Once upon a time there was a beautiful island in the Red Sea. It was an
enchanted refuge where ospreys soared in the sky, sea turtles laid their
eggs on the beach, and stupid people put land mines in the ground.
We didnít know about the land mines, and so we spent a wonderful day
exploring the island. There were large osprey nests about four feet in
diameter and five feet tall in the middle of the island and on the islandís
eastern corner. The nests were situated on small hills which made it
possible for the osprey to survey their domain while perched on their nest.
The osprey were efficient hunters as evidenced by the many skeletons of
small birds and fish scattered over the island, but mostly around their
nests. I didnít see any other species of birds flitting about the island,
probably because the osprey had eaten them all. I felt sorry for any bird
that might be innocently flying by minding his own business. Their chance of
becoming osprey fodder seemed alarmingly high.
The beach at Difnein Island would rival that found at any world class
resort. Your eyes feast upon a smorgasbord of powdery white sand, clear
water, and spectacular sunsets. And when you walk up the eastern side of the
beach, you can see the flipper marks in the sand where the sea turtles have
made their way to the top of the beach to lay their clutch of eggs.
Difnein Island has it all - and that includes LAND MINES.
Not more than fifty feet from the sandy shore, I found an unmarked grave
typical for this region of the world. The stacked stones reveal the grave
belonged to an adult size person. At the time, I thought it strange to find
a solitary grave so close to the beach. Although unmarked graves are common,
they are usually found in a graveyard full of other unmarked graves. The
single grave probably should have tipped me off something bad had happened
to this island, and that bad thing was land mines.
So why would anyone want to place land mines in paradise. It seems there
once was a war of independence in which Eritrea no longer wanted to be a
part of Ethiopia. When you fight a war, you have to put lots of land mines
all over the place. Why not go out to a deserted island in the Red Sea and
place a bunch of land mines there? Obviously, some genius decided it was a
good idea, and went ahead and did it. Unfortunately, the genius who placed
the land mines didnít bother to remove them when the war was over. They
would have been hard to remove anyway, because you hide land mines so people
canít see them until they step on them and get blown to smithereens. Why do
the words ďWar CrimesĒ keep popping up in my mind? Maybe Iím simple-minded,
but it seems to me if you put land mines somewhere during a war, and you
donít remove them when the war is over, you have committed a war crime
against humanity. Period.
Fools walk in where angels fear to tread. Our angels must have been
working overtime that day because we walked through the mine field without
getting blown up. When we got back to our yacht, someone came up on the
radio and informed us that the eastern half of the island was full of land
mines. They had a cruising guide that showed the general location of the
land mines, and it advised sailors to not set foot on Difnein Island. We
went over to the yacht and looked at the book. Sure enough, there was a
drawing of the minefield. Hmm. I wonder why nobody put a fence around the
high risk areas or posted signs to stay off the island because of the hidden
menace beneath the soil. In poor countries like Eritrea, they probably donít
have enough money to build fences and post signs, because they have to spend
their cash on wheel chairs and artificial limbs for people blown up by land
Difnein Island is a special place. Itís perfect for ospreys, sea turtles,
and of course, land mines.