The Ghost Maneaba

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A maneaba was the traditional I Kiribati central meeting hall.

"We built a flat scow, some twenty-two feet long to help lagoon transport, and from a small petrol pumping engine Ten Rereia constructed a marine conversion job to motorize it, never quite overcoming the various technical hitches involved. In the scow Aram and I, and the young Ellice Island Colony policeman Talesi, went from point to point of the lagoon shore and ferreted and fossicked in the bush by criss-cross paths. Beyond Noriti, where we had turned back because of the thick bush we found patches of coconut jungle where the young nuts, falling and taking root, drove out all other plants. Beyond here, on a lagoon peninsula, Ten Aram showed the site of the “ghost maneaba.” The wife of Teng Koata, the first island leader, had been walking one afternoon and saw a great and perfect maneaba, and sitting under its high thatched roof, Nei Manganibuka, a tall fair woman with long dark hair falling to the ground about her, with two children: she conversed with three ancients, talking of her island of Nikumaroro, and its happy future when it would surely grow to support thousands of inhabitants. Nearby, on either side of the peninsula two large pools form on the lagoon flats, filling on the high springs, when tens of thousands of tiny young baneawa fish take refuge in them from the ravenous ulua which prey on them in the deep water. As the tide falls, the fish crowd ever more closely and the seabirds, particularly the great black frigate birds sweep and dive in hundreds, screaming and crying with frenzied joy at the succulent dish below them: unless indeed the Gilbertese come, and driving away the birds, scoop up the fish for their own food. A rich and tasty dish too, resembling whitebait." ("Nikumaroro" by P. B. Laxton)