Thursday, 25 July 2013

Connected by a football game!

And there it was. The mundaneness of it all. First I found that the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Ravenna Italy in 2011 was between Russia and Tahiti. I found one photograph at a point in the game where it was 5:0 in Russia's favour. Then I discovered that in 2012, UAE, Russia Tahiti and USA went into group A whereas Brazil, Japan, Nigeria and Switzerland were drawn into group B. The real clincher was when I discovered that both soccer teams arrived in Dubai around this time last year. And wow! Tahiti was declared the host of the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to be held at the Toata Stadium (with a capacity of 1500)from September 18-28 (I arrive on Sat 28th!).Now it is clear to me that no Russian is interested in my blog. People are simply hunting for more about the Tahiti soccer team. Sorry Russian friends. Can't help you! But thanks to my Russian visitors, I now know that soccer fever will be at a pitch as I land in Tahiti; or everyone may be imbibing at end-of-games drinks! Interesting times.

Russia and French Polynesia

Watching the visitation statistics has been so interesting. By far the greatest visitation to this blog has come from Russia (Россия). I do not know if the interest comes from an individual, a group or an organisation. I cannot understand why there is so much interest. With the USA visitation to my blog, that seems understandable because there is a thriving tourism trade between the two countries. But Russians do not seem to have any connection with French Polynesia. So let me use some Russian and see if someone will talk to me - Российская Федерация This translates as 'Russian Federation' if you could not work it out. "Государственный гимн Российской Федерации" is the name of the national anthem of Russia. Whoever is reading this blog from Russia, I will say 'spasiba' to you if you let me know why French Polynesia and/or my blog is interesting. Regardless of whether I get a comment and response, I will now set out to find one or more connections. I wonder what will be found. Wait with interest for my next blog! And then I may tackle all the other curious onlookers - Zambia, Turkey, South Korea and on the list goes. What is it about my blog or about French Polynesia which lures people to my blog?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Lessons of Easter Island

I am in the middle of participating in a three-day training workshop giving me skills to be a trainer in relation to sustainability thinking and processes. We have been focusing not just on sustainability in relation to the environment but also on social and economic sustainability. An extraordinary activity which we completed yesterday focused on Easter Island. I cannot locate an electronic copy of the document we read, but the ideas in are similar. Further reading of is also relevant and interesting. If our earth is simply a larger version of Easter Island, what does this say about you and me and what we are doing currently? Would there have been people on Easter Island foreseeing the consequences of the destruction they made, just as there are people currently pointing out the consequences we are making to the whole globe as we clear forests? The changes we need are profound. I wonder what was the tipping point on Easter Island. What was that point of no return? And therefore, what is the point of no return for the Earth? Have we passed it? As usual, everything I write about must have a connection to French Polynesia which I will be visiting later this year. So where does Easter Island fit in this story? Has the concept of sustainability reached French Polynesia? In my research about the places I might visit in the Marquesas Islands, I came across reference to tiki which apparently have aspects in common with the great stone statues on Easter Island This is a moai from Easter Island. One website assures me that "six of the inhabited Marquesas Islands offer vast examples of tikis". "Tikis are believed to represent deified ancestors." On the island of Fatu Hiva, "one of these rocks which the villagers call Tana, looks identical to an Easter Island moai figure." Here is an example from This is a tiki from Marquesas Islands. So there you have a connection - cultural similarities in terms of the artefacts both peoples made, despite the thousands of miles separating each. In addition, some websites tell me that the Marquesan people settled Easter Island. More research is still required. Are there any knowledgeable experts reading this who can tell the facts? As for the question about sustainability and French Polynesia, I am pleased to see Earth Check is looking at the situation (refer in relation to environmental aspects and tourism. But of course, any action will impact on the social and economic situation. The three prongs of environment, social and economy are inseparable because any change to one has consequences for one or both of the other. There are many other sites that address sustainability and the future of various aspects of French Polynesia, such as in association with the pearling and clam fishing industries. Hmmm. Well I have heard how Americans love their clam chowder. I wonder how clams are cooked/eaten in different parts of French Polynesia. I look forward to finding out.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Quests for paradise

