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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
May 02, 2017
S-272 Gets Their Land Legs Back
Alongside in Raiatea, French Polynesia
3614.3 nm total
Tropical Paradise, Sunny, 29°C
Our first full day on land included new cultural experiences, exploration, and a boat ride faster than 7 knots! This morning we were greeted by a group of local Raiateans who gathered at the base of our gangway and welcomed us all to their island. We were treated to traditional music and dance and even joined in with our less graceful interpretations. We then preformed some of our own shanties which turned into a tropical jam session all around. I learned that language barriers are nothing when faced with the power of song.
After our warm welcome we were greeted by another very famous local, Haeimau, he is the last son of the last Chief of Raiatea! Haeimau took us on a boat tour around the island stopping at intriguing points along the way, including the black pearl farm and jeweler and the biggest river on the island. Throughout the trip Haeimau treated us to stories of his life. We learned about his ability to live off the land and the political history that has shaped the island we are lucky enough to know today. We got a glimpse in to what life was like under a chiefdom and were introduced to the marae, the holy heart of the island, Taputapuatea.
At the end of our tour we found ourselves on a motu. A motu is a small piece of land that rests atop the reefs of an atoll. Even more exciting, this motu had cats! Cats and chickens ran free and lived in harmony on this small oasis and I can now say that I have seen a chicken eat out of a coconut. This was truly a paradise where we were all set free to snorkel and explore. Our discoveries included, but are not limited to tropical fish, eels, sharks, bat rays, and sea cucumbers bigger than the cats! Haeimau and his crew were even nice enough to provide us with an assortment of tropical fruits and the traditional story behind the creation of coconuts. With so many new fruits to try and questions to ask I find myself wishing I had paid more attention during my high school French class. We returned to our ship around sunset excited to tell our new stories to Captain Jay, Lauren, and Chief Scientist Chuck who were nice enough to stay behind to watch over our home. It is inspiring to meet a group of people so willing to invite us into their home and share with us their culture.
All we can say is Mauru'uru! (thank you) to the people of Raiatea.