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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

February 05, 2014

S251 Weblog 05 February 2014

Midori Ishizuka, C Watch, Claremont McKenna College


Swimming with local kids in the Fakrava lagoon! (Jill, our new friends, Midori, and Levi)

Current Position
16° 03.4’ ’S x 146° 37.5’’ W
Course and Speed
Anchored at Fakarava
Sail Plan
Remain anchored until 09 Feb
Squally, but beautiful when the sun peeks through

The journey into Fakarava was bumpy at times, but definitely well worth my occasional bouts of seasickness while on morning watch. At around 1300 we began our last push into the main port of Rotoava, which is the

actual village in Fakarava where we are now anchored. Yesterday, the professors gave a mini lecture during which I learned some interesting facts about this classic coral atoll: for example, rainwater is Fakarava’’s only

freshwater source besides imported bottled water, turtles are a traditional source of protein, and the island is declared a “UN Biosphere.”  I expect we’’ll learn much more once on shore.

Right after we anchored, we realized we would have the opportunity to meet an important government official who happened to be in the same town as us – what a great opportunity! She was the Associate Administrator of the Tuamotu and Gambier Atolls for the government of French Polynesia, and she talked to us about the government’s role in these atolls, while also kindly answering all the questions we could think of. What stood out to me as especially interesting, both for my personal project and for the themes of our SPICE program, were her comments on tourism in these islands.

From some research I had developed a preconceived impression of tourism that was quite negative; it seemed that outsiders would come to Polynesian islands with a highly stereotypical view of ‘paradise’ and ‘exoticism’ without truly understanding the intricacies of local cultures and peoples. While these ideas do exist, the Associate Administrator depicted a more positive view of tourism that exposed me to a new perspective. She talked about how unemployment is one of the biggest issues that islanders face, but on Fakarava the economy that tourism creates greatly relieves this issue. For example, building hotels not only creates jobs in construction, but also provides a more consistent form of employment for its maintenance, as well as a marketplace for local produce to be sold by farmers. Without the economic stability that tourism provides, Fakarava would be suffering like the islands of Faaite and Ana’a. While copra (coconut meat) and fish are also lucrative commodities, copra production is laborious work and fishing can be seasonal and unreliable. So, unemployment still plagues many of these islands and therefore tourism is often considered highly beneficial.

I began thinking about the role of tourism in these islands: does tourism play a positive role in preserving and advocating traditional island cultures, both to the local people themselves (who often desire to ‘modernize’ more) and also to outsiders visiting? But what about the issue of the way these islands are depicted in a stereotypical and often inaccurate way? Ultimately, how do we grapple with reconciling tourism and the preservation and revitalization of traditional culture, so that both can flourish in a way that is beneficial to all? The origins of these questions began in class at Woods Hole, and have traveled and developed as our journey continues. Food for thought and more to come….

Enough contemplation for now: time for bed so that we can start the day off right tomorrow. As Captain Colleen says, we will “move with alacrity!” which means we need to get going with eagerness and cheerful readiness. No time is wasted here. Can’t wait to continue learning about the fantastic island of Fakarava!

Peace out,
Midori Ishizuka




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