The words in my last blog describing a common goal between Gauguin and Buffet, were tantamount to a gift. A certain amount of personal reflection has been the result. Am I on a quest for paradise? Why am I really travelling to French Polynesia and then leaving Tahiti for more remote islands after only one day? I know that I have the belief that I will never return to French Polynesia and this has prompted me to explore some outer reaches so I can compare and contrast the well trodden tourist route with a less well trodden route. I guess I believe the journey will put me in touch with at least some people who have little or nothing to do with tourists normally, and in this way I am expecting the experience to connect me with something more authentic. In case you are wondering, I realise there is a difference between authenticity and paradise. Well I know what the former is, but the idea of paradise is somewhat elusive. For certain I am very happy with my life and I live in a place which offers paradisal visions and experiences often. Hobart usually looks marvellously stunningly beautiful, whatever the weather. Sometimes just being here arouses feelings of joy and profound happiness. Some would say this is paradise. In Biblical terms I think there is talk of only one paradise,but if there are parallel universes surely there can be more than one paradise. So - am I on a quest? Am I looking for other examples of paradise. No, its much more pragmatic than that - I have a holiday break and I am not staying home. Meanwhile, back to the comment from yesterday's blog. I think Joey has interpreted the situation incorrectly between the artist and the musician. Gauguin wasn't seeking paradise, rather an anti-authoritarian, non-rule bound society where he felt free. In the process, I think he found paradise. I don't think Buffet was on a quest for paradise either. His manager booked him on a gig in Tahiti, he travelled south from Honolulu, loved the experience, and couldn't help but return a number of times. But he didn't stay and live permanently. Because of that reason, I am sure he loved visiting but did not think French Polynesia was paradise.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

How about a connection between Jimmy Buffet and Paul Gauguin? Does it exist?

A connection has been made at by a Seattle artist in respect of an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum - with the following to say in respect of his giving a guided tour of the exhibition: "Tonight's My Favorite Thing Tour was great...such a nice group. We spent the tour discussing the connections between Jimmy Buffett and Gauguin and their very different quests for paradise. When I first saw the Gauguin exhibit, a soundtrack of Jimmy Buffett began to play in my head. At first, it seemed highly inappropriate but the more I thought about it, the less strange it seemed. Born a hundred years apart (technically 98), they share many superficial similarities but the most important is that both were/are driven by a desire to find paradise, free of the constraints of Western mores. For this tour, I handed out some suggested pairings of Buffett songs to go with some of Gauguin's paintings based on complimentary lyricality. I don't think even a handful of people on the tour knew who Jimmy Buffett, which added an extra layer of ridiculousness to my premise. Guaguin's Coastal Landscape from Martinique paired with Buffett's One Particular Harbor Gauguin's Arii Matamoe (The Royal End)paired with Buffett's King of Somewhere Hot Gaugin's Female Nude with Sunflowers (Femme Caraïbe)paired with Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise Gauguin's Women of Tahiti (Femmes de Tahiti)paired with Buffett's Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw?

Music of a different kind - Jimmy Buffet and the southern French Polynesian islands

John alerted me to the fact one of his favourite singers, Jimmy Buffet, has a French Polynesian connection. Apparently Buffet is well known for singing the Crosby Stills & Nash song "Southern Cross". The first few lines of the song are as follows: Got out of town on a boat goin' to southern islands. Sailing a reach before a followin' sea. She was makin' for the trades on the outside, And the downhill run to Papeete Bay. Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas. We got eighty feet of the waterline. Nicely making way. .... So I was curious to find out whether Jimmy Buffet ever stepped on the shores of Tahiti or the Marquesas. And the answer is yes to Tahiti and no to the Marquesas. He did perform on various islands including Tahiti, Moorea, and on Bora Bora in the 1980s, including a couple of benefit concerts where proceeds from ticket sales were donated to build a playground for the children of Bora Bora, and on another occasion supported Tahiti after the 1983 cyclones. “Like many “Tahiti-philes” who keep coming back to these islands, Jimmy Buffett has visited Tahiti and Her Islands on several occasions. Some people recall when he used to sit at the end of the bar at Hotel Bali Hai on Moorea during the early 1980’s, quietly playing his guitar and singing for his own pleasure. Others remember seeing him at Bloody Mary’s on Bora Bora in 1986, where he gave an impromptu performance. In 1982 Jimmy Buffett did a concert at Tahiti’s Cultural Center, which was then called OTAC. Jimmy Buffett recalls that when they arrived at the airport in Tahiti they were met by Hugh Kelley, one of the three “Bali Hai Boys” who had left Southern California in the early 1960s and eventually owned the Bali Hai hotels on Moorea, Raiatea and Huahine. Jimmy said that he and Hugh became instant friends. While sitting in Kelley’s big Urufara house in the mountains above Cook’s Bay on Moorea, he looked down at the vista and a song came out as if it had been sitting inside him waiting for the moment. Jimmy called this song, “One Particular Harbor” and it has become one of his most popular creations. Jimmy Buffet’s easy going style and friendly smile have earned him the title of “the troubadour of laid-back island living”. “Jimmy had such a wonderful time here that he wants to come back and go to Pitcairn Island,” said Rick Guenett. “His ancestor, John Buffett, was the first white man to live on Pitcairn after the “Bounty” mutineers. John Buffett’s descendants are now living on Norfolk Island.” Pitcairn is only perhaps a couple of thousand km to the south east of Tahiti. Jimmy Buffet 1985 at Bora Bora performing at the restaurant Bloody Mary;s.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Map of Marquesas

