Archive for May, 2015

The Impressive Story of Nauru

May 12, 2015

Nauru is a rock sticking out of the ocean, just below the equator. The sun bakes it like a stone grill. Average temperature: 31 degrees Celsius.

Drought comes to Nauru every few years and has since at least the 1950s. In any five years, rainfall rollercoasters from around 500 to 4500mm. Clouds dodge and swarm the island, even though clouds have no idea when they’re not wanted. Nauru’s sea level is rising at twice the world average.

The rock Nauru is made of phosphorous (P15), an element whose name can be translated as ‘Lucifer.’ Phosphorous is in DNA and is the active ingredient in phosphorous grenades, which don’t blow you up so much as set you on fire. The phosphorous in ash is why new plants grow so well over land that’s been raided by fire.

The Polynesians and Micronesians made the rock a cosy home/oven and formed themselves into tribes 3,000 years ago. Though they’ve changed shape and name over time, this makes the tribes of Nauru older than Ancient Rome. The tribes were matrilineal, their heritage came from the mother’s side. This is common in societies that don’t practice monogamy and aren’t sure about their father’s identity.

Rush forward to the 1700s. British sailors bump around the Pacific, especially Tahiti which they find is even more of an orgy than the other islands. In 1798 a whaling ship named the Hunter stumbles upon Nauru. Captain John Fearn finds the island pleasant and names it Pleasant Island. His legacy as the least creative person in the universe is forgotten.

Around 1830 an escaped Irish convict named John Jones ends up on Nauru. Jones declares himself dictator and for some reason, the tribes believe him. He purges the island by banishing everyone he doesn’t like. After 11 years, the tribes throw him off the island. The years in which this happened, along with how many people he killed and/or ate, are up for debate.

When you talk about the British Pacific, assume everyone’s a cannibal. If a convict or Islander king didn’t eat anyone, it’s worth mentioning. The most famous example might be Ned Kelly, although he ate his horse.

This is what an Australian looked like 200 years ago.

This is what an Australian looked like 200 years ago.

Sailors bring the Nauruan tribes booze and guns. A chief gets accidentally shot at a wedding and his tribe slightly overdo the revenge. In 1878 the revenge becomes total war between the island’s twelve tribes. The population shrinks by a third to 900 until the tribes agree to a ban on alcohol and some of the guns.

The Nauruan Tribal War reaches its true end when the English let the locals know that Germany owns their rock. They made a trade deal or something. 36 Germans land on the island. A unit of Marines arrests all the chiefs and makes the tribes give up their remaining guns. There are 765 left when the tribes hand them over. Germany decides that a man named Aweida is king of the island and that he won the war. The tribes go along with it. The German flag flies over Nauru. Things get weird now.

Australia gets Nauru next, when they declare war on Germany in 1914. The Germans go along with it in a bloodless takeover. Somewhere in South Africa, Gandhi has an unexplained boner. Britain informs the Australian troops who captured Nauru that they own the island. They go along with it.

The Japanese take over in 1943. They throw all the island’s lepers into the sea, send 1,200 Nauruans to labour camps and are worse guests than that one convict. Two years later they surrender to Australian troops. Britain tells Australia that the island is still UK property but they can do the admin work. Australia goes along with it again.

Two decades later, Nauru becomes the world’s smallest independent republic. They place the alchemical symbol for phosphorous on their Coat of Arms, giving them the edgiest heraldry in the Pacific. Their first president Hammer DeRoburt is voted into office four times, he’s educated in Geelong, Australia and dies in Melbourne. He spends some time in Nauru, introducing Australian Rules football as the national sport. His interests include Australia.

Nauru becomes a major tax haven and money laundering centre.

Nauru mines its own phosphate with companies it owns and earns the second highest GDP in the world. Before the ‘80s, Nauru was forested and luscious. Now it’s stripped bare. When phosphate mining began under the British, there was no attempt to repair or replant. Everyone blames the administrators. Nauru sues Australia, who go along with it and settle out of court. New Zealand and the UK give a one-time payment of $12 million each, while Australia hands over $2.5 million a year for the next 20 years. The mineable phosphate runs out in 2006.

Four U.S. banks ban dealings with Nauru in 1999 because of the whole money laundering tax haven thing. The country is going bankrupt. Like a lottery winner, all its sudden wealth has been mismanaged and disappeared.

The name 'Nauru' can be translated to 'MC Hammer.'

The name ‘Nauru’ can be translated to ‘MC Hammer.’

Australia sends Nauru a freighter full of mostly Arab refugees. In typical Australia form, they ship scores of diseased people to live on a new island. Camps pop up which the refugees refuse to go in, since WWII is fresh in everyone’s minds. They assure the refugees that it’s just until they’re processed as asylum seekers. More and more refugees come, dumped by Australia’s government in what Norway, the first freighter’s owner, calls a political stunt that breaches international law for votes. Since the refugees aren’t uneasy enough about being concentrated in camps, Australia calls this the Pacific Solution. Nauru goes along with it.

After a left wing government closed it for half of the 2000s, the Nauru refugee detention facility now holds 2,000 people who seeked asylum from wartorn countries via Australian waters. The government assures them they’ll never be allowed into Australia, which is still paying Nauru $2.5 million a year for making their island ugly.

Soon after the freighter of refugees arrives, Operation Weasel may or may not have happened. It’s such a hushed operation that even in 2015, no one knows if it’s real. Nauru is in the centre.

There are two possible things it could be.

  1. The U.S. and New Zealand want to help North Korean scientists defect. They have the Nauruan embassy in China sneak their defectors out of the country. The entire embassy is a front for this, which should be obvious since it’s staffed with Americans and New Zealanders. Nauru will be paid for their help, if they stop the tax haven thing. Nauru did reform its banking around this time.
  2. A couple Nauruan embassies have become corrupt and are selling passports to terrorists. Operation Weasel may be America and NZ’s attempt to stop this. The Beijing and Washington embassies did close in 2003.

In 2015, Nauru is adjusting to life without mining money. Citizens pay no tax. The island is covered in huge spikes of coral, formed by the mining. It’s impossible to build or grow anything on those peaks.

There’s a concept called peak phosphorous, where the world’s phosphorous mines empty. Estimates of when this will happen are scattered all about, ranging from 1991 to 2069. When peak phosphorous happens, commercial fertiliser will become useless (Source: Wikipedia), along with grenades that set you on fire. The element of phosphorous will become nothing but a fiery building block of DNA, teeth, ash and rocks like Nauru.