Having all 4 of our instruments in the field collecting data, we spent this day in the peaceful beach town of Mole St. Nicholas, which is isolated by distance and a lack of technology from the rest of the country. For the few that have it, electricity comes on for 4 hours at 6 pm each day. The Haitians here enjoy the beauty and bounty of the sea that surrounds them, go to school in uniforms, and pray and sing amongst and in the ruins of French Colonial ruins. Each evening hundreds descend on the town center to listen to loud music and play soccer for what can only be described as a nightly town party. We are camped in a small little hamlet run by a Frenchman named Julian who cooks us fish, lobster, and plantains with the most marvelous sauces, and provides us with tents and buckets of warm water to bathe.
After fresh fish for breakfast the Chief of Police gave us a tour of the town which included French Colonial ruins, the airport (just a dirt road really), and a big pile of gravel that had been readied for export to the US. We then checked our GPS instrument to make sure it was recording properly and headed back to our camp site to swim in the warm, clear waters off this northwestern most tip of Haiti.
A few hours after our nice tour, this same Police Chief extorted 1000 Haitian gourde ($25 US dollars) from us with an implied threat to our equipment, which is sitting on his station’s roof. Shown below is Andy writing a receipt (business is business) to a deputy. Macly and Daniele (seated at the table) were, to say the last, not thrilled. We took it in stride as the price sometimes for doing business (or science) in Haiti. Since this transaction took place, our colleagues Daniele and Macly made arrangements for a local employee of the Bureau de Mines to guard us in the night. Can you believe it? The man was armed and ready to kill for us…. a very sobering thought.
In the late afternoon the mayor of Mole St. Nicholas came to our camp and asked us if we would go live on the Radio to the region. The radio station was a little one-room building, the only one in the neighborhood with electricity. We were asked to explain the objectives of our science mission, why earthquakes occur, the potential for more earthquakes, and things they might do to prepare. We answered questions for about 15 minutes, and relayed our deepest sympathies.
After the radio interview, and to our big surprise, we were asked if we would go live on Haitian TV. What an honor! Above we are shown being interviewed at the TV station. It’s quite a different setting than what one may expect for a TV stations. Folding chairs, a concrete backporch, and a small digital camera. We were able to watch on a monitor when they cut-in the middle of a sexy music video live.
We were interviewed for about 45 minutes. Towards the end the TV host took call in questions on his cell phone. Most of the questions revolved about the threat of tsunami. We were able to tell them which shores were in danger of tsunami, how to recognize one is coming, and most importantly, to get to high ground or upper levels of a building as fast as they can.
We have no idea how many people actually heard our radio and television broadcasts, but we find these opportunities to educate priceless. Any apprehensions about going on live (and there were some) were alleviated by the importance of this process since we want to make a difference. If our presence here does nothing more then educate a small region on the northwesternmost coast of Haiti about seismic hazards they face and on how they may protect themselves, our visit will have been completely worthwhile.
When we finally got back to our place on the beach, Julian cooked us the most wonder lobster and plantain dinner. What a day!
Andy and Sarah