Many islands form the Marquesas group. This is a map of the islands designated into their administrative communes. Imagine me sailing around and between some of these islands. I will fly from Tahiti to Hiva Oa and start my adventure from there. Eventually I will end my Marquesas holiday at Nuku Hiva before flying back to Tahiti.

1888 - Robert Louis Stevenson and the Marquesas Islands. Where was Gauguin?

I love the fact that so many of the world's renowned people have visited the remote French Polynesian islands, and gained a great deal from the experience. It seems everyone starts at Tahiti and then moves onto other islands. Even my trip will start there before I travel those 1000 odd miles north to the Marquesas - I have no choice because all international flights arrive and depart from Tahiti - but what reason do ships and their sailors have for always starting with Tahiti? We know Robert Louis Stevenson spent some months in Tahiti, before visiting the Marquesas in 1888. He wrote about his experiences and impressions there, in a 1900 book called ‘In the South Seas, Being an Account of Experiences and Observations in the Marquesas, Paumotur and Gilbert Islands in the Course of Two Cruises, on the Yacht Casco (1888) and the Schooner Equator. 1900. You can read his words at Robert Louis Stevenson's first landfall on his voyage was at Hatiheu, on the north side of Nuku Hiva, in 1888. Meanwhile half a world away, in the second half of 1888, Paul Gauguin joined Vincent van Gogh in Arles, but the two quickly parted ways. Gauguin left France in 1891 and settled in Tahiti. He returned briefly to France but abandoned Europe permanently in 1895, having failed to sell many of the works from his first Tahitian excursion. He moved to the Marquesas Islands around 1898 and died on Hiva Oa in 1903. There is no record of Robert Louis Stevenson ever travelling to Hiva Oa. And there is no record of Paul Gauguin ever travelling to Nuku Hiva. I wonder if their personal and professional worlds ever allowed for them to know of each other?

Robert Louis Stevenson's Tahitian Poems

Music music music. My passion for making connections with Tahiti and the Marquesas started with being curious as to whether Haydn's desert island opera might be connected, and previous blogs have suggested connections. Now I find, that Robert Louis Stevenson was besotted by the local music during his stay on Tahiti. According to, Stevenson's Tahitian poems are in fact translations of Tahitian songs and tales he recorded and translated. Apparently, Stevenson spent 3 months on Tahiti. He suffered illness and boredom while in Papeete and moved around. “Arriving in Tautira sick and without acquaintances there, Stevenson met Princess Moe, who found him lodgings and nursed him back to health with plates of raw fish and other Tahitian delicacies. To honour Princess Moe, Stevenson wrote the poem entitled “To an Island Princess’. Princess Moe settled Stevenson with a Tautira sub-chief named Ori a Ori. Ori and Stevenson became fast friends, and went through a Tahitian ceremony making them bond friends for life. Ori in turn sent Stevenson to visit kinsmen in the Papara district, Tati Salmon and Queen Marua Taaroa, who both befriended Stevenson. Stevenson has published three Tahitian tales. The longest and best known is “The Song of Rahero”… The two other published tales, ‘Of the Making of Pai’s Spear’ and ‘Honoura and Weird Woman’ are both renditions of minor Tahitian tales. The longest song is entitled ‘The Lament of the Aromaiterai’. If you want to read these songs go to the website from which this information has been collected. As a taste one poem includes the following: The wind roars in from seaward/The waves of the deep are lifted up/They bury the high sea cliffs… etc This sounds amazing and so I am increasingly excited to see that country. Ahhhh the power of music!

