Many centuries ago, the meuram tribal people lived on the northeastern section of Erub (Darnley Island, Torres Strait). Three other tribes – the Samsep, Saisarem and Peidu also occupy the island to the west and the south-west of the Meurams. The Samsep and the Peidu share “au nener” (traditional borders) with my people the Meurams. One day the “koiet baba” (principal chief) of my peoples sent the Meuram hunters out to sea to capture the first mating female turtle of the annual season, so they could celebrate with a tribal feasting and dancing. So the the hunters set off in their two “au narr” (big canoe) led by a man named “desarr” and the lead hunter “damoi” accompanied by the “pazar” (crewman). The village chief and people stood on the beach at “keirari” (main village of the Meuram peoples) wishing them successful hunting. Bonau, Damoi’s favourite wife and children were also there to say goodbye. But there was a strange atmosphere unlike previous hunting trips when they sailed off to the east.
Many miles out at sea the hunting party spotted “sirwarr” (mating turtles). Damoi stood up at the bow of the canoe with the wap (harpoon). When the sirwarr was several meters from the canoe, damoi leapt over and harpooned the female turtle. Then disaster struck, damoi got tangled in the “amo” (harpoon rope) along with the “alba” (accompanying male turtle). So the female and tangled male turtle towed the leading canoe further out to sea. The other hunters tried to free damoi without cutting the amo but with no avail. The canoe continued to be dragged out to sea until the highest hill on Erub could not be seen. In the end the hunters cut the rope hoping Damoi would free himself but their efforts proved futile. The sirwarr, albe and damoi went many times to the “ub” (ocean floor) to the deepest part of the sea called (saam karem) and when they came up for air again the meuram hunters saw that damoi was now dead. The tangled turtles went down with damoi again and disappeared. But desarr, damoi’s friend ordered the hunting parties to paddle onwards out to sea to find and recover his friends body. But unfortunately damoi was lost at sea forever.
After realizing their fresh water was now finished the hunters struggled back against the strong fast easterly currents, without the help of their mat sails because the wind had died down. So they paddled on till they were thirsty and exhausted. Soon they saw “kerged” a small high coral cay, so they paddled to it for safety. They knew they could see Erub to the west and Mer (Murray Island) to the south-west. When the Meuram hunters got to kerged they collapsed in there canoes waiting for death to come and end their misery.
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As desarr lay on the bow platform dying, a little reef bird called “toleh” (sand piper) flew down and sat down near to him. Toleh then flew back and forth to the top of the sand cay several times before desarr noticed the toleh was landing on top of bobbing “zorr” (pumice stone) like it was on water. Desarr struggled up and made his way to the top of the coral cay and when he got there he pushed the pumice stones apart and found fresh water. He drank the water to give him strength; he then went back to the canoes and got the others to the pool of water so they could regain their strength as well. After they did, desarr told them how the toleh had led him to the water and they all acknowledged the bird as the spirit of their lost tribesman Damoi who they thought had come back to save them from certain death. (This is why Erub people call the sand piper “toleh” to this day; it means, “there is a person inside this bird”. And so the Meuram hunters found a huge and unusual “izerr” (bailer shell) on kerged which they filled with the remaining water and then set off towards home the next day.
When the hunters had gone some distance from kerged they drank some more water from the izerr, and to their dismay the water remained at the same level regardless of how much they drank. They came to realize that this was “zogo ni” (sacred story water). Travelling further west they had soon arrived at their “ged nor” (home reef). Approaching keirari from the east they could see their Meuram people lining the shore to welcome them back.
The village “zogo le” (witch doctor) had informed the principal village chief the night before that a tragedy had befallen the tribe but that something positive would come of this misfortune. As soon as the canoes were beached the sad news was announced, the meuram people went into mourning. Damois’ wives rubbed themselves with ash and cried aloud, but his favorite wife believed he was still out at sea and was one day going to return. So she went to the reef’s edge and waited and cried till she changed into a big “Bonau” (brain coral) were she remains till this day.
The men of the village removed the big bailer shell from the leading canoe and hung it up with “kolap lagerr” (woven rope) from a shady wongai tree. When in the sun or moon’s light it could be seen from afar it was the joy of the Meuram people. For many years the Meuram tribe enjoyed the “zogo ni” for everyday life use such as healing and gardening. They guarded this water jealously keeping it a secret from the other Erub tribes, living prosperous and sickness-free lives for many years.