Friday, 12 July 2013
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 http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/rlsteven/southseas.pdf. 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?