Notes from a Large Ocean 2
11 June 2009 | 10 53.43S:142 23.74W
We left Nuka Hiva on Tuesday bound for Papeete in Tahiti in the Society Islands. The winds are light as usual so, as it's about 750 miles, it should take about 7-8 days. When we left Galapagos for the big trip, we spent weeks planning it, checking the boat, provisioning, writing lists and generally fretting. This time I bought a bit of fresh food and some French sticks, glanced at my tinned food and decided I could knock up enough meals and off we went! It's like flying. Ever since we started going to Australia, any flight less that 24 hours now is hardly worth getting your book out!!
From the Marquesas, the route takes you through the Tuomotu Archipelago, a huge arc of coral atolls. I didn't actually know what an atoll was really so I'll tell you what it says in the Lonely Planet. Submarine volcanoes sometimes grow above the surface to become islands. Coral begins to grow round its coast and then, if the island sinks due to subsequent plate action, it leaves a fringing lagoon between the island and the coral reef. A coral atoll is formed when the island completely disappears. To become inhabitable, the sea breaks up the coral, forming course, infertile soil. Seeds blown by the wind or brought by birds finally take root, especially the particularly hardy coconut tree. Eventually there was enough good vegetation that people from the Pacific islands were able to cultivate on them.
There are 76 islands, 30 uninhabited, spanning a distance of 1000 miles. The only two I had heard of before was Moruroa, where the French tested their nuclear bombs from 1966 through to the mid-90s and Raroia, where Thor Heyerdahl landed in his raft, Kon Tiki, in 1947 after drifting for 3 =BD months from Peru.
We probably won't be stopping at any of them as we want to get on to Tahiti but a lot of the other cruisers are stopping at Ahe, Manahi and Rangiroa. These have passes in the coral so that you can get through into the lagoon when the tide is up, but as we have no decent charts for them, we decided to give them a miss. I think we have a fair few coral atolls to visit a bit further on up the chain.