Ibat and Twibba Islands
by Chris Wayan, 2012-2015
for Cecil the Seasick Seaserpent
More worlds? Planetocopia!
The Twibba and Ibat Islands are twin chains of volcanic and fault-block islands flanking the mid-sea rift (spreading zone) that creates fully half the islands on Kakalea. They rise west of Suma and run in parallel chains along the equator for a good sixty degrees--longer than any Terran island chain.
This is the least developed tour, a mere outline. We do have an orbital photo of the islands, a map, and... wait, there may now be some portraits of the strange form that intelligent life has taken in these lonely islands: reefmaids.
These small chips off the Suma block wind west for a good 8000 km (5000 mi!) until the rift veers north into a dry zone. Not that the islands stop rising after that bend--the sea's too shallow for that!--but ecologically and culturally the Ibari Islands are quite different. North of them, the same rift/ridge creates the Nordic isle of Siba, different yet; then a long, temperate, twin chain, the Artaho Islands, that run all the way to East Ata, on the far side of the world--directly antipodal to the Twibba-Ibat group.
No surprise there! Earth's rift zones are all connected too; our high seas just hide the links between the few islands that break the surface. Iceland and Easter Island aren't obvious partners, but they really are bumps on the back of the same sea serpent. On Kakalea, the connections are easier to trace, that's all. Not just the Midgard Serpent but the Worm Ouroboros, biting its own tail...
DAY 1: Lelek Harbor at the western tip of Suma. You embark on a catamaran. North to Maablish, a slender ridge-island some 400 km long but never more than 80 wide (250 x 50 mi). The south shore is a straight, steep coast with no good harbors--the rim of the mid-sea rift, and very recently uplifted crust. Scarps and sheer cliffs above much of this shore.
DAY 2: You round the east end to the northern shore. Isles and heads all round. All emerald, all lush. We're so close to the equator here that there is no dry side to these isles. Or dry season, really. Rain, sun, rain, sun. You get used to it.
Coral reefs everywhere. You notice a rattan chart pegged up for the steerswoman to consult instantly, and the lookout hoots frequent warnings down.
Western Maablish looks like coastal Vietnam--limestone crags mushrooming with greenery in the regular rains. Ex-reefs raised by chance as the crust here, expanding against continent-sized resistance, corrugates.
DAY 4: west all day along a chain of coral atolls but no islands, trees, fresh water.
DAY 5: An islet just 25 km long (15 mi), called Dedwiizol. (The smaller the island, the longer the name! An eternal verity. But why, why?) Directions, water, fruit and greens. Kakaleans eat a fair amount of seafood but generally tilt herbivorous, as befits a rather equine herd creature. Your stout-hearted sailors crave salad.
DAY 6: no land in sight till later afternoon. Landfall on Aja, an L-shaped island 370 km long and just 50 wide (230 x 30 mi).
DAY 7: Up the north side of Aja.
DAY 8: Between Toki and Tiku. Dramatic fluted ridges snag clouds. Castles of erosion.
DAYS 9-11: The biggest island in the whole chain: Bwaildeh, some 600 km long. A couple of days up the north shore. Capes and bays, like Maablish or Aja writ large.
Now comes a stretch of 1600 km (1000 mi) with half a dozen Fiji-sized and Fiji-green islands:
DAY 12: between Mozbi and the Buk Islands
DAY 13: Massive Golt's volcanoes and coastal cliffs where flows have met the sea.
DAY 14: East Mozdok, two volcanoes fused with another offshore. West Mozdok, a long north-south ridge half-buried under lava flows from a last volcano in the south.
