A safe arrival in Papeete, Tahiti


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June 23rd 2008
Published: June 23rd 2008
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Anaho Bay on Nuku HivaAnaho Bay on Nuku HivaAnaho Bay on Nuku Hiva

Anaho Bay on Nuku Hiva
May 30
OK, here’s the text that did NOT get uploaded to the blog in the Marquesas.
Well, we’ve been living on the boat for about four months now, we’ve sailed over 5,000 nautical miles together, and we’re all still friends! We left the Galapagos over two months ago, spending 22 days at sea on the crossing to the Marquesas Islands. At 3,210 nautical miles, that will be our longest ocean passage between home and New Zealand. (A nautical mile is 6,000 feet, a bit longer than a statute mile, so that works out to almost 3,700 of the more familiar land miles… a long way to be out of sight of land.)

The Marquesas are the youngest of the French Polynesian island groups, steep volcanic islands that have not existed long enough to develop rings of surrounding coral reef. While all related, formed in the same geologic process and time frame, each island has its own character. Here are a few notes on the five islands we visited.

Our first landfall was Fatu Hiva, the southernmost and least populated of the six main islands, where Thor Heyerdahl spent a year living in the jungle on the first of
Catch of the dayCatch of the dayCatch of the day

Catch of the day...Walter with his wahoo!
his celebrated south sea adventures. We got well initiated in the art of “wet landings,” actually capsizing the dinghy on our first trip ashore. We’ve since become much more adept at negotiating the surf as it breaks onto the boulder beaches commonly found here. On Hiva Oa we completed immigration formalities with the French Gendarmes, and visited an archaeological site containing the largest carved stone “tikis” this side of Easter Island. The island of Tahuata was formed not as erupted cones, but as broken layers of the ocean floor uplifted by subsurface volcanic activity, yielding much steeper cliffs which accentuate the isolation of small communities tucked into deep valleys. There we found some of the Marquesas’ finest artisans, carving in stone, bone and wood. A surplus of jellyfish put a bit of a damper on our swimming, but all the fish feeding on the jellies attracted a group of several dozen dolphins who spent an entire day with us in Hapatoni Bay, slowly crossing back and forth around our anchorage, doing dolphin gymnastics between feeding forays. Ua Pou had the most dramatic landscape, with a cluster of great spires of rock jutting up several thousand feet from the center of
Cyril the tatooed bone carver- (not a cannibal)Cyril the tatooed bone carver- (not a cannibal)Cyril the tatooed bone carver- (not a cannibal)

Cyril the tatooed bone carver- (not a cannibal)
the island, like huge crystals in an enormous mineral specimen. Theory has it that these basaltic spires formed and cooled below the surface of the ocean, later being uplifted above sea level to form the island. Nuku Hiva, the largest island, is a single volcanic cone made up of a series of concentric ridges surrounding the flooded crater which forms Taiohae Bay, site of the capital of the Marquesas. Among the many deep and sheltered bays around the island is Taipi valley, scene of Herman Melville’s sojourn among the cannibals which he chronicled in his first book, Typee. The practice of eating people has long since been abandoned, but vestiges of the fierce Marquesan warrior culture can be seen in the beautifully tattooed faces and bodies of many of the local folk. The effect is quite striking when an athletic young man rows by in his outrigger canoe, tattoos completely covering one half of his body, in designs accentuating the bones and muscles of his face and torso.

After leaving the Marquesas, we’ve since spent a couple weeks in the next island group, the Tuamotus. Completely different from the high-profile volcanic islands of the Marquesas, the Tuamotus are a
Derrold's original dream- Heyerdahl's book on Fatu HivaDerrold's original dream- Heyerdahl's book on Fatu HivaDerrold's original dream- Heyerdahl's book on Fatu Hiva

Derrold's original dream- Heyerdahl's book on Fatu Hiva
scattering of coral atolls rising only a few feet above sea level. They were long considered a hazardous place to sail because, unlike a mountainous island looming on the horizon, the atolls are difficult to see from any distance and many ships have been wrecked by running aground on the reefs. With modern GPS navigation we were not taken by surprise that way, but still practiced very careful navigation. The Tuamotus presented a new set of challenges for our sailing skills, and a very different landscape to explore.

