Waiting for the container to come…and go


We spent a lot of time on Tanna Island waiting.

We waited four days for our shipping containers to arrive. They had been delayed by big seas following the earliest-ever cyclone in the Pacific.

We waited all of Friday, also known as ‘container arrival day’ for our containers to be unloaded, despite being up at 6am ready to get to work.

Our schedules had been rearranged to allow for us to unload the essential items in the containers, including fridges, medical equipment, donated clothes and most importantly, our snacks and coffee.


No-one can disinfect better than a nurse or three – Nat, Ness and Sam go to war against gastro.

While we waited to find out what was happening, some of us disinfected the room and toilets used by the gastro girls, two of whom had been moved to the neighbouring Tanna Lodge so they could recuperate with a closer toilet.

Then most of us headed to the wharf – only to find the ship had not yet docked.

I headed back to the village, where Dr Jo and I saw two patients, while the others waited at the wharf.

Lunch-time came and everyone else arrived back from their wharf-side wait. After a bit of a lie down, we headed to the wharf to wait some more.

It was obvious the containers were still on the ship, so we sat on the beach … to wait.


There was a beautiful little girl throwing stones in the water.  But team member Ness, noticing that the girl was playing among rusty cans and broken glass, initiated a clean-up. We all joined in, even the little girl, and removed a couple of bag fulls of rubbish.

Then there was movement at the ship, so we headed to the wharf, only to spend another two hours of, you guessed it, waiting.

Finally at 4pm, we were able to start unloading the container. We only had a small truck, which we filled almost to the hilt, then stuffed the remaining spaces with people.

bridging health container unloading tanna

There wasn’t much room to move on the wharf


so we created a human chain


Workplace safety officer Michelle asks Max if he really should be lifting that weight…


Perhaps he should let Audrey do it.


Chief Jeff supervising



All on board the loaded truck for the first of three loads

Success at last. Back at the village, the trucks’s contents were quickly piled onto an open space and the sorting began. Two more loads joined the first, and by the time it was dark we had lots of piles.

And the waiting was over. All that remained  was to get the two empty containers back to the village where they were to be converted into accommodation. A pad had been cleared, and our chippie Mick was keen to get a start.

However, island time being what it was, the containers were still sitting on the wharf the next day. And the next day, only one container.

The call came over the hand-held radio. “Some-one has stolen a container.”

“Sorry, repeat please,” says Michelle. “Did you say someone has stolen a container?!”

The expressions on faces varied, but the word gob-smacked pretty much covered them all.


The little white blob in the middle of the horizon is the container


Ricco (right) contemplates murder, Chief Jeff not too sure what to do


Chief security officer Michelle looks for her handcuffs


Megan arises from her sickbed to the first laugh she’s had in a few days

It was true – there was only one container left on the wharf. But who would steal a container, particularly when there was a very limited number of people with keys to the wharf AND the means to move it?

Soon after, it was spotted. On the horizon. Floating. Back to Australia.

Ok, so it wasn’t stolen. We knew where it was. All we had to do was find a boat to tow it back in, somehow get it back on to the wharf, and then get it to the village.

Easy.  Sounds like a job for Mick and Max.

Meanwhile, we had an important village to visit, where team organiser Ricco would reconnect with his family’s heritage.