Did Robert Louis Stevenson spend time in Tahiti?

I have been asked if Robert Louis Stevenson, author famed for ‘Treasure Island’ amongst many other novels and short stories, really lived on a Pacific island and was it Tahiti or some other island in the French Polynesia group. An answer comes from “Weir of Hermiston, Stevenson's very Scottish romance, was written when Stevenson was far away on the other side of the world. His decision to sail around the Pacific in 1888, living on various islands for short periods, then setting off again (all the time collecting material for an anthropological and historical work on the South Seas which was never fully completed), was another turning point in his life. In 1889 he and his extended family arrived at the port of Apia in the Samoan islands and they decided to build a house and settle. This choice brought him health, distance from the distractions of literary circles, and went towards the creation of his mature literary persona: the traveller, the exile, very aware of the harsh sides of life but also celebrating the joy in his own skill as a weaver of words and teller of tales. It also acted as a new stimulus to his imagination. He wrote about the Pacific islands in several of his later works.” By contrast, ‘Treasure Island’ was written because: “Another fortuitous turning-point in Stevenson’s life had occurred when on holiday in Scotland in the summer of 1881. The cold rainy weather forced the family to amuse themselves indoors, and one day Stevenson and his twelve-year-old stepson, Lloyd, drew, coloured and annotated the map of an imaginary "Treasure Island". The map stimulated Stevenson’s imagination and, "On a chill September morning, by the cheek of a brisk fire" he began to write a story based on it as an entertainment for the rest of the family. Treasure Island (published in book form in 1883) marks the beginning of his popularity and his career as a profitable writer, it was his first volume-length fictional narrative, and the first of his writings "for children"(or rather, the first of writings manipulating the genres associated with children).” But did Stevenson get to Tahiti. Yes he did and more. On June 27th 1888, in San Francisco, Stevenson joined the ship Casco which departed for a cruise of the Pacific islands, including the Marquesas, the Paumotus and Tahiti. The cruise lasted until 24 January 1889 when it finished in Honolulu. The year before he sailed, Stevenson had his portrait painted by Singer Sargent: Stevenson travelled with his wife Fanny. The following photo includes both with two islanders on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas.

Did Bougainville experience the Marquesas Islands?

He did. Yes he did! "On the 3rd of May, Bougainville bore down towards a new land, which he had just discovered, and was not long in finding others on the same day. The coasts of the largest one were steep; in point of fact, it was simply a mountain covered with trees to its summit, with neither valley nor sea coast. Some fires were seen there, cabins built under the shade of the cocoanut-trees, and some thirty men running on the shore. In the evening, several pirogues approached the vessels, and after a little natural hesitation, exchanges commenced. The natives demanded pieces of red cloth in exchange for cocoa-nuts, yams, and far less beautiful stuffs than those of the Tahitans; they disdainfully refused iron, nails, and earrings, which had been so appreciated elsewhere in the Bourbon Archipelago, as Bougainville had named the Tahitan group. The natives had their breasts and thighs painted dark blue; they wore no beards; their hair was drawn into tufts on the top of their heads."

