Journal, Marquesas Islands, 1999
July 31, 1999 / Taiohae, Nukuhiva
The Hokule'a crew for the leg to Mangareva arrived at Nukuhiva Airport, July 26. Tava Taupu, T. Hee, et al, from the first crew met us at the airport. In the hills above the airport, we were greeted by Marquesan schoolchildren at a summer camp.
The children presented traditional songs and dances; bananas and grapefruit were ono.
Tava, a native of Taiohae, pointed out two kuku, an endangered native pigeon, flying across the valley. Hills are being planted with pines for forestry, replacing the native flora, one tree akin to Hawai'i's 'ohi'a lehua. A three hour drive overland on dirt and rock road across mountains and central plateau called Tovii takes us to Taiohae. From the heights of Mouake, the road winds down to the U-shaped bay of Taiohae, opening to the south, with Ua Pou on the horizon, 20 miles away. Hokule'a was anchored on the west side of the bay.
Before departure on August 2: Redoing battens on canvas sleeping compartments, esp. the two nicknamed "the Swamp" and "Niagra Falls" on the first leg. Batteries for radio and running lights not recharging; Aldon Kim working on the eletrical system. Canoe is in top shape, thanks to the first crew. G. Yuen, Mona Shintani, and Mel Paoa building a new toilet seat for the canoe.
July 29: loading water and supplies under Moana Doi. July 30: on board training under Captain/Navigator C. Baybayan. July 31: prep for thank you paina on Aug 1, make imu and kalua pig.
Multilingual camp set up at a paddling canoe club house: Marquesan, Hawaiian, English, and French spoken. Mona, from Ni'ihau, talking Hawaiian in his sleep! Nukuhiva canoe club training for the paddling race across Hawai'i's Kaiwi channel. Watched action video by M. Attwood of the voyage to Nukuhiva, scenes of crew under Bruce Blankenfeld catching an ono, searching for land to the west, turning around, sighting Eiao in the morning rain squalls. July 28: celebrated crew member G. Suzuki's birthday with barbequed goat, a Marquesan delicacy. Crew members T. Gilliom, R. Amimoto, and K. Hoe helped pack out the goat, shot last week by Kimitete Kamehameha and another Marquesan at a remote valley on the north side.
Cultural exchanges: D. Anton and M. Attwood teaching a Hawaiian song and a chant to children at the school next to the canoe club. Maka carving stones to present as gifts to the school next door and the Nuku a Hoe canoe club.
Three crew members (Gary Y., Tim, and Russell) get Marquesan tatoos.
Tava took C. Fuller, K. Akaka, and me on a journey through his childhood and family traditions in the valley of Pakiu, K. recording it on video. Walked up a six-foot wide stone path, the ancient road that ascends up a ridge to Mouake pass and across the central plateau to all parts of the island. Paepae (stone house foundations) line the trail. Stopped at the me'ae (temple) of Pakoko, famous Marquesan warrior and ancestor of Tava, four generations ago. Pakoko led the Marquesan resistance to the French during his time. Tava stopped on a stone above a stream to point out where his ancestress bathed in the blood of a Frenchman who had raped her, after the rapist was killed by Pakoko.
August 2, 1999 / Taiohae, Nukuhiva
Departure of Hokule'a to Hakahau, Ua Pou was delayed till midnight tonight. An ARGOS transponder for tracking the canoe and a charger for a Betacam that will be used to document the voyage came in on a flight from Pape'ete to Nukuhiva yesterday but got stuck at the airport after the delivery truck broke down.
The airport closes down for the night and doesn’t open till the next flight comes in at 11 the following morning. Ro'o Kimitete, the mayor of Taiohae, was going out to the airport to pick up his wife Deborah, who was returning from Pape'ete, so he offered to pick up the equipment for us this morning.
Our camera man Hugh just came out to the escort boat Kamahele with the charger in hand...so it made the 2.5 hour journey over the mountains safely. It's too late to depart for Ua Pou now...the five hour sail would take us into the harbor of Hakahau at nightfall...a dangerous maneuver in an unfamiliar place. So Captain/Navigator Baybayan decided to sail at midnight and arrive at the harbor at dawn. The new plan is a plus for the crew, as we will be sailing at night under the stars--a good time to orient the new crew members to navigating by celestial bodies.
The nights have been mostly clear, with passing trade wind clouds... full of star, the Milky Way stretching from the Southern Cross setting in the west to Vega and Altair rising in the east... Musca, the Pointers, Atria in the Southern Triangle, Maui's Fishhook (Scorpio), and the Peacock in the Southern sky, which is fully visible (mountains surround Taiohae on the east, north, and west). The Milky Way is known as the Shark in some parts of Polynesia and Maui's fishhook is set in it.
