Primitive outrigger canoes of Salalah and Masirah Island, Oman

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    David E P Dennis

    I served with the RAF in Oman and worked at Masirah Island and Salalah (during the Black September insurgency). At both locations I spent many hours and days on the beaches watching the turtles come ashore, laying their eggs and returning to sea using positive phototaxis of the moonlight on the waves. I also studied the fishermen and their methods. The societies back then were primitive, with no oil money changing the landscape. There were few trees from which to make boats, but hollowed-out tree trunks and planked fishing canoes were always fitted with outrigger rails to help avoid capsizing. The Indian ocean on these coasts was so full of fish you could walk on their heads and not get wet. Sea eagles were often seen plummeting down to catch fish near the Diplomatic Wireless Service station and the wattage coming out of their equipment was so great that the street lights glowed in the daytime! The fishermen were a friendly bunch and when not launching into the surf they used weighted circular nets, crouching in the surf, swinging these nets around their heads and casting them out, then pulling them up quickly so that the weights gathered beneath the fish – such great skill. The RAF had a different way of catching fish for dinner. We would take two ‘properly constructed’ rowing boats and hold a large plastic mattress bag between them and the abundant fish would swim in, so that sometimes it was almost impossible to land the catch, it being so heavy.

    Swordfish, barracuda, sharks and crayfish were our main diet. Our vegetables came from Cyprus via V-Bomber. On Christmas Day we swapped boxes of crayfish for vegetables with the V-bomber pilot who was dressed as Father Christmas when he landed (please don’t tell MOD!).

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