The native Polynesian tribe had occupied these same islands for a centuries. They had maintained the same culture, religion, language, and customs, making no significant leaps in technology as they lived in perfect harmony with the land. All they had ever known were those small islands; in fact, those islands were their known world. Then one day, the tribe spots an object in the sky. It looks like a bird, but it doesn’t flap its wings; it makes the sound of thunder, but there isn’t a cloud in sight; it reflects the light of the sun, but it is not made out of water, nor any other material known to them. The only possibility is that it must be a god.
Imagine how if would feel to be one of those tribesmen and women who were seeing an airplane for the first time ever and you’ll be ready to learn about the fascinating phenomena known as cargo cults.
When this picture was first published in Africa Geographic, it set of a media firestorm; hundreds of letters and e-mails demanded to know if – and how – it was faked. Amazingly, it was not. The picture was taken by marine biologist Thomas Peschak when a a great white shark began to exhibit curiosity about a kayak inhabited by fellow marine biologist Trey Snow – and his explanation of the photograph’s circumstances are truly fascinating.
On a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean lies the Republic of Maldives. Once a colonial possession, this picturesque island chain has been a popular tourist destination since the 1970’s. Today, tourism makes up about one quarter of the economy and provides a lifeline to the country’s third-of-a-million people along with its agricultural activities. However, there is a big problem in the Maldives – it may soon be underwater.