June 23

Damn I feel like crap. Thursday, the last time I wrote a journal entry, I wrote about catching Grouper here in the lagoon. That night we had a wonderful dinner, the effects of which I am still feeling and will likely feel for many days to come. That evening at about 10pm I started having stomach cramps and diarrhea. Kate was asleep already. I was up all night with cramps and the sweats. By morning my legs felt like rubber and were causing me intense pain. The diagnosis was obvious: ciguatera. Ciguatera toxin is caused by a specific dinoflagellate present in all tropical coral reefs. Usually it exists only in small amounts, but in some places it exists in great quantities and finds its way into the entire food chain. No one can tell where it exists. Herbivorous fish eat the algae containing the dinoflagellates and carnivorous fish then eat the herbivorous fish accumulating the toxin in their flesh. The fish, when eaten, tastes completely normal and is indistinguishable from untainted fish.

Up until this week we have been avoiding ALL reef fish. Pelagic fish, those who live and feed offshore as opposed to on coral reefs, are not affected. This includes Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi-Mahi, etc. We were emboldened to eat the grouper after hearing reports from other boats who had eaten them on other atolls without ill effect. While it has been argued that it is pollution and the effects of man which cause the dinoflagellates to multiply, it is not proven. Since Tahanea is unpopulated and pristine we assumed therefore that there was no ciguatera. Big mistake.

Yesterday I was completely incapacitated and lay in bed moaning the entire day, unable to rise. Today I went through periods of minor strength and left the bed several times for periods up to an hour before returning to a horizontal position feeling like I had run a marathon. The leg pain has, for the most part, passed, but the massive exhaustion remains. We have no idea how long it will last. Kate seems to be much less affected, but she exerted herself too much today and is now feeling quite beaten. Markus and Chris from Pez Vela have also been affected to differing degrees - Markus seems to be more affected but Chris also has experienced leg pain, cramps and exhaustion. Other symptoms which have been experienced by all four of us include tingling, especially of the mouth and tongue and itchiness, especially of the legs.

Fortunately, Jonah seems to have escaped all effect of the toxin, though he did eat the fish. Perhaps it was because he had such a small portion - either way, we are grateful that he is unaffected.

Books we have also say that some of these symptoms can persist for up to several months, although they use the term 'may' so it seems there is no way to predict this. Obviously we cannot leave this place until I am up to at least 80% strength so we are likely to remain here at least until Tuesday and perhaps longer. After that we are now planning to proceed directly to Tahiti as our time is growing short (we want to be in Papeete by July 1st).

Suffice it to say we are not feeling too smart or too happy right now, but it does seem the worst has passed and I am very confident that over the next few days we will recover completely. We certainly will not be eating any more reef fish and will stick with the safe pelagic species from now on.