'No more laughter on the beach': One woman's emotional return to the small islands now under water

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Rachel Younger

Gladys Habu used to love spending days as a child on the island of Kale in the Solomon Islands - but now her memories are under water.Here she writes about her experience for ITV News.

December 30th 2009, I woke up to the view of the calm sea shimmering in the sunlight.

A trail of disturbed water, left by the passing boat, rushes ashore. My family had made plans to go for a picnic at our favourite spot on Kale Island, which is not far from the main village in Kia, Santa Isabel.

Excited for the day ahead, I stood up at the front of our boat as I usually do, but this time with my camera in hand. I could see Heta Heta island behind us and Rapita Ite passing by.

Only a few more miles ahead was Kale. I was 14 and aware of the unpredictable and changing climate, but for the first time in my life I realised how dramatically our beautiful Kale had changed.

I used to need my parents guidance through the island's thick forest - but now I could see just a few small trees by the water.

It was shocking. For years my family and I visited these nearby islands because, despite appearing uninhabited, they belonged to our people.

The Forest Gladys once knew has diminished.

Kale in particular was so close to our hearts, but the sad reality was it changed every year. The island was shrinking rapidly and all I could do was document what I saw with photographs.

There was nothing much we could do to protect it. By December 2014, we found ourselves in the boat, floating over what used to be Kale Island.

All around us were a few old branches sticking out of the turquoise ocean.

Beneath the crystal-clear water was the white sand that my siblings and I used to play on, with some dead coconut trunks still held intact.

The memories of my childhood came flooding back. No more laughter on the beach or the sound of birds chirping in the dense forest.

Branches stick out of the ocean now.

Only five years later and Kale is gone forever. To my family, Kale was more than a picnic island.

A couple of generations back my grandfather and his family actually lived there. They had a big house, planted various root crops and fruit trees and would get their source of protein from the sea.

Like other families throughout the Solomon Islands, their wealth relied on making the most of the resources on land and sea.

My generation didn’t get to do everything they did in the past, but we experienced part of our cultural heritage that my children would never.

Kale was our home and the loss of it was the loss of a great part of our livelihood.

Last week with a team from ITV News, I revisited Kale and almost couldn’t believe that there was an island there ten years ago.

Gladys couldn't believe what she saw when she visited the island with ITV News.

It breaks my heart, knowing I observed something millions of people worldwide could never even imagine.

There are many other people throughout Solomon Islands and the greater Pacific Islands region who have similar stories.

Our country’s industry contributes very little to the acceleration of global warming and, in turn, sea level rise and climate change.

Yet we are the ones facing its negative impacts on the frontline.

We have learnt to adapt and fight but we can’t do it on our own. I believe as people of planet earth and climate change action fighters we can do more to slow down this harmful process.

We need global support. Let us stand together and protect what we have left of our heritage.

My name is Gladys Habu, this is my story.