DAYS 15-16: Huge Sonikke--two islands really. The lesser eastern part's a blocky east-west strip like Puerto Rico, 160 km long and half as wide (100 x 50 mi). A low mile-wide isthmus links this to the western part, a roughly circular mass of volcanic flows fully 250 km across (150 mi); the biggest land, by far, since Bwaildeh. At just five degrees from the equator, it's dense rainforest on those rugged flows inland; nearly everyone lives on the coast. One might hope for New-Guinea-ish highlands above the constant rain, but only the summits of the four (major) overlapping shield volcanoes reach high enough to break into sun and have fern-fells. Mostly cloud forest. Kakaleans find the drip, drip, drip just as annoying as you do. They live here, they call it home, but they stick to the drier coasts and go indoors when it rains: they too evolved on savanna.
DAY 17: The Yoahs off Sonikke's west end. Volcanic.
DAY 18: The Okami Islands--though all you see is the main island--a low ridge from horizon to horizon, 275 km (165 mi). An all-day trip along the south shore. Green wall. Waterfalls. Fluted rock towers. Clouds. Seems like the craggy shore of an island even bigger than Sonikke. But when you reach the west end, looking back, you can see much of the north side--Okami's a bent needle, mostly 12-16 km wide (7-10 mi). What you saw was all there is.
This long scarp is just as typical of the rift zone as vulcanism--it's just that most are either below water or high enough to expose multiple ridges. Okami is a pure sample.
DAYS 19-20: the Gap. A day and a half west-northwest. Deep water, few reefs.
The Gap has biological implications! Up to this point the Ibats biologically and culturally resemble the near-continent of Suma you embarked from back on Cape Lelek. From here on, it's new territory.
Geographically, too, you've crossed a line. Literally. The Line. And as on Terran sailing ships, there's an initiation for equator-crossing virgins involving buckets and gettting sloshed (with seawater) then getting sloshed (with grog). Except that on Kakalea everyone gets sloshed (with both).
DAY 21: the western Ibats, north of the equator now...
Utzin, 100 km across, volcanic.
DAYS 22-24: South shore of Vrnen, biggest in the west--nine major volcanoes built three large islands, and eventually a flow linked all three with a narrow isthmus. Two days here. You notice the woods are opener and there are more cleared fields inland. We're creeping away from the equator; you can't really say Vrnen has a dry side, but certainly a less wet side.
DAYS 25-26: West to K'lar. Big, chunky, 210 km long (130 mi). Volcanic. Along the north shore.
DAYS 27-28: North to huge Sara, nearly as big as Vrnen or Sonikke. Here too, the southeast or lee shore is more open and sunny.
DAYS 29-30: S'raf, six hours due north, is even sunnier--clouds mass on the (north) slope and central ridges, but the south shore is sunny. Still wooded, but opener. Honolulu not rainforest.
DAYS 31-32: West-southwest a day to the last of the big islands, S'yera. Here, in contrast, you sail along the north shore. Wet. Everyone lives on the coast. Restock at Westport.
DAY 33: Northwest a full day over deep water, no land in sight, to the Miya Isles.
DAY 34: Through the Miyas. In recent weeks we've run mostly west, but increasingly with a northerly vector; we've crept away from the equator a bit, and now low atolls are noticeably drier. The more mountainous Miyas still catch rain--at least on one side. The Hawai'ian pattern.
DAY 35: North one more day to the last of the Ibats, Likinza. Really noticeable now--the south and west shores where you make land are grassy with raw red crags breaking through.
DAYS 36-37: If we kept going north we'd enter another climate zone and cultural world, a rather Mediterranean one: the Ibari Islands. But that's another tour! Instead, we'll make a long run west, a day and a half, over the Rift Valley to the northernmost of the Twibba Islands, the chain along the other lip of the rift.
DAYS 37-38: Kroel Islands. A scattering of Oahu-sized low shield volcanoes--too low to snag as much rain as most of the Ibats do. At this latitude the Kroels are partly wooded, partly grassy.
DAY 39: The Twibbas run east in general, but not at first. You sail due south!
DAYS 40-41: Amara and Raina.
DAYS 42-44: Southwest to Leira, a big isolated Fijian-sized island. Its extensive reefs are the origin of reefmaids (see below).
DAYS 45-46: Two days east to Duuva.