Bougainville's impression of the people on Tahiti

Bougainville says, "The climate is so healthy that in spite of our fatigues, although our people were perpetually in the water, and under a burning sun, sleeping on the naked soil under the stars, no one was ill. The sufferers from scurvy whom we disembarked, and who had not enjoyed a single night's sleep, regained their strength, and were so soon restored, that some of them were completely cured on board." In addition to this, the health and strength of the natives, who live in cabins open to every wind, and who scarcely cover the ground, which serves them as a bed, with a few leaves, the happy old age to which they easily attain, the sharpness of all their senses, and the singular beauty of their teeth, which they preserve to the greatest age, all testify to the salubrity of the climate, and the efficiency of the rules followed by the inhabitants. In character the people seem gentle and good. It would not appear that they have civil wars among themselves, although the country is divided into little portions under independent chiefs. They are constantly at war with the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands. Not satisfied with massacring the men and male children taken in arms, they skin their chins with the beard, and keep this hideous trophy. Bougainville could only obtain very vague information of their ceremonies and religion. But he could at least assert the reverence they pay their dead. They preserve the corpses for a long time in the open air, on a sort of scaffold sheltered by a shed. In spite of the odour of decomposition, the women go every day to weep near the monuments, and bedew the sad relics of their beloved ones with their tears and with cocoa-nut oil. The soil is so productive, and requires so little cultivation, that men and women live in a state of almost entire idleness. Therefore it is not astonishing that the sole care of the latter is to be pleasing. Dancing, singing, long conversations, teeming with gaiety, have developed a mobility of expression among the Tahitans, surprising even to the French, a people who themselves have not the reputation of being serious, possibly because they are more lively than those who reproach them with levity. It is impossible to fix a native's attention. A trifle strikes them, but nothing occupies them. In spite of their want of reflection they were clever and industrious. Their pirogues were constructed after a fashion equally ingenious and solid. Their fish-hooks and all their fishing implements were of delicate workmanship. Their nets were like those of Europeans. Their stuffs manufactured of the bark of a tree, were generally woven and dyed of various colours. In fact Bougainville's impression of the Tahitian people was that they were "lazzaroni."

Bougainville's experience of reaching Tahiti

We know from my earlier blogs that explorer Bougainville had seen a performance of a work by Metastasio (and similarly we know that Metastasio’s libretto was used by Haydn for the opera L’isola Disabitata) and that after Bougainville published his travel journals and probably influenced Metastasio, Bougainville’s experiences helped confirm Tahiti’s position in the world. I can now tell you that according to THE GREAT NAVIGATORS OF THE 18TH CENTURY authored by Jules Verne, Bougainville was in Rio Janeiro in June 1767 when he became aware of Metastasio’s work. I quote ‘Well received by the Count of Acunha, Viceroy of Brazil, the French had opportunities of seeing the comedies of Metastasio given at the opera by a Mulatto troupe’. Then Bougainville sailed on to Tahiti. On the 4th April 1768, ‘at sunrise the vessel reached Tahiti, a long island consisting of two peninsulas, united by a tongue of land no more than a mile in width. More than 100 pirogues hastened to surround their two vessels. They were laden with cocoa-nuts and many delicious fruits which were readily exchanged for all sorts of trifles. When night fell, the shore was illuminated by a thousand fires, to which the crew responded by throwing rockets. "The appearance of this shore," says Bougainville, "raised like an amphitheatre, offered a most attractive picture. Although the mountains are high, the land nowhere shows its nakedness, being covered with wood. We could scarcely credit our sight, when we perceived a peak, covered with trees, which rose above the level of the mountains in the southern portion of the island. It appeared only thirty fathoms in diameter, and decreased in size at its summit. At a distance it might have been taken for an immense pyramid, adorned with foliage by a clever decorator. The least elevated portions of the country are intersected by fields and groves. And the entire length of the coast, upon the shore below the higher level, is a stretch of low land, unbroken and covered by plantations. There, amid the bananas, cocoa-nut and other fruit-trees we saw the huts of the natives." The whole of the morrow was spent in barter. The natives, in addition to fruits, offered fowls, pigeons, fishing instruments, working implements, stuffs, and shells, for which they asked nails and earrings. Upon the morning of the 6th, after three days devoted to tacking about and reconnoitring the coast in search of a roadstead, Bougainville decided to cast anchor in the bay he had seen the first day of his arrival. "The number of pirogues round our vessels," he says, "was so great, that we had immense trouble in making way through the crowd and noise. All approached crying, 'Tayo,' friend, and offering a thousand marks of friendship. The pirogues were full of women, who might vie with most Europeans in pleasant features, and who certainly excelled them in beauty of form." Bougainville's cook managed to escape, in spite of all prohibitions, and gained the shore. But he had no sooner landed, than he was surrounded by a vast crowd, who entirely undressed him to investigate his body. Not knowing what they were going to do with him, he thought himself lost, when the natives restored his clothes, and conducted him to the vessel more dead than alive. Bougainville wished to reprimand him, but the poor fellow assured him, that however he might threaten him, he could never equal the terrors of his visit on shore. As soon as the ship could heave to, Bougainville landed with some of his officers to reconnoitre the watering-place. An enormous crowd immediately surrounded him, and examined him with great curiosity, all the time crying "Tayo! Tayo!" One of the natives received them in his house, and served them with fruits, grilled fish, and water. As they regained the shore, a native of fine appearance, lying under a tree, offered them a share of the shade. "We accepted it," says Bougainville, "and the man at once bent towards us, and in a gentle way, sung, to the sound of a flute which another Indian blew with his nose, a song which was no doubt anacreontic. It was a charming scene, worthy of the pencil of Boucher. Four natives came with great confidence to sup and sleep on board. We had the flute, bassoon, and violin played for them, and treated them to fireworks composed of rockets and serpents. This display excited both surprise and fear."

