The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research

By Derek Freeman | Go to book overview
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6
At the U.S Naval Station,
Tutuila, American Samoa

AT DAWN ON JULY 22, 1888, Robert Louis Stevenson watched as the Marquesas Islands "took shape in the attenuating darkness." He later wrote about his feelings then: "The first experience can never be repeated. The first love, the first sunrise, the first South Sea Island are memories apart and touched by a virginity of sense." Thirty-seven years later, Margaret Mead, "remembering Stevenson's rhapsodies," was up at dawn on the S.S. Sonoma to experience her "first South Sea island" as it "swam up over the horizon." It was "a cloudy daybreak, with the sun appearing sullenly for only a moment and the surf showing white along the shores of the steep black cliffs" as the Sonoma made its way into Pago Pago, "the only landlocked harbor in the South Seas," where "numerous battleships" of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were at anchor, with seaplanes screaming overhead and a band "constantly playing ragtime." It was not a scene to touch anyone's "virginity of sense." As Mead wrote later that day, the presence of so many naval vessels skewed "the whole picture badly." 1

In the 1920s, Pago Pago, on the island of Tutuila, was the main U.S. naval station in the South Pacific. The U.S. Pacific Fleet, with its four battleships, four cruisers, hospital ship, and numerous destroyers, had arrived the previous day from New Zealand. In 1878, a treaty between the United States and the high chiefs of Tutuila had granted the United States the right to establish "a station for coal and other supplies for the naval and commercial marine of the United States" in Pago Pago Bay. On February 19, 1900, the American president,

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