Which is quite sublime. Most places in the world could have a book written about them. Two or ten thousand years ago this place was much the same, and not much has happened since. Magellan passed through in the early 1500s. A few others, Bougainville then Cook. How many places in the world are historyless? What would a world be like if we all forgot, or forgave? We all know the power of knowing history, but is there power in forgetting? It’s worth a think.
Pacific Islanders populated these islands about a thousand years ago, perhaps a bit more. The total population of the Tuamotus is about 16000 people, surrounded by 250,000 square miles of land and sea. Most islands have nary a soul or perhaps the rare visitor. The definition of “frontier” during the American western expansion was less than five souls per square mile. There are about 0.06 souls per square mile out here. We’ve met some fascinating locals and sailors here. No one has COVID. There are no reported cases. But this lonely, windswept wilderness of sea and atoll is stunningly beautiful. There is a penetrating sense of solitude, and timelessness. The wind howls in the rigging as we sit calmly at anchor in a protected lagoon. Jack crush baitfish against the hull as the tern torment from above and then the cacophony fades into the quiet again. We can see the coral heads clearly and the coral trout patrolling them 50 feet under our boat. The anchor chain suspended in repose. The shark cruise by disinterested. Unless Lilly is filleting fish! In the atoll passes life explodes, in a blink what appears to be reef are carpets of grouper and unicorn fish. Each day the tides bellow millions of gallons of cool, fresh seawater through the passes. In the steep angles of morning light. In the moonless darkness. In the shadows of rippling moonlight. In the ochre bands of another dying day. The twitches of reef shark tails to surf the coral eddies. A pair of octopus wash by in technicolor embrace.
And life goes on here, oblivious to the world and its torments, and triumphs. There is no rage, are no grudges, no resentment or memory. It demands one to consider the frontiers of the past, what it felt to stand in new lands, and the new frontiers which lie ahead, the vista of possibilities that come with letting go, or never having held on.
And now our time here has come to a close. We’ll head back to Fakarava for fresh veggies from the farmer, the last supply ship for a month comes in soon. We’ll talk to our family ‘back in the world’ for Christmas with Internet. And so Tahanea will drift back to our cognitive histories to join so many other places. As we go on. Merry Christmas!