Friday, 5 July 2013

Bougainville and Haydn and Tahiti?

June responded to yesterday’s posting with a connection between Metastasio (who wrote the libretto which Haydn used for his opera ‘L’isola disabitata’) and discussions about literature and Tahiti. This prompted me to investigate connections between Haydn and Tahiti in a different way. An early explorer, the Frenchman Louis Antoine de Bougainville, visited Tahiti in April 1768. When Bougainville returned to France, he published an account of the voyage, 'Le Voyage autour du monde’. The book became a red-hot best seller, with passages such as the following, describing that first encounter: ‘…the girl carelessly dropt a cloth, which covered her, and appeared to the eyes of all beholders, such as Venus showed herself to the Phrygian shepherd, having indeed the celestial form of that goddess. Both sailors and soldiers endeavoured to come to the hatch-way. At last our cares succeeded in keeping these bewitched fellows in order, though it was no less difficult to keep the command of ourselves.’ Bougainville naturally drew on classical imagery, the source of most soft porn in 18th century Europe. He gave Tahiti the name of New Cythera, after the island of Cythera (now Kythera), the birthplace of Aphrodite. ‘Voyage autour du monde (A Voyage around the World)’ was a sensation because of its eroticism, but also because it seemed to confirm the idea of the Noble Savage, the Romantic notion that people in a state of nature were nobler and less corrupted than those in the civilized world. These ideas were already current when Bougainville left France. Remember Haydn composed his opera at the end of 1770s only a few years after Bougainville’s book was published in 1771. If Bougainville’s book was well-known and widely distributed Haydn would probably have known about it. The book was a sensation, especially the description of Tahitian society, which Bougainville depicted as an earthly paradise where men and women lived in blissful innocence, far from the corruption of civilisation. In L’isola disabitata, Haydn’s young Silvia certainly was happily living in blissful ignorance on the island. One other thing. Bougainville relates in his travels, that in St Salvador, the capital of the Portuguese possessions in America, he witnessed the performance of an opera by Metastasio. Perhaps Bougainville and Metastasio knew each other in Europe. Can we assume Haydn through his use of Metastasio’s libretto actually met the Metastasio? Is it conceivable that Metastasio would have related stories from Bougainville? Or is there some chance Haydn simply picked up Metastasio’s well-known libretto about an island because of popular interest in exotic remote islands?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Is there a connection between Tahiti and Haydn's L'isola disabitata opera?

Earlier this year, June and I both attended a performance of Haydn's opera L'isola disabitata from the Royal Opera House in London, at our local Theatre Royal. Afterwards we mused whether we would be able to find any connection between the deserted island theme and Tahiti. I am excited to say that maybe I have found it. A few facts. I found that, according to Engaging Haydn: Culture, Context, and Criticism edited by Mary Hunter, Richard Will which can be read at, Haydn owned a 1784 edition of Cook’s travel diaries. Wow! How extraordinary. Here is a connection. Englishman Captain Cook sailed to Tahiti arriving in 1769. Haydn (1732-1809) lived almost entirely in Austria where this opera was premiered in 1779, except for two forays to London in the 1790s. Therefore Haydn had a few years to learn about Cook's travels and be inspired by the exoticness of islands. The questions that must be asked include, did Haydn acquire his copy of Captain Cook's journals when in London or earlier in Austria? Or is it possible that any or many of the Englishmen undertaking their Grand Tours on the continent could have informed him of Captain Cook's achievements, or carried a copy of the journal with them when they passed though Austria? Or maybe none of this is relevant. The 18th century started with Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe (1719)and the public loved stories about abandonment on deserted isles. The text by Metastasio for Haydn's opera had been around for a long while (since 1753) but Haydn wasn't given permission to write freely by his employer until 1779 the year this opera was released. Was Haydn simply pursuing a popular trend for story?