The navigators have been studying their southern pointers...pairs of stars that point to the South Celesital Pole, which is 9 degrees above the horizon in Taiohae (but below the horizon in Hawai'i.)
The plan is to pull two of the three anchors at 4 p.m.today, have dinnner at 6 (final farewells) and rest on the canoe before getting under way at midnight, when the last anchor will be pulled. The crew members who have been here since the canoe got in three weeks ago have been adopted into the community and feel like they are leaving home again. Many thanks to the Nuku a Hoe canoe club for hosting us at their club house and the rest of the community of Taiohae for all their support. The crew has been well taken care of.
Winds have been easterly trades at 10-15 knots for the whole week. Today the winds were E by S, a good wind to get us to Ua Pou.
Captain Baybayan has been invited by the mayor of Vaitahu on Tahuata to visit, so we will be anchoring there rather than at Hana moe noa. The village of Vaitahu has a canoe building project going.
A voyage is a lei of greetings and farewells. The mayor Ro'o Kimitete and his wife Deborah came to say farewell. Ro'o did a chant honoring Tanaoa god of the ocean. The crew was presented with tiare leis, then departed to sleep on the canoe. Most the the crew members gave their leis to the canoe, realizing that it is not the individuals that are honored, but Hokule'a. It was a time to reflect on all who have sailed her over the last 25 years, who have made her great and famous throughout Polynesia, particularly the crew of the first voyage, who had ventured out into the unknown with navigator Mau Piailug. It's hard to believe a generation has passed...crew member Mona Shintani is the nephew of Hokule's first captain in 1976, Kawika Kapahulehua. Deborah recalls that she was in France when Hokule'a first arrived in Tahiti, but her father told her about the arrival, and she saw the photographs of the thousands who came out to see the canoe.
August 3, 1999 / Ua Pou
We left Taiohae Bay at 4 am so that we would arrive in Hakahau, Ua Pou, at about 10 a.m. for a welcome ceremony.
This island is famous for its spires of stone that rise hundreds of feet from the mountain ridges and summits above the town...no other sight like it in the world.
A dance group greeted the canoe.
The leader of the dance group, Petrano Toti, took the crew on a short tour of the island, south of Hakahau...to the valley of the king...a place that was kapu after the first and only king of Ua Pou died. He was considered a god so after he died, no one could live in the valley...the paepae of his house is still intact, a large stone platform in the middle of the bushes off the side of the road.
Toti was quite a storyteller: he told of Makaianui, the pig demigod, of the Marquesas, and how once when the islanders were starving, a tuhuna called out to the pig god and he arrived with aku all over his body, having bitten his bristles. He shook his body and the aku fell off, to feed the people. The pig god himself sacrificed his own body to feed the people as well.
A version of the story of Makaianui appears in "Von den Steinem's Marquesan Myths" (pp. 32-35):
[Editor Jennifer Terrell interprets this story as a nature allegory: Aka-ui, the wind god, brings pigs (metaphorically life-giving rain clouds) on the ESE trade winds from Hiva Oa to Ua Pou, particularly during the winter wet season; Toaetini represents the dry season, when there is less food available; the two girls are the clouds that hover at the tops of the mountains and sprinkle only lightly.
On the way back to the harbor, Petrano went into the lush roadside vegetation to cut a bunch of bananas as a gift to the canoe.
August 4, 1999 / Hane, Ua Huka
Crew member Tava Taupu told me on the sail to Ua Huka, that the story of Makaianui explains the mana of pig bristles on aku lures. The aku somehow are attracted to it. Aku lures in both Hawai'i and the Marquesas have pig bristles on them.
Hokule'a arrived at 11 a.m. this morning at Hane, a small bay on the southern coast of Ua Huka, the easternmost island of the northern Marquesan group.
The bay opens into small valley, filled with a small village and coconuts palms up to steep pali at the back. Kaniela Akaka handled the protocol of arrival for Hokule'a.
We were greeted by Leon Lichtle, the mayor of Ua Huka, and given a tour of the southern coast. The island looks like a large crater, half of which has fallen into the ocean,the northern rim still intact. A group of dancers performed a dance of canoe building and a song praising the valleys of the island. We will be departing early this evening, perhaps before sunset, for Tahuata in the southern Marquesan group, 65 miles away.
