3-D Modelling Corals on the Real Skull Island


This week, our pursuit of the Solomon Islands’ elusive bumphead parrotfish brought us from the bustling fishery surrounding the town of Gizo to the slower, more subsistence-based fishery near the village of Munda.

A two-hour boat ride over calm seas seemingly transported the two of us back in time. We’ve set up camp on nearby Lola Island, residing in a traditional leaf hut not unlike a Swiss family Robinson construction where roosters, reef sharks, and red ants are aplenty, but electricity, running water, and telephone service are ephemeral.

Behold our second research base: a traditional leaf house on Lola Island. (Photograph by Mikayla Wujec)

From Lola’s windy and wavy coastline, a small and circular island with a violent but sacred history is visible. Dozens of skulls belonging to ancient Solomon chiefs now sit atop stone shrines enclosing the heads of their victims from inter-island tribal raids hundreds of years ago. It was incredibly eerie to set foot on Skull Island (no King Kong here, we hoped!) and tread carefully among the bones as we spent the day preparing to conduct fieldwork on the islands’ surrounding reefs (see video above).

Skull Island Montage
Top: As serene as it looks from a distance, it was incredibly eerie to set foot on Skull Island. (Photograph by Andrea Reid) Bottom: A panorama reveals the island’s namesake remains. (Photograph by Mikayla Wujec)

Since our arrival here our research team has expanded. On each dive, we’re fortunate to be accompanied by the wise and watchful eyes of an experienced local dive master named Sunga Boso. An expressive storyteller, it was thrilling to hear about Skull Island’s history from someone whose own family heritage is tightly connected to head-hunting practices of the past—Sunga’s great-grandfather was spared from a sacrificial head-hunting ceremony as an infant.

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