SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
February 15, 2014
S251 Weblog 15 February 2014
08° 55.2’S x 140° 06.0’W
Course and Speed
Anchored Taiohae, Nuku Hiva
Sunny, dry, with a cooling breeze
Today on a remote Polynesian island called Nuka Hiva, I got married. In a traditional Marquesan service, my hair and the hair of my current wife, Zoe Walpuck (Denison 2015), were woven together and bathed with soothing scented oils. Zoe, after realizing what she had just done, quickly annulled the marriage so I guess I cannot call her my “current” wife any more. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
It all started when the Robert C. Seamans pulled up, literally out of the blue, to a tall and dark island. For a second, I thought, “How did I get here?” But then I remembered that we had been plotting our course to, reading about, and listening to lectures on Nuka Hiva for the past six days so my surprise quickly faded. Nonetheless, the island was shocking. Like the set of Game of Thrones, steep, craggy mountains gave way to deep valleys filled with trees and lush vegetation. The valley was cut by a cool, clean river that dumped into a warm green cove at an empty beach lined with coconut trees and covered in black sand. They called it Hakaui.
We washed ashore in a small dinghy and were greeted by a tall, slender Marquesan man with ritualistic face tattoos and a necklace made of pig’s teeth. He proceeded to fill our arms with fruit. He insisted that we take as much as we wanted—wheelbarrows full. He said that if we did not eat it, the fruit would have been fed to the pigs. I have never tasted a sweeter banana, a juicier star fruit, a more succulent mango, or a more fragrant papaya. After six days at sea, I could not have been more satisfied by the delicious taste of land.
Moohono, our Tahitian professor, led us deep into the jungle, through plunging cold streams and fluttering tropical trees, pointing out edible species after edible species of ripe green vegetation. Upon returning from the hike, Moohono, and our slightly intimidating Marquesan friend, wanted to teach us westerners about marriage in Polynesia. Based on the fact that I was the only male with longish hair (essential for the hair weaving aspect of the ceremony), Moohono chose me and Zoe to demonstrate a traditional nuptial rite. The Marquesan man presided over the service on the rock on which his godlike ancestors were married hundreds of years before. Overcome by the beauty of the island and the flavors of its fruit, Zoe and I agreed to be wed. But quickly after the reality of matrimony set in, Zoe decided that it would not be in her best interests to go through with the marriage.
The reception was canceled but still a splendid honeymoon awaited. We set sail for the luxurious beach town of Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, situated in a large sheltered bay formed out of the chasm left behind from when half of the original volcanic crater slumped off into the ocean. We sailed by jagged, jutting striated cliffs, topped by tufts of trees and strewn with nimble mountain goats. The dolphins wove their way through the waves to frolic in the wake pushed aside by our bow. The frigate birds soared at alarming velocity, following the currents of air just below the clouds. From the mariner’s perspective, these island oases loom large, silent, but vibrant with life in the middle of a vast empty ocean, after days of being jostled at sea.