NOTES ON UA HUKA: the bay of Hane where we landed on August 4 was where Dr. Sinoto found pottery fragments from an early Polynesian settlement, c. 250-300 AD. It is the earliest archaeological site in the Marquesas. The road along the southern coast runs from Hane to Vaipaee, winding around the steep sea cliffs (with no guard rails!). The landscape is mainly dry grasslands, where wild horses and goats roam, cut through by lush green valleys where rivers run down from the northern mountains. On the way to Vaipaee we stopped at a botanical garden with plants from all over the world. Mayor Lichtle said they were experimenting with the plants (e.g. orange trees) to find those that grow well for commerical purposes on Ua Huka. In Vaipaee, we visited a museum which displayed some original and some reproductions of Marquesan artifacts.
August 5, 1999 / Vaitahu, Tahuata
Hokule'a anchored Friday morning in Vaitahu, a small bay and village on the leeward side of Tahuata, the smallest populated island in the Marquesas, with 19 sq. miles and 600-700 inhabitants.
We left Hane, Ua Huka, at 6 pm yesterday; the projected 13-hour sail to Tahuata turned into a 20.5-hour sail and tow. During the night, the canoe made a course of Hema (South) and was set 32 miles WNW of Tahuata by the ESE tradewinds and the west-flowing current. We picked up the tow from escort boat Kamahele at 6 am and were towed for 8 1/2 hours, into Vaitahu, anchoring at about 2:30 pm yesterday.
We were greeted by the mayor and a dance and drum group of schoolchildren; had an excellent meal at the mayor's house--raw and cooked fish, raw and cooked a'ama crab, pork, chicken, breadfruit, kalo, etc. Spent the night on the canoe. A strange wind gusted out of the valley all night, apparently coming over the steep mountains in the back. The shade-rain tarps flapped wildly each time a gust blew. The bottom of the bay is steep so anchors do not hold well. The crew had to reset the anchors at 3 am this morning. Today the crew will tour the town and then go in boats to visit Hapatoni valley a few miles down the coast.
The bay of Vaitahu is rich in fauna. Just offshore as we approached, we saw piles of aku birds off the starboard side. Fisherman Terry Hee landed some aholehole and akule from the canoe last night with a light rod and reel. Gary Yuen fried them for breakfast-ono! Some ulua were swimming around the canoe last night, as well as the ubiquitous mano (shark). (Tava says that the Marquesans never swim for recreation as the waters around all the islands are shark-infested, but fishing from canoes and boats and diving are part of the people's livelihood.) A school of porpoises feeds in the bay--they look smaller and darker than the porpoises in Hawai'i. This morning, while we were preparing breakfast, a lone 'iwa bird soared above, fishing the bay...He dropped his fish in mid-air then swooped down to catch it in its sharp beak again...Tava said the 'iwa did this to kill the fish.
This afternoon the crew went by boat to Hapatoni, which is situated on a narrow strip of land beneath the cliffs. The village has no cars and there is no road in. The crew was greeted by the children of the school with dances and a meal of fish and fruit.
The newly-formed Hokule'a dance troupe (M. Doi, C. Fuller, N. Wilson, and A. Polo), with musicians K. Akaka and D. Antone, responded with "Hi'ilawe" and "Aloha Kaua'i." In the village, Mel Paoa met more of the Paoa family that has spread throughout Polynesia.
Captain Baybayan plans to depart this afternoon before sunset. Makanani Attwood will present the mayor with a stone petroglyph of the canoe when we depart this afternoon. We will arrive tomorrow morning in Fatu Hiva, the southernmost of the Marquesas islands and spend a day there, then depart before sunset for Hiva Oa, our final stop in these emerald mountains rising out of the sea. We should arrive in Hiva Oa on Sunday morning.
August 6, 1999 / To Fatu Hiva
The canoe left Vaitahu, Tahuata, on August 6 at 5 pm. Hokule'a was towed by Kamahele down the leeward coast of Tahuata, close to shore, so the crew could say goodbye to the people of Hapatoni, a village they had visited earlier in the day. The sun was setting in a cloudless, deep blue sky. The spires of Ua Pou were visible one house north of the sun, like little fingers protruding from the horizon.
A flock of about 30 noio (noddy terns) appeared, flapping out of the sun, returning home; 'iwa (frigate birds) circled above the steep mountainside covered with hau, coconut, mango, banyan and a few albizzia trees, their vibrant greens tinged with orange sunlight. A few goats climbed a cliff. Our hunter Aldon Kim swore one day he would be back for them.
As Hokule'a approached Hapantoni at sunset, M. Attwood, K. Hoe, and K. Akaka let loose some blasts of their pu (conch) and the children and parents came out to wave goodbye.
