28th January 2011

Pemuteran was a great base from which to explore the dive sites of the northern tip of the island. Pulau Menjangan is a small island off the mainland and boasts some great reefs and drop-offs. Diving there is a whole morning’s activity; a 30 minute boat ride away you do two dives either side of a hearty lunch on Menjangan. The little white sand island sits in blueish waters and would have some lovely beaches if they weren’t covered in rubbish blown across the seas from Java and Bali. Plastic bottles, crisp packets, carrier bags, plastic cutlery and the odd hypodermic needle litter the sandy shore line.

Chris and I sat in the shade and hungrily devoured a delightful serving of nasi goreng. ‘Is that…is that a skull?’. I looked up at Chris who, with goreng packed neatly into his left cheek pouch, is pointing his fork at the undergrowth. I followed his line of sight until my eyes fell upon a domed object smaller than a football resting under a scraggly tree. There, in the dappled sunlight was the unmistakable sight of a clean, creamy human skull, it’s jaw detached on one side. It sat neatly on a small pile of bones which I recognised (thank you biology A-level and CSI) as a few ribs, a selection of vertebra, two femur and a broken pelvis. Right. This was a sight even more unlikely than the Pygmy Seahorse. One never quite expects to be scoffing their ketchup covered Indonesian pack-up from blue Tupperware literally 2 metres away from the skeletal remains of some human being.

As you may have gathered by some of my previous posts, I have an active imagination and this kind of fodder sent it into overdrive. However, the very reality that someone had died and decayed here flung me into moral turmoil. One part of my brain was firing through dramatic images of pirates, sea monsters, treasure hunters, sacrificial offerings, castaways, cannibals and the vengeance of the un-tipped dive guide. I was desperate to poke it, to hold the cranium skyward in some Shakespearean ode. Whilst the morally sensitive side was trying to remain respectfully aghast and distant. It was a struggle and I discovered that apparently it’s not so funny to jokingly ask your dive guide if the human remains belonged to his last customer.

When we returned to the mainland and revealed our discovery to the dive centre owner, he cooly explained that ‘muslims in this area often bury their dead anywhere and remains have been known to be accidentally dug up or uncovered…or it could be a murder’. Brilliant! When we returned to the island the next day I ate my lunch in silence feigning diving dizzy spells, when actually I was devising all manner of possible dastardly and dramatic demises of this poor victim. I know it’s insensitive but the bones’ owner won’t mind. They don’t need their skeleton anymore so I’m sure I can feature it in my imaginary swashbuckling deceitful sagas to my heart’s content.

Human Skull