon Star Newspaper on August 21, 2018.

In his article Mr Waifo talked about the founding fathers of Bellona Island but more interestingly was his account regarding the formation of Owaraha- Santa Ana Island.

I believe all provinces in the Solomons with varied cultures would have their own stories vis-à-vis the formation of islands. We aptly called this as ‘custom stories’. They may differ slightly from each other but the content would be very much the same.

It is something of the past that is kept in narration and passed verbally that mesmerize consecutive generations throughout ages. Some of these ‘custom stories’ are remarkably important which entails chiefly ownership or bigmanship in our various cultures or related to ownership of land or islands by settlers for that matter.

To our forefathers (ancestors), the formation of islands could be linked to supernatural powers related to god worshipping during heathenism or it could be related to spells, because their world is full of mystery and enchantments.

Nevertheless, I personally love the way they create such accounts of fictions that depict reality of what happen in nature. The story of the two brothers that pull the island of Santa-Ana to surface interest me much. It may be fiction in a sense, but it factually portrays science at work.

With science, we can resolve mysteries that are happening in the physical environment as experienced by our ancestors in the olden days. This article will briefly explain how our islands are formed and to give a fair idea of the reality that lies behind the mystery of island formation that was experienced by our ancestors.

In practical, we are living along a Convergence Plate boundary – the convergence between two Crustal Plates, the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. The Pacific Plate being denser of the two, sinks under the Australian Plate (which is lighter) creating a subduction zone. This is a zone where tremor and volcanic activities occur – particularly known in science as the “Pacific Rim of Fire”.

Volcanic activities in this subduction zone can form oceanic/volcanic islands. Specifically, our islands in the Solomons archipelago belong to a volcanic arc caused by the subduction of the oceanic crust of the small Solomon Plate under the Pacific Plate.

However, this is quite complex to understand but simply put, the theory is the Pacific Plate slides beneath the Australian Plate, it creates a weak zone along the subduction zone which allows molten magma or magma plume from the earth’s mantle to easily escape reaching the surface creating what is known as volcanic arc; and it is in this way that our islands are formed.

Another good example of such island formation is the Aleutian Arc formed where Pacific Plate is sliding under the North American Plate.

The Lesser Antilles (islands in the Eastern Caribbean) also formed in the same manner as the Caribbean Plate is sliding under the North American Plate.

On the other hand, some islands in the Pacific formed at “Hot Spot”.

This is an area where the Pacific Plate is thin and magma plume from the mantle can push up through the plate, forming chain of islands.

An example of this is the Hawaiian Islands, Samoa, Pitcairn and Tahiti.

The “hot spot” remains stationary while the sea floor (Pacific Plate) moves. The Pacific Plate is moving to the northwest at a speed of between 7 and 11 centimetres (cm) or ~3-4 inches per year.

The successive cycles of volcanic activity at the site of the “hot spot” leave a trail of volcanic peaks (which is the Hawaiian Islands).

These volcanic peaks or islands become older and more eroded in the direction of the Plate movement.

Therefore the largest island in the archipelago which is Hawaii is also the youngest, while Kahoolawe, the smallest island, is also the oldest and the farthest from the hotspot.

In theory, the Plates are moving while you read this article and it is with such movements that drive our islands to form through volcanic activities along subduction zones.

Therefore, this wonderful custom story about the two brothers that pull Santa Ana to surface is a great example of a science fiction related to a mysterious world of our ancestors in the olden days.

However, the “science” in this science fiction isn’t about tales or mystery, but in reality it is about tectonic activities and the formation of islands by volcanic activities.

Therefore, embrace your culture and don’t let loss of any of your science fiction, for they are your identity.

I have the conviction that science fictions from our various cultures need to be recorded and preserved.

I think the science fiction will encourage us to explore, helps us think about possibilities and look at our society from a different perspective.

And with the “science” in the science fiction as the backdrop, we can understand our world better.

Steve S Kapivio

Honiara

Solomon Islands

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