BBC’s Bogus Claims About “The Drowning Solomon Islands”

By Paul Homewood



Today’s fake news comes from the BBC:




The Solomon Islands are thought to be the first populated place to see islands disappear under the sea.




Land has always been at a premium in the Solomon Islands. When one wave of immigrants arrived they found all the prime land occupied by fearsome headhunters. They responded by building artificial islands on top of reefs. These  are incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise. Storms or tsunamis can wipe them out at a stroke.





Despite the risk, the “saltwater people” continue to build new islands and celebrate their heritage at events like the Shell Money Festival.





Money has been promised by international donors to help the low lying islands of the Pacific but it’s already too late for some.

When their coastal farmland was spoiled by rising sea water the residents of one of the islands were forced to abandon their land, their homes and their church.




Traditional practices are also threatened by sea level rise.

Megapode birds bury their eggs in the lava-heated sand of the volcanic island of Savo. Locals have to dig a metre into the beach to harvest the eggs.

The beaches where the birds lay their eggs can be inundated and eroded by the rising waters.



Life seems certain to get tougher for the people of the Solomons but as communities and individuals they are showing the way ahead in a time of climate change – adapting their lives when possible and moving their homes when necessary.

I have no idea what is happening to sea levels around the Solomon Islands, as the tidal gauge records in the area are much too short to be meaningful.

The only record NOAA have for the Solomons only dates back to the 1970s, but despite a rising trend, sea levels now appear no higher than at the start of the record.


Nearby Kiribati shows a similar rise since the 1980s, but, significantly, very little rise since the 1960s.


Indeed it is recognised that changing global trade winds have raised sea levels in the South Pacific over the past 30 years, something that is most likely due to ENSO cycles, and is anyway not a change that can be sustained.

The Solomons of course form part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and therefore sea levels changes may be affected by tectonics.

Nevertheless, the nearest long running tide gauge is at Sydney, and it shows a pretty steady sea level rise since the late 19thC.

Furthermore the rate of rise was highest around the middle of the 20thC.





Put simply, there is no evidence of any man-made effect. We are simply seeing a long running and natural recovery from the Little Ice Age.

I could mention many studies that show that sea level rise has been insignificant in the region, and others that show that many coral islands are actually growing. These have been covered well previously.


But there is one aspect of the BBC story which I really must comment on.

It gives the impression that inhabited land is actually disappearing under the waves. This is however a nonsense, certainly in the context of the case quoted.

The subject of the article is the “saltwater people”, who live on Lau Lagoon, on the island of Malaita.

Mailata is the second largest island of the Solomons in terms of land area and is the most densely populated. The northern region of Malaita includes the Lau Lagoon and is the most densely populated rural area in the country.

It is also a mountainous island, rising to 1430m. Bluntly, it is not about to disappear under the sea just yet.

 Topographical map of Malaita.

A scientific study was conducted in 2008 by Molea and Vuki, titled “Subsistence fishing and fish consumption patterns of the saltwater people of Lau Lagoon, Malaita, Solomon Islands: A case study of Funaafou and Niuleni Islanders”, which paints a radically different picture to that presented by the BBC.

These are some of the points made in it:


The Solomon Islands lie in the south latitudes 5° S and 12° S, and longitudes 152° E and 170° E. The country consists of six major islands and 900 other smaller islands. Malaita is the second largest island in terms of land area and is the most densely populated. The northern region of Malaita includes the Lau Lagoon and is the most densely populated rural area in the country.

Two artificial islands, Funaafou and Niuleni (New Land), are among 50 artificial islands that constitute the Lau Lagoon off Malaita’s northern coast. Unlike Niuleni, which was built primarily by piling reef stones into mounds on the shallow reef flats, Funaafou has a pre-existing natural base made from coral knobs or rocky outcroppings that have been on the reef flat before any people arrived. Early inhabitants constructed the island by walling the submerged rocky knobs with limestone boulders gathered from the reefs at low tide or along the shore of the mainland. At a height of about one metre above the highest high tide mark, the enclosure was filled with earth and the surface level graded with dead coral, rubble and sand.

