Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
February 21, 2014
S251 Weblog 21 February 2014
10° 27.8’ S x 138° 40.2’ W
Course and Speed
Anchored in Baie Hanavave on Fatu Hiva
Remain anchored until tomorrow evening
Gorgeous starscape, low wind, calm seas
I’m swinging in a hammock strung between the forestays’l traveler and the forward port shrouds, preparing to write about my day today, which was just as full of activities as every other day this month. Three days ago, a very old woman taught us about the relationship the ancient people of Nuku Hiva had with sex and sexuality. Two days ago, we were greeted in Tahuata with an enormous feast and beautiful music and dancing, and with a cake with a single candle, presented to us in the hope that the Robert C. Seamans will return to the island in one year’s time. Yesterday, I piled into the back of a pickup truck with nine other students and was driven over Tahuata’s mountain ridge to the valley of Hapatoni, where I swam with incredibly intelligent and hilarious children for hours, before eating the feast of pamplemousse and crepes given to us by the children’s families. This morning I butchered a goat on the foredeck of our boat, anchored in a bay in the valley of Hanavave on Fatu Hiva, and an hour ago I was eating that same goat as it had been prepared by the sweetest couple with the most beautiful daughter who dances and sings exceptionally well, and who will surely win the dancing competition she’s entering in June in Tahiti, as long as she can get over her shyness.
I find that I struggle to keep all things in perspective when life here seems so perfect and charmed. The focus of the SPICE program is sustainability, but this experience is about so much more than sustainability or science or learning how to sail. We’re learning about life, about living, about the beauty and vibrance and endless possibilities that life can offer, and that is infinitely more important than anything we could learn from a textbook or in a school building. In ten years, I’m not going to remember how to tell the difference between a copepod and an amphipod (both are zooplankton that we’ve captured during science deployments on board; for the record, the easy answer is that amphipod bodies are laterally flattened while copepods are not). But I sure as heck am going to remember the generosity showed to me and my friends by complete strangers who are eager to learn about my culture, and even more eager to show me their favorite parts of their own.
Our first day on Nuku Hiva, we went for an easy hike up the mountain as far as we could go before the path became too treacherous. As we started up the road to the mountain, the patriarch of one of the two families who live in the Taioa valley called us over and gave us almost more fruit than we could carry up the mountain. This man had never met us, and knew practically nothing about us, other than we arrived on the big ship that was now in his bay. But he had a lot of fruit and he wanted us to have it, and so he graciously gave it to us. After our hike, we walked past the other family inhabiting the valley, and were called over to their house. The matriarch of that family led us all around her land, showing us all of her fruit trees: pamplemousse, coconut, lime, mango, papaya, orange, banana, passion fruit, and the most delicious starfruit you could possibly imagine. Any of the people from back home who expressed their immense jealousy at my good fortune to be able to travel to Polynesia would instantly identify this pocket of life on Nuku Hiva as paradise, but this woman had something to say to us about her life and ours. She works only a few hours each day, feeding her pigs and chickens and checking on her fruit trees, but she told us that she was so happy for us; she was so happy that we were fortunate enough to be university students, because we will grow older and won’t be poor like she is.
I’ll never forget that woman or the words that she spoke to us. There is no “paradise” to which we can escape, running away from the troubles we face in our lives. No one has a perfect life, and I find that comforting; we are all in this together. All we can do is smile, do our part to make the world a better place, and share our happiness with as many people we can, even if they’re perfect strangers walking through our valley.
Mom: To say that I’ve been eating enough would be an enormous understatement. Assuming Hawaii is half as cool as these islands, I understand why you need to go back now.
Dad: Yesterday’s lunch: Tehuatan kids harvested sea urchins, smashed them open on the rocks, stomped on a lime to break it open, squeezed the lime juice directly into the sea urchin, and shared the roe with me. And that was just the beginning. Wish you were here.
ReAnnen: Happy Sweet 16!! I hope it is absolutely amazing. In case my letter hasn’t arrived yet, part I of your present is in Dino’s mouth.
Sarina: Que tu me manque. J’espère que mes lettres te trouvent, et j’attends sans patience le jour quand tu me dis tout que tu fais ces jours. Je t’aime, ma chérie.