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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

February 17, 2014

S251 Weblog 17 February 2014

Margaret Giese, B Watch, Macalester College


Above: The group at a roadside overlook above the valley of Taiohae. Back row (L-R): Matt, Charlotte, Evan, Cole, Patrick, Taylor, Nanuk, Shoshana, Elaine, Jill, Zoe, Dominique, Margaret - Front row: Anna, Rachel, Jerusha, Midori, Lauren, and Brianna. Below, right: Cole, Evan, Jill and Patrick standing around the banyan tree.

Current Position
8° 55.2’’S x 140° 06.0’‘W
Taiohae Valley, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
Course and Speed
At Anchor
Sail Plan
The sea and winds are calm in the valley of Taiohae.  The sun is out and the temperature is 28°C.

Nuka Hiva is a place laden with history. Yesterday we got a glimpse of its history, as well as some of the natural marvels of the landscape, as we RV’ed around the island traveling to 4 different valleys—Taiohae, Taipivai, Hatiheu and Houmi—viewing the island from car windows with the occasional photo or historical pit stop along the way.  Many of us were more than happy to spend some time sitting down after the hike we went on the day before.  We happen to be in Nuka Hiva during its wet season so everything is especially green and the rivers especially full.  At right is a photo of us at one of our photo pit stops overlooking the valley of Taiohae.   A major plus of an SEA education is getting to actually see and experience for yourself what we learn about in class.  At one of our pit stops the history of the people of the Hatiheu valley was brought to life when we journeyed from the cars and through trees to a large terraced opening in the forest about the size of two tennis courts aligned length wise. These terraces were of a recently restored ancient tohua called Kamuihei.  A tohua is a sacred site.  On other islands they are called marae.  This one was once the place where 400-500 people gathered to practice their beliefs.

Moohono described for us the ceremonies that would take place at one of these tohau, one of which was the presentation of sacrifices to the gods. The size of this structure and the spiritual power it holds was not lost on us as we explored around and looked at the various woodcarvings.  A short walk through the trees from this terrace was two large stones that had old petroglyphs carved into them.  On one of the rocks the petroglyph was of the same image that is frequently atop ‘U’u clubs which we learned about back at Woods Hole.


My favorite part of Nuka Hiva awaited us as we journeyed back to the SUV’s, a banyan tree.  A banyan tree is not like a typical tree in that it does not have one trunk.  As the banyan tree ages it produces aerial roots which over time grow and become the ancestral trunk.  The interior part of the tree eventually decays leaving a hollow center surrounded by aerial roots which form a trunk like structure.  This particular tree’s interior trunk had long since decayed, allowing one at the proper angle to be able to see sunlight from the other side of its trunk. The tree was massive and like no tree I had ever seen before. We all stood around its base and took photos.  Its sheer size coupled by the knowledge Mary shared that this tree had once been photo-ed with human skulls wedged throughout its trunk made this tree especially fascinating and awesome.  Below is a photo of the banyan tree with some of us standing around it.

Tomorrow we get underway to sail 80 nm to Tahuata.  Everyone is sad to leave Nuka Hiva behind but excited to see what Tahuata has in store for us.

Love you Giesels.

- Margaret




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