The movement of the first migrants from mainland Malaita to Lau Lagoon began some 300 to 400 years ago. Among the causes of these out migrations were tribal fighting, headhunting and cannibalism. Migrations to the artificial islands were also directly related to in-fighting among clans and family feuds. It was also believed that people from the mainland wanted to escape from mosquitoes and mosquito borne diseases such as malaria.

The original inhabitants were foragers who gleaned for small fish, shellfish and seaweed on the reef flats. Their population gradually increased over time. Gleaning was done during both low and high tides after which the gatherers retired back to the mainland. Rafts were built as a form of transportation and later used to carry reef stones and boulders to build the artificial islands. Life was dependent on the Malaita mainland during this transition period. Animosity, however, grew between the inhabitants of the artificial and mainland Malaitans and many of the original inhabitants of the small islands were killed, forcing them to break their ties with the mainland and settle permanently on these artificial islands.

The early settlers were animists whose beliefs were ingrained in superstitions and as such much of the islanders’ fisheries activities were associated with numerous ritualistic practices. However, when Christianity was introduced in the 1900s, many young converts abandoned these practices and followed the new religion. Tensions grew between the island’s elders and the converts over the newly introduced teachings of Christianity, which the former believed to be desecrating the ancestral island of Funaafou. As a result, the converts resorted to building the artificial island of Niuleni where they could build a church and escape the pagan practices of Funaafou.

The livelihood of Funaafou and Niuleni Islanders depends heavily on marine resources as many islanders do not own land on the mainland to grow root crops or vegetables. To remedy the situation, the islanders established a “barter” system of trade with the hill people, whereby fish, shell fish and other marine products were exchanged for root crops, vegetables and other garden produce brought by the hill people. This exchange became vitally important for the survival of the islanders of Funaafou and Niuleni. Today, the barter system of trade is still practiced in Lau Lagoon but is becoming less important as staples such as rice, noodles and flour can be obtained from shops.

Fish and other marine resources are important for the islanders of Funaafou and Niuleni, both as a source of daily food as well as items for food exchanged at the local markets. Because of this, fishing skills are crucially important for sustaining life in these environments. Men are expected to be proficient in the different fishing methods and so, fishing has evolved to become the most developed subsistence activity within a household. Akimichi (1978) reported that the Lau people used over 100 fishing techniques, including different types of nets, kite, hook and line, fish poison and spears.




So we learn a number of things:

  • These are artificial islands, and not natural ones.
  • They are built at just a meter above sea level, and, as the BBC caption points out, are highly vulnerable to cyclones and tsunamis. The idea that they have not had to be rebuilt often in the past is not credible.
  • The saltwater people did not settle there voluntarily, but were forced to relocate there due to hostility from the mainlanders.
  • The islanders are, and always have been, essentially reliant on marine resources to survive, which they use both for food and barter.
  • Apart from the need to occasionally rebuild their villages, the islanders way of life has changed little, despite any recent sea level rise.
  • Interestingly the study finds that the early inhabitants built their enclosures about a meter above high tide. Judging by the BBC picture, little has changed.


The simple fact is that the saltwater people have always lived and worked at the edge of the sea, and have no desire to move onto dry land.

As Wikipedia point out, “living on the reef was also healthier as the mosquitoes, which infested the coastal swamps, were not found on the reef islands.”

Ironically, Wikipedia also say that the fish stocks of the Lau Lagoon and sea areas was once plentiful, but it is becoming harder to come by due to pressure from international fisheries.

The idea that they would feel threatened by a few inches of sea level rise is ludicrous. Any such rise could, in any event, be easily contained by adding an extra layer of boulders.


One final part of the jigsaw.

I came across a batch of old photos of Malaita from the University of Queensland (now only on Wayback).

I would assume from the images that they would probably date from pre-war.

Of particular interest is this one of a newly erected artificial island. The surrounding walls appear to be of a pretty similar height to the BBC image, which would suggest the current islands are surviving just fine.

Newly Erected Artificial Island off Nore Fou, Lau Lagoon, Malaita Island, (Solomon Islands)

Remember the BBC’s opening headline:


The only thing which is stunning is the length that the BBC will go to twist and fabricate a story, in order to fit its global warming agenda.

The Solomon Islands are not “drowning”, and neither are its people. But that’s not a story the BBC wants you to hear.


November 22, 2017 at 12:42PM

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