Monday, 1 July 2013

My travel arrangements are cast in concrete and as flexible as ...

You already knew my flights to and from Papeete were booked. Since then I have booked myself into the hotel airport (across the road from the small airport) for two nights. On Sunday I hope to get a ride around the island and see all I want to see - Captain Cook and Charles Darwin's Point of Venus, and the local Gauguin museum. If I am really lucky I might even pass some of the small villages in which the artist lived. My guide on the Marquesas Islands tells me that nothing happens on a Sunday (well it didn't when he was last on Tahiti 17 years ago)and that my plans might come to naught. But I am positive that something will happen. When I return to Papeete around midday before flying back to Oz, I will have the rest of the daylight to see some things I might miss on that 1st Sunday. Whatever I will see will be seen. Nothing more nothing less. Then early Monday morning I have booked a long flight via Nuku Hiva the main Marquesas Island to the island Hiva Oa. This is the island where Gauguin died, so I will charge up the hill to the cemetery and look at his plaque. Somewhere around all of this, I will meet Philip Beardmore who will guide me across the seas and the land for 10 nights and 9 days. He offered and I accepted to sail in his ketch around as many islands as we can in the time. Eventually we will end up at Nuku Hiva and I will fly away. Sailing alone with a stranger is a calculated risk but I believe I will have a magical time. What I love in anticipation of travelling with a local who speaks English is that I will have real conversations about real things that are local so I gain a much deeper understanding of the place and its people, and will meet real people in a way that I would not have as an independent traveller not attached to anyone. I may get to see things that my research has never mentioned and I may miss some things that seem important now. But the thrill of rocking and rolling on seas because there are apparently no calm lagoons around the islands, of having my meals cooked for me, and of the pleasure of regularity of days and nights at sea interspersed with on-land discoveries- all of this amounts to a spectacular possible wonder. Being there and doing it will be different from my dreams but I have no doubt it will be memorable.

The Marquesas are a collection of lots of islands

The Marquesas Islands are a group of 12 ancient volcanoes, which are divided into two distinct groups. The two groups are 98 km apart. The northern group comprises three inhabited islands and four uninhabited islands; the southern group 5 islands, two of which are uninhabited. The Marquesas are a small group of islands having a total surface area of 1300 km2 (492 sq miles), which is less than the total area of Tahiti. Here is a tale from one traveller:

Le Tour de France & Corsica & The Marquesas Islands

Tonight, before the 3rd stage of the 100th Tour de France in Corsica, I googled to get more background after yesterday's ride. A word caught my eye. Maqui and maquis. So superficially similar to the word Marquis and Marquesas. Could there be a connection? What I learnt was that a maqui is a dense growth of shrubs growing about 2-4 metres high, throughout the Mediterranean area. I wondered whether the Marquesas Islands had been named as such because someone noticed similar vegetation. Further googling reminded me that a marquis is a non-British nobleman with a ranking between a duke and a count, and that a marquise is the wife or widow of a marquis or a woman holding the rank of marquis in her own right. The word entered Middle English (as marques) from the Old French marchis ("ruler of a border area") in the late 13th or early 14th century. The French word was derived from marche ("frontier"), itself descended from the Middle Latin marca ("frontier"), from which the modern English words "march" and "mark" also descend. I enjoyed one clever word player who remarked 'The "marquis" (a nobleman) stepped silently through the "maquis" (a dense growth of shrubs in the Mediterranean area) and into the "marquee" (a large tent, often with open sides)'. How impressively rich our language can be! Regrettably the Mediterranean scrub surrounding this year's Tour de France riders is not relevant to the Marquesas Islands. It would seem that the name "Islas de la Marquesa de Mendoza" was given them by the first European visitor in 21 July 1595. The Spanish explorer and navigator, Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, named the islands in honour of the wife of the Viceroy of Perú (García Hurtado de Mendoza, 5th Marquis of Cañete). She was the patron of the voyage. I am yet to discover when the Mendoza part of the name fell out of use. Of course the islands always have had their own native names; Te Fenua ‘Enata and Te Henua Kenana When the Spanish arrived there were approx 90,000 people living on these islands. By the end of the late 19th century, perhaps 6000 local people remained. The incoming diseases and the murder of locals by the visitors accounted for most of the shocking decline.