Long, Arduous Voyage Dims against Marquesas' Dazzle

By Scott, Susan | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, May 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Long, Arduous Voyage Dims against Marquesas' Dazzle


Scott, Susan, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


TAIOHAE BAY, NUKU HIVA, Marquesas Islands -- Twenty-six days after leaving Mexico on my 37-foot sailboat, Honu, I dropped anchor in a bay so stunningly beautiful I felt I had landed in the middle of a movie set. Jagged mountains separated by jungled valleys surround a former volcanic crater filled with warm blue water, bright tropical fish and about 40 resting sailboats. A tiny storybook town (population about 1,200) filled with friendly people lines the bay.

But this is no make-believe place. It's the administrative center of the islands we call the Marquesas, the most northerly group of French Polynesia.

The Marquesas consist of six large and six small islands. Compared with Hawaii, though, the Marquesas are all small, the 12 island totaling only 492 square miles. The land area of Hawaii is 6,425 square miles.

All the Marquesas Islands are ancient volcanic mountains rising steeply from the sea to about 4,000 feet. As I sailed in, the jutting basalt columns of Nuku Hiva's windward side reminded me of Easter Island statues. Here the wind, rain and sun have carved their own colossal moai.

With their Spanish-sounding name, I always wondered whether the Marquesas had a Spanish flavor to them. But no. The Spanish link is in name only, bestowed by a 1595 Spanish explorer. He named the group after his sponsor, a marquess married to the viceroy of Peru.

Two centuries later other European explorers came upon the islands, and in 1842 France declared them a French protectorate.

Today the Marquesas are a charming mix of French and Polynesian culture. Both baguettes and breadfruit accompany lunch plates. …

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