Tava Taupu stood on the navigator's platform and started shouting: "Aloha nui! I love you! Kaoha nui ia outou! Eo Nukuhiva! Eo Vaitahu! Eo Hapatoni! Eo Hawai'i!"
Tava has been rejuvenated by his visit to his homeland. Earlier in Vaitahu he met a childhood friend. When he left in the sixties there were no cars and airplanes, only horses and boats. "Aloha nui! I love you! Kaoha nui ia outou!" he shouted again, one arm raised and waving goodbye. His voice echoed and faded in the darkening mountainside. We were towed out of sight of the villagers. When we turned the southern end of Tahuata, the wind and seas came at us again. Hokule'a towed through the night to Fatu Hiva, tacking there a too time-consuming exercise for its tight schedule.
We approached the island before dawn under a waning crescent moon, anchors down by 8 am. The small bay is spectacular, with huge monolithic stones towering overhead on three sides.
Fatu Hiva,the southernmost island of the Marquesas, has even fewer people than Tahuata--about 300.
No one told the villagers we were coming, but they were happy to host Hokule'a and Kamahele. The children and their parents began lining the shore. The women brought flowers and leaves and began making waist bands, head dresses, and lei for a dance performance.
The mayor greeted us at his house, and invited us to a dinner at 7 pm. The crew hiked up to Vai-Ee, a 100-foot waterfall at the back of the valley with some of the children.
On the way up, we saw petroglyphs.
Tava disappeared on his own to explore the valley, and when he came back, he was wearing a head-wreath of ferns.
When we returned to the canoe, the children swam out to the canoe and hung out, eating peanut butter and crackers.
At 6:30 the 100 or so villagers began showing up with food at some tables set up near the shore. After dinner, six musicians and about 24 dancers, men and women, boys and girls broke out in dance, the beating drums booming in the still night air; the backdrop was coconut trees, pitch black cliffs, and the Southern Cross, the Pointers, Maui's Fishhook, and the Milky Way arching above all. It was amazing what the people had put together without notice...
Notes on Vai-Ee Waterfall at the Back of Valley of Hanavave
The crew visited this waterfall and some of the brave practiced lele kawa (cliff jumping) from a ledge 40 feet above the pool. They saw a freshwater eel swimming in the pool. (The children who came with us kept shouting, "There's an eel in the pool!") A legend tells of Koee-iti ("small eel"), who lives under this waterfall, which feeds the large clear stream called Uiha that empties into the bay. Various versions of this legend can be found in "Von den Steinen's Marquesan Myths" (1-5):
The story seems to record a battle between a large number of warriors of Nukuhiva in the Northern Marquesas and a small number of warriors of Fatu Hiva in the Southern Marquesas (in one version the small eel is from Tahauku on Hiva Oa, the largest island in the Southern Marquesas). The warriors of Fatu Hiva apparently ambushed the Nukuhiva warriors in the narrow valley of Hanavave. In one version, the fantastic upcroppings of rocks that line the valley of Hanavave are said to be the remains of the big eel.
[Hanavave was one of few places in the Marquesas where the water is drinkable for outsiders, as it comes from a mountain spring rather than an open stream. The children of the village seemed unafraid of swimming in the clear, shallow near-shore waters of the bay; elsewhere people seems to fear the water because of the large number of tiger and hammerhead sharks that live near shore in the nearly reef-less islands.]
August 10, 1999 / Atuona, Hiva Oa
Hokule'a anchored in Atuona at 4:30 HST after a sail up from Hanavave, Fatu Hiva. We left Hanavave at 7 am this morning.
The winds were 10-12 knot easterlies until we were abreast of Terihi, a small jagged island off of Mohotani, when a squall hit.
We closed sails until the squall passed, then reopened the sails and continued on with brisker winds.
The freight ship Aranui arrived in Hiva Oa at 2:00 am with supplies for Mangareva Leg and Kamaki Worthington, crew member on Kamahele for the voyage to Rapa Nui. Kamaki has been receiving the shipment of supplies in Pape'ete over the last three weeks. One shipment for the Mangareva voyage came to Hiva Oa; a second shipment to Mangareva for the voyage to Rapa Nui will leave from Pape'ete on August 13.
Hokule'a crew unloaded the supplies from the container and took them up the the house of Robert O'Connor to re-pack the food before loading it onto the canoe this afternoon and tomorrow.
