A walk through the woods uncovers a bit more of Bird Island’s history

Further to my post of 22 July, two other remnants of Bird Island’s former life remain hidden in the woods.

An old well in Bird Island’s woodland – derelict but still holding water (Photo: Chris Feare)

Bird Island has two sources of water. Fresh drinking water is collected from rainfall, stored in enclosed reservoirs and treated before use.

Water used for purposes other than drinking, on the other hand, comes from wells. These tap into a lens of slightly brackish water that floats on top of underground sea water. The wells in use today have sophisticated floating extractors that move up and down with the tide. These were invented in the 1980s by Georges Norah, then manager of the island, to ensure that the water being extracted, by a small and not very powerful pump, was taken only from the upper 3-4 cm of the water in the well. This left most of the well water undisturbed so that only the least saline water was taken. The water extracted by these devices in three wells was then elevated by a much more powerful pump into a high-level storage contained, from which water is fed to the chalets by gravity.

When I first visited the island in 1972, however, we had to throw buckets down into much smaller wells, deftly flicking the buckets on release so that they landed on their sides and would fill of their own accord. This art took some time to perfect. This was followed by manually hauling up the heavy bucket because there were no hoists in those days.

We recently came across one of the original wells close to the remains of an old house off the track between the hotel and Hirondelle. It is off the beaten path (and therefore unlikely to be a safety hazard) but retains its original walls and surround in reasonable condition – and its water. This one had an advantage over the one we used in the 1970s – it had steps leading down to the water, thereby obviating the need to throw buckets

The Bird Island moulen kopra as decoration in front of the hotel in the 1980s (Photo kindly sent by Margaret Norah, who features on the left!). 
The moulen kopra as found in 2015. It has now found a resting place as an integral part of Bird Island’s soil! (Photo: Chris Feare)

Nearby lies the remains of a wooden “moulen kopra”, the mill formerly used to grind the white meat of coconuts in order to extract the oil (see post of 15 July 2017)). In the 1980s this stood as a decoration in front of the hotel, complete with the large pestle that was most likely driven by a cow. As it deteriorated under harsh environmental conditions of intense UV light, high temperatures, salt spray and rainfall, it was moved from its pedestal and taken to end its days in the wood. My photograph taken in 2015 shows the sad remains of a machine that was formerly a vital part of the island’s contribution to the Seychelles coconut economy.


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