DAY 47: West to Chakata and along its southwest shore.
DAY 48: Half a day to Zambi. Restock.
DAYS 49-50: Recross the equator. The little Kerigreims. Well, little like Kauai...
DAY 51: Landfall on the biggest isle in the Twibbas, Verhaan.
DAYS 52-53: East along Verhaan's south shore. Rainy again. Jagged fluted ridges every which way. Islands and sea-stacks.
DAYS 54-55: Swing around Lunaka, one very big shield volcano. Twisting flows create two good harbors on the north side.
DAY 56-60: Green monotony. Ratkan, Kensto, Tori, little Wai Torzeh.
DAY 61: The long isle of Donabar.
DAY 62: A full day along its ragged north side--a maze of bays and ridges.
DAY 63: Cross to Shtin, east of Donabar.
DAY 64: A day to Keiti. We'll skip Vizhna, a round, volcanic isle rather like our Indian Ocean's Mauritius or Reunion. It's a long day's sail to the south.
DAY 65: Along the main line instead. Lesser isles for a day--the Martens.
DAY 66: Along the north shore of Eib. Non-volcanic. Another mountain wall, green laced with white cascades, wreathed in cloud.
DAY 67-68: two days through the Jeisi Isles--smaller, a mix of recent volcanoes and dissected ridges that might be old volcanic plugs or old reefs raised by the Rift. You can't tell by the color of the rock--none is visible. They're swathed in dense green--and banners of cloud.
DAY 69: southeast half a day to Cape Lelek--and home, at least for the crew.
Now you know why this tour has lagged so long in getting mapped and written up. A mere 16,000 km at sea--ten thousand miles. A hundred-plus inhabited islands. Yep. So small, I just overlooked it!
Biologically, the western Ibat and Twibba Islands are deeply odd--odder than mere tropical penguins or marine iguanas. Here, intelligent life has taken a strange turn. Kakalean vertebrates normally have a centauroid structure. But the natives here both look and behave unlike all other Kakaleans. They're amphibious, and appear to have evolved from something like a Terran octopus. Yet the arms aren't tentacles--they're limbs with an internal skeleton, joints and musculature quite like the arms of their centauroid sisters on the mainland.
I'm at a loss here. But then, a platypus makes no sense to me either.
My best guess: millennia ago, some centauroid castaways on lonely Leira Island, well southwest of the main chain, survived by dabbling around the pools and climbing trees--the horselike back-torso of a normal centauroid were awkward for swimming and the fur and tail never dried out. In this warm climate, fur went first. The forearms were vital for gathering food, but other limbs were eventually lost and the two torso-segments defining centaurism fused into one long, lithe serpent-body... How they got those grasping suckers, I can't understand, though their uses are obvious--a great holdfast when you're harvesting in strong currents or heavy surf.
They're equally comfortable in trees, picking fruit and leaves and insects (all of which, by now, they cultivate).
The most common and successful species is best represented by the lovely Tenta.
By the way--reefmaids call all Kakalean land-people, regardless of gender or species, shoremaids. Fair is fair.
Love-duet of Tenta (sea) and Filia (land) from The Little Shoremaid
Tenta's comfortable in tidepools and in trees; she's neatly streamlined down to essentials. If concision is a virtue, Tenta's a structural saint! Sensing, speech, eating, locomotion, reproduction, nursing, even basic tool-use, all in an incredibly light package. The perfect balloonist, the lightest ballerina, the ideal astronaut!
There are limits imposed. Her people can build a fire, perhaps even smelt metal and fire pottery; but they can't leave the sea entirely. The vast savannas and outback deserts of Kakalea are inaccessible. Tenta and her tribe are not in an evolutionary dead end, nor even cut off from Kakalean life--most culture is coastal, after all. But Tenta's slow and small by mainland standards.