Yesterday was also a work day. Crew cleaned the hulls and deck and did minor repair work. Robert & Ziella 'Oconnor hosted the crew for dinner last night. Robert is president of the Kua Moehau canoe club of Atuona.
Weather: winter rains, humid, but sometimes chilly nights; hot, humid days. Hokule'a plans to leave Atuona on August 12 or August 13.
August 12, 1999 / Atuona, Hiva Oa
Hokule'a's crew finished packing the food into the hulls of the canoe. All the crew members made their last minute preparations for departure, scheduled for Saturday morning at first light.
Schedule: Thursday morning, the crew will go on a well needed sight seeing expedition to Puamau on the far eastern end of Hiva Oa. When the crew returns to Atuona in the late afternoon, the local community will conduct a farewell ceremony, which will include a dinner and dance performance by Te Pua o Feani. Friday, the crew will visit Ta'aoa, to the west of Atuona.
Weather: The weather for the past 24 hrs has been poor. 90% cloud cover has dominated the sky with frequent squalls. The winds have picked-up a few knots as well, blowing in the 15-20 kt range. Accompanying this weather has been a substantial south by south-west swell. Some local kids have been taking advantage of the good surf in the bay of Atuona.
August 13, 1999 / Atuona, Hiva Oa
Hokule'a plans to leave Atuona for Mangareva tomorrow morning at first light. It should take about 18 days to get there, with a stop at Pitcairn.
Apprentice navigators Moana Doi and Catherine Fuller will hold a course of SE by E for the first segment of the voyage (660 miles). They will backsight on the islands of Hiva Oa and Motane to hold the course as long as land can be seen,lining up Feki Point between Atuona Bay and Tahauku Harbor with the peak of Feani (3300 ft.) above Atuona; then the north end of Motane island and Feani once the canoe passes Motane. The rising sun will also serve as a bearing for the navigators as they depart.
The sail plan differs from the plan developed before the crew left Hawai'i. Because of light winds and a schedule that requires the canoe to reach Mangareva (via Pitcairn island) by the first week of September to prepare for the push to Rapa Nui, captain / navigator Chad Baybayan decided that instead of sailing NE by E to gain easting, the canoe will be towed SE by E into the trade winds to eliminate about 500 miles of sailing. The tow boat Kamahele will be guided without instruments from the canoe by Doi and Fuller.
At about 16 degrees S and 130 degrees W, the canoe will break the tow and head S by E for Pitcairn, about 540 miles away. At the latitude of Pitcairn (25 degrees S), the canoe will begin a search pattern, tacking SW and NW in 30 mile stints to look for the island. This second segment will be navigated by Baybayan.
Once Pitcairn has been sighted (whether or not the canoe anchors and visits Pitcairn depends on sea conditions), the canoe will head WNW for Mangareva, about 300 miles away. This last portion will be navigated by newly appointed student of navigation Aldon Kim. (A map of the new course line for Mangareva will appear at the PVS website in about a week.)
The canoe is fully loaded and prepared for departure. Yesterday the crew took a break from work to go to Puamau, on the NE coast of Hiva Oa, where the famous me'ae (heiau) of Ipona is located. Puamau mayor Bernard Heitaa gave us a tour of the grounds, which included the largest stone tiki in French Polynesia.
There was also a large, flat fish-like stone; a sacrificial stone; and a flat-topped stone for preparing the inks for traditional tatoos--all beneath towering breadfruit trees and a gigantic stone cliff.
Heitaa said that the people of Puamau believe that the people of Rapa Nui migrated there from this valley. He said that his family was not originally from Puamau, but came from a more remote valley that was abandoned when the young people left for places such a Puamau and Atuona.
The drive from Atuona to Puamau was over an unpaved proto-road, dug out and carved into the rugged Marquesan mountains and cliffs by the machines of Caterpillar, Case, Komatsu, Hyundai, Volvo, and Mercedes. Toyota 4-wheel drives rule out there. The 12-mile drive took about 3 hours. The eventual paved road will no doubt be another victory for the multinationals, determined to spread modern consumer culture into one of the wildest, remotest terrains on the planet.
Last night in Atuona, a Marquesan dance group called Te Pua o Feani ("The flower of Feani peak"), under the leadership of Patrice Kaimuko, hosted the crews of Hokule'a and Kamahele for dinner and performed a revived form of Marquesan dance.
The dances were based on traditional Marquesan stories, such as Makaianui (a giant pig) and the creation of Marquesas by a man named Oatea (Hawaiian: Wakea) and and a woman named Atanua.
The next day the crew departed for Pitcairn and Managreva; I caught a ride to the airport and flew back to Pape'ete.