Marquesas Islands (Taiohae), French Polynesia


“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable.  It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”   ~   Clifton Fadiman

I wonder if that was what Herman Melville thought when he landed here in the 1840″s and was greeted by cannibals.  I decided not to write on the lecture that was given about cannibalism!

The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest and deepest ocean. It is twice the area of the Atlantic and contains almost 3X as much water.  Over half the world’s population lives on its shores.  Civilization was built on salt and, therefore, the sea.  Without salt, humans would not have been able to preserve meat, fish and seasonal food for storage or transport.  So valued, salt was regarded the same way we regard currency today.  In fact, the word “salary” is derived from sal, the Latin word for salt.

In 1521 the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan made the first known crossing of the Pacific Ocean who then named it the “peaceful sea”.  We just crossed 7 days of it and it was peaceful for us, on this trip. 

Approaching the first island of the Polynesian archipelago. It has more than 100 islands, 67 of which are inhabited. Polynesia  means “many islands”.

After writing about the “Peaceful Sea,” we got word from the Captain that we will bypass the Cook Islands, (I’m writing this after Bora Bora) as there are poor weather conditions, and go straight to Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

The tattoo is to indicate maturity and/or signify status or standing in your community. They also tell family history and therefore very unique per person.  Around 200 AD voyageurs from Samoa and Tonga settled in the area of Marquesas. Over a period of more than 1000 years one of the most complex Polynesian cultures evolved – Marquesan.  Marquesan tattoo designs, which often covered the whole body, were the most elaborate in Polynesia.  A legend is that European sailors liked the Polynesian tattoos so much that they spread extremely fast in Europe because the sailors emblazoned the tattoos on their own bodies.     

Flowers are lovely.  And Tikis are everywhere!

In 1846, Herman Melville (who also wrote Moby Dick, 1851) wrote Typee, about cannibalism that he encountered on his visit to this Nuku Hivu island. It was not believed and not published for many years.  A hundred years later, 1946, James A. Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific, later to be made into a Broadway musical and movie South Pacific.

“I have often been mildly amused when I think that the great American novel was not written about New England or Chicago.  It was written about a white whale in the South Pacific.”  ~   James A. Michener

John’s birthday cake from Viking. A nice surprise.