Internet access has been unimaginably painfully laboriously frustratingly slow. We’ve now arrived in Papeete, and finally found internet connectivity capable of uploading to the blog. Hope to post again before leaving Tahiti, to give you an update on our time in the Tuamotus and Society archipelagos.



Additional photos below
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Flying fish, frequently found on deckFlying fish, frequently found on deck
Flying fish, frequently found on deck

Flying fish, frequently found on deck
Hapatoni Bay, TahuataHapatoni Bay, Tahuata
Hapatoni Bay, Tahuata

Hapatoni Bay, Tahuata
Copra drying shed.  Sold for coconut oil, copra was long a pillar of the island economyCopra drying shed.  Sold for coconut oil, copra was long a pillar of the island economy
Copra drying shed. Sold for coconut oil, copra was long a pillar of the island economy

Copra drying shed. Sold for coconut oil, copra was long a pillar of the island economy
Happy days in the MarquesasHappy days in the Marquesas
Happy days in the Marquesas

Happy days in the Marquesas
Horizontal swimmer tikiHorizontal swimmer tiki
Horizontal swimmer tiki

Horizontal swimmer tiki
Laundry day in Hanavave BayLaundry day in Hanavave Bay
Laundry day in Hanavave Bay

Laundry day in Hanavave Bay
Leaving the spires of Ua Pou in the distanceLeaving the spires of Ua Pou in the distance
Leaving the spires of Ua Pou in the distance

Leaving the spires of Ua Pou in the distance
Life on the boat!Life on the boat!
Life on the boat!

Life on the boat!
Lizards on the rockLizards on the rock
Lizards on the rock

Lizards on the rock
Looking into the gills of a tunaLooking into the gills of a tuna
Looking into the gills of a tuna

Looking into the gills of a tuna
Marnie in Hanavave BayMarnie in Hanavave Bay
Marnie in Hanavave Bay

Marnie in Hanavave Bay
Marquesan hospitality in ViatahuMarquesan hospitality in Viatahu
Marquesan hospitality in Viatahu

Marquesan hospitality in Viatahu
Moments before the dinghy capsizedMoments before the dinghy capsized
Moments before the dinghy capsized

Moments before the dinghy capsized
On the trail!On the trail!
On the trail!

On the trail!
Outrigger canoe - the Marquesan mode of transportOutrigger canoe - the Marquesan mode of transport
Outrigger canoe - the Marquesan mode of transport

Outrigger canoe - the Marquesan mode of transport
Picture postcard sunsetPicture postcard sunset
Picture postcard sunset

Picture postcard sunset
Overlooking Hanavave BayOverlooking Hanavave Bay
Overlooking Hanavave Bay

Overlooking Hanavave Bay
Puamau tiki on Hiva OaPuamau tiki on Hiva Oa
Puamau tiki on Hiva Oa

Puamau tiki on Hiva Oa
Quoted as 'The most beautiful walk in the South Pacific' - a wild and rash claim!Quoted as 'The most beautiful walk in the South Pacific' - a wild and rash claim!
Quoted as 'The most beautiful walk in the South Pacific' - a wild and rash claim!

Quoted as 'The most beautiful walk in the South Pacific' - a wild and rash claim!
The four crusadersThe four crusaders
The four crusaders

The four crusaders
The ukelele being demonstrated by our host during an evening soiree in HanavaveThe ukelele being demonstrated by our host during an evening soiree in Hanavave
The ukelele being demonstrated by our host during an evening soiree in Hanavave

The ukelele being demonstrated by our host during an evening soiree in Hanavave
Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, a flooded volcanic calderaTaiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, a flooded volcanic caldera
Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, a flooded volcanic caldera

Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva, a flooded volcanic caldera


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