Find out what it’s like to live on Pingelap, the island of the colour blind

On the remote Pacific island of Pingelap, people see things differently. Very differently.

That’s because Pingelap has one of the world’s highest rates of Achromatopsia, a rare and extreme form of colour-blindness that usually only affects 1 in 30,000 people. On Pingelap, that rate is closer to 1 in 10.

How did that happen? Historians and geneticists believe Pingelap’s unusually high rate of Achromatopsia can be traced back to a natural disaster which struck the island in 1775 — a powerful typhoon that wiped out all but 20 of the island’s inhabitants at the time.

It’s not that the typhoon itself caused the condition, but rather that it resulted in what’s known as a population bottleneck. Because the island was repopulated by just 20 survivors, any rare genes carried by one of those survivors would be more prevalent after a few generations, because the carrier of that gene would than have become the ancestor of a large percentage of the population.

In this case, one of those 20 survivors was the King of Pingelap, Nanmwarki Mwanenihsed, who is believed to have been a carrier of Achromatopsia.

Now that the island is home to a large population of people living with the condition, it has attracted the attention of geneticists, anthropologists, and photographers.

And one recent photographer to tackle the subject of Pingelap’s Achromatopsia is Sanne De Wilde, who made the arduous journey to the island not just to take photos, but to reimagine them as they might look through the eyes of Pingelap’s inhabitants.

Some achromatopes can only see black and white, while some may have some residual perception of other colours. They also suffer blurred vision in bright light, making it difficult for them to see properly during the day.

With this in mind, De Wilde de-colourized her photos from the island to reflect what the island of Pingelap likely looks like to the people who call it home. And her results are not only fascinating, but beautiful as well: