Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

 

Jessica and students;

Gnomad has been in the Tuomotus for two weeks now, enjoying lagoon life.  The Tuomotus archipelago are 78 islands that stretch along 1,000 miles of ocean in the South Pacific.  The islands are in reality "former islands" consisting of islets, called motus, that represent the former barrier reef of volcanic islands that have eroded or sunk into the sea.  What is left is a ring of islets surrounding a lagoon.  The waters of these lagoons are amazing with clarity of 100' or more and sealife that is beyond description.   There are few people who live in the Tuomotus because the motus are just narrow coral shelves with very little soil.  Most food is brought in by supply ship from Tahiti; coconuts (for copra) and black pearl farming supplement tourism to support the population of Paumotu people.

While here, Gnomad was able to see native crafts (weaving of palms, carving of mother of pearl shells, etc.) , dancing and music associated with the annual Polynesian Heiva celebrations in July.   He's not much of a swimmer but the abundant sealife beneath Carina is visible from deck, though it's better to get in and snorkel.  In particular, there are many "tame" black tip sharks that divers especially enjoy.

While here, we all traveled to the "south pass" to the former village of Tetamanu where there is a ghost town of the former capital of the Tuomotus.  Here there is still a church of coral and a small pension called the Tetamanu Village.  From the pension you can swim out the pass and see thousands of the most amazing fish, many of color variations that don't show up in our Fishes of the Pacific book.  For example, a Moorish  Idol (remember the tough guy in finding Nemo?) - in army green and yellow and white!  At the Tetamanu Village, there is a huge green and blue Mowry Wrasse (4' long) - which we thought was a Bumphead Parrotfish and we're still not sure of its spelling- that swims around in about two feet of water following snorkelers. Friday we swam out the pass and I swear we looked up and that darn fish was following us!! Perhaps he's a one-fish shark patrol!

Today is Monday and we're departing with the high tide going through the pass in the reef (between motus) and back out into the Pacific, heading for Papeete, Tahiti.  Papeete is the capital of all of French Polynesia and the largest city.  Here we will re-provision and obtain a "zarpe" (or permission to leave) and depart for American Samoa with brief stops at islands along the route.

All the best,
The crew of the SV Carina,
Rotoava, Fakarava, Tuomotus, French Polynesia

At 7/27/2009 and 00:28 UTC (GMT) our position was: 1603.54'S / 14537.27'W