My little rant has a point. Tenta's limited by her ancestry. But we only see that compared to her land-animal ancestry--and despite appearances, she's descended from normal Kakalean centauroids. But now compare Earth's animals to Kakalean centauroids. Earth birds are very, very smart--but they're awkward tool-users with no dedicated hands--just clumsy hand-feet or beaks, constrained by their other vital functions from developing into a sophisticated hand. Mammals too, with VERY few exceptions--remember elephants!--lack a good hand. Even apes are clumsy. In contrast, centauroids have always had dedicated hands, useful for everything from grooming to food-grasping to toolmaking to sex.
We live on the Island of Misfit Toys. But without proper Science Fictional Estrangement (hello, Barbietaurs), you'll never notice.
Of course, the real evolutionary pressure behind the Galapagosity of these islands is... evolution is a lie! Species are immutable and created by Almighty Plod, that thrifty if unimaginative fellow. Knowing that Nature hates waste, Plod (naturally!) did his best to imitate Her--for plausibility's sake only, I'm sure (Plod only sorts His trash when people are looking. You know that sort of deity). But for a public showcase like Kakalea, recycling is de rigueur. So here's my...
Recipe for Centaur Creation
(requires 6 days labor (rest on 7th), 2 Barbies, tiny saw, drill, a nail, glue, paint; no Eden or spareribs required)
- Find two Barbies with similar hair-color, both deserving to die. If you thought "that would be all Barbies", you are cynical, but may proceed with the recipe.
- Lift up the Barbie with more character in her face unto your right hand, and spare her. For now.
- Grasp the Barbie with the blander smile in your left hand. Saw her in two, cutting along her collarbone.
- Cast her sappy head and arms into the outer darkness. All you care about is below the neck. You are apparently that sort of deity.
- Glue these loser hindquarters onto the better Barbie's butt.
- Fish the severed head up from the outer darkness. Oops. Next time cast into limbo--easier recall. Snip off falls of hair, and glue them on a bendable wire or nail in successive waves till you've built a tail.
- Drill a hole in the hind-butt but only when other gods won't see, because it looks too kinky. Insert the tail. Ditto.
- Smooth the junction between fore and hind-torsos. You may have to file ragged edges. Think of this as tough love. Caulk the cracks. Let dry.
- Dab thick paint to create spiky fur. Scrape with comb or pins for finer texture. Let dry.
- Paint colors--fur pattern, bare skin, lips, eyes. Let dry.
- Touch gloss on the eyes, lips, nails and elsewhere if she's all excited, or you are. Let dry... et voilà! One Barbietaur.
For example, here's the frankensteining of Fuchsia, a flower-tattooed dancer-explorer you've seen sailing up jungle rivers and seducing the sun in metaphysical musicals.
TRIGGER WARNING! if you're about to undergo colonoscopy, skip #4. If you're not, skip #4 anyway. You'll never trust a power drill again.
Ah, but what to do with the extra head and arms? They build up, you see. And we must recycle! Plastic is forever...
That long tentacle-body? I found it on the sidewalk one day after Halloween. The parts just came together. I had no choice. It was my civic duty.
And then she needed a lonely Galapagos home where she'd plausibly evolve. So here we are... in the Isles of Misfit Toys. Except that I'm no longer so sure Tenta's any more a misfit than we are.
But I do grieve for wolves, parrots, ravens, whales... all the brilliant, handless creatures we take for granted as marvels of evolution. And they are... within the limits their streamlined ancestors imposed.
And what senses and abilities do we few lucky handed creatures lack, that we can't even imagine?
Many of the island-names in this archipelago (plus a few in the northern Pem Sish to the east) are tributes to early 21st Century furry artists, particularly those drawing centauroids and merfolk. Kakalean spelling is phonetic, unlike English, so they won't all be as easily recognizable as Ursula Vernon, Donna Barr and her Stinz, or Bernard Doove and his Chakats. But they're there, dozens of them.
Leira, the home isle of the reefmaids, is not a coded tribute to a furry artist; it's just the Little Mermaid's name spelled backward.
Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea
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