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Hanamoenao, Day Two, and Resolution Bay

June 7, 2011

Just aft of the beach of Hanamoenao Bay is the open-air cabin, and just aft of the cabin begins the jungle and the jungle refuses to give up a trail out of the valley or up into the hills. Not a long disused road, not even a pig track. I tried for two hours to find a way or any evidence that a way had ever existed and only very late in the day realized that the cabin’s owner and supplies probably arrived by boat. There was no road and never had been.

The mosquitos of Hiva Oa were curious but benign. On Tahuata they are just hungry. After a time their repeated attempts at my legs and arms wore through the repellant, and I had to put back.

On the return I harvested more limes and a few coconuts and only by chance happened upon a small piece of plywood in the sand below a tree, which I turned over without thinking. The side in the sand was hand painted with the word “TABU” in big yellow letters. At one time it had been nailed to the tree. It is interesting how other peoples’ superstitions can act upon one’s mind. I returned the limes (that they numbed my tongue had worried me anyway) and the coconuts and left the beach.

The paucity of bird life on this part of the island is worth noting. Both the Myna bird and chicken are conspicuously, blessedly absent. In the jungle I noted only a type of Java Sparrow, a type of Chestnut Mannequin, and a type of Flycatcher, and these only fleetingly. In crevices of the lava cliffs on the north side of the bay, two or three pairs of a gray tern (just like the fairy tern, but not white) are roosting. A charcoal grey egret with yellow legs passes by with frequency. A lone brown boobie dives. Occasionally a Frigate. And that’s it.

The three swims yielded more results, however. In total I’ve spent four hours underwater in two days and have tallied 35 fish species, nearly 20 of which are positive identifications (i.e. I have a photo). My guides are HAWAIIAN REEF FISHES, Hoover; REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION, BAJA TO PANAMA, Humann and Deloach. As noted earlier, I lack any guides to French Polynesia.

The number of species common to all three areas is large and the fact of it fascinating. How did they arrive, in tact, in three areas separated by such great expanses of water? Once here, why have they not radiated into different forms? The Sergeant Major seems to be bigger, less blue and yellow, but the Moorish Idol, the Achilles Tang, the Spotted Puffer, the Ornate Butterflyfish, and the Convict Tang appear to be identical to their brethren I’ve observed elsewhere. Why aren’t the spots on the Achilles Tang blue or purple or yellow instead of orange; why isn’t it bigger or smaller. Why isn’t the Idol’s tail pink or triple stranded? One could posit that the similarities are due to similarities in food types, habitat structures, etc. But if that’s so, why are the hills not full of Honeycreepers as they were on Hawaii before colonization?

In fact, some fish do appear to have radiated, or at least changed color. Here and not in Hawaii or Baja (according to the guides) is a cleaner wrasse with an electric sapphire blue stripe; a tang with a powder blue stripe, a pure white dascyllus.

Naming is the first part of wisdom, says Confucius, and at that first part I am beginning to make some small progress.

This afternoon and after the final swim we weighed and motored the two miles to Resolution Bay (Vaitahu) and then on another two miles to Hapatoni Bay. Hapatoni was the more idyllic, but the wind wrapped around the mountainous cliffs and blew from the west and into the anchorage. And the water was deep right up to the rocky shoreline. That COLUMBINE was anchored there beneath a shock of palms and offered to share a dinner of freshly caught yellow tail did add to the attraction, but I wanted to visit Resolution Bay. We returned and anchored in 25 feet of water (reported as patches of rock and sand, but the water appeared evenly dark to me). Spinner dolphins spun as we approached, and a silver fish leapt gracefully in great schools as the dolphins passed. The beach below the village is rock and a significant western swell rolled in and boomed continuously making how to land a dingy a question of some weight. Beyond the village, the verdant mountains stood straight up to three thousand feet. A strong wind fell down the canyon, out into the bay and out to sea. Murre rolled and pitched and and pulled unhappily at her anchor.

Cook may have been a genius of navigation, but his choice of anchorages leaves much to be desired.

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