Government to replicate legendary boat

The government is planning to replicate a boat used to liberate the Maldives from Portuguese rule in the sixteenth century, as part of the ongoing celebrations to mark fifty years of independence from the British.

Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his brothers from the northern island of Utheemu reportedly sailed the legendary Kalhuohffummi by night, infiltrated islands, killed sleeping Portuguese soldiers and sailed away by day break.

British author Roysten Ellis said the Kalhuohffummi was crucial in the eight-year long guerrilla war against the Portuguese, with the three brothers using the boat’s superior speed and maneuverability to outsmart Portuguese warships.

The home ministry today signed an agreement with the Maritime and Underwater Heritage Society to replicate the Kalhuoffummi for a professional fee of MVR 1.6 million (US$105,000).

Deputy Home Minister Ahmed Saleem unveiled the boat’s design today and said it was finalized after two months of research.

The heritage society’s Mohamed Haleem said the design is based on books by Hussein Salahudeen and Burahad Mohamed Fulhu.

“Our research shows the vessel is 51 foot and 4 inches. We are trying to construct the boat using traditional techniques used at the time to remain true to the original vessel,” he said.

The boat will be built on Baa Atoll Maalhos, transported to Malé and put on display at the Sultan Park.

“We will be able to finish the boat by August. We are currently trying to find the best timber for the boat. It has to be very specific coconut timber,” said deputy minister Saleem.

The Maldives’ independence day falls on July 26, and is celebrated to mark independence from British rule.

The Maldives celebrates Mohamed Thakurufaanu’s struggle every year on National Day, which falls on the first of Rabee-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Thakurufaanu ruled for 16 years.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee of independence from the British include skydiving, a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.


Marine biologists report outbreak of Portuguese Man-o-War

An outbreak of Portuguese Man-o-War jellyfish around the Maldives has sent guests at many of the country’s upmarket resorts out of the water and back to their villas.

The creatures, which can give a nasty sting, have been reported appearing in lagoons and housereefs around islands in atolls including North Male Atoll, Baa Atoll, North Ari Atoll and Gaaf Dhaal Atoll.

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru reported a brief outbreak, while Huvafen Fushi in North Male Atoll has had the creatures washing up on the beach for eight days. Kuramathi in North Ari Atoll has also been affected.

Marine biologist Verena Wiesbauer Ali said seasonal outbreaks were not unusual. The creatures were not native to the Maldives reef ecosystem but swarms of them could become trapped by the reef and end up on the beach, she said.

“They can still sting for quite some time on the beach if the cells in the tentacles are still active, which can affect guests walking [barefoot],” noted Wiesbauer, who coauthored a first aid guide together with Dr Jens Lindner and Dr Reinhard Kilinger to the country’s toxic marine life after she was stung by a purple jellyfish while swimming, and was asked by an island doctor why she had eaten one.

Despite its appearance the Portuguese Man-o-War was not really a jellyfish, she explained, and that the usual treatment for jellyfish stings – vinegar, urine or alcohol – could discharge more of the toxic nematocysts in the sting.

Hot water was the recommended treatment for protein-based toxins, such as those from the Portugese Man-o-War or stonefish, she said.

“Clinics should have supplies of anti-histamine because the itching from a sting can be extreme. Applying ice for a few minutes can stop it from spoiling a holiday,” she added.

“Hotels have a duty to inform tourists when there is an outbreak, as someone stung may sue the hotel. It’s also important for snorkelers to understand the risk, and protect themselves with long sleeves – even thin cover is effective, although obviously this does not cover the face.”

Marine Biologist at Kuramathi Resort and Spa in Rasdhoo Atoll, Laura Riavitz, said the outbreak at the resort was worse than last year, “when there was a day when you wouldn’t even stick your toe in the water.”

“We are informing people on welcome and have put out notices at the main reception and the dive school, being careful not to panic people and asking them to wear rash vests,” she said.

Riavitz was herself stung by one last year: “It began very painfully, like a burning sensation on the skin. Sometimes you can’t see anything and don’t know what it is. The most important thing is not to scratch it, otherwise the sting can be carried to other parts of the body, such as the face,” she said.

The Portuguese Man-o-War did not move under its own power, and instead drifted with the currents using a gas bladder and with its tentacles stretching out behind it, she explained.

The creature was normally eaten by predators such as sea turtles, she noted, “although at the moment there are not enough predators to keep the numbers down.”

Any sightings of the Portuguese Man-o-War or reports on the success or failure of treatment can be reported to [email protected]