The Voyage to Rapa Nui / 1999-2000
Chad Baybayan's Journal / Leg 3: Mangareva to Rapa Nui
September 24: Just as the sun broke the plane of the horizon, crew member Max Yarawamai, standing on the bow of Hokule'a, pointed to a shape under a dark cloud. Pitcairn Island. Twice within a span of 30 days Hokule'a has made Pitcairn a landfall. Finding Pitcairn is the first part of Nainoa Thompson's navigational strategy as he guides Hokule'a in an attempt to reach Rapa Nui, the last corner of the Polynesia triangle meant to be visited by this historic canoe. It is a veteran crew who mans Hokule'a's decks on this voyage. In 1985 five of us who are on board now, Nainoa, myself, Bruce Blankenfeld, Tava Tauupu, and Mike Tongg, sailed to New Zealand, the southwest corner of the Polynesian triangle. It will be nice for me to close the triangle with these special friends.
Our last stop at Pitcairn was a memorable event for the crew of Hokule'a, its escort boat and the Pitcairn community. The majority of the residents are direct descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them. Today many of the residents still bear the name of their most famous ancestor, Fletcher Christian. However, although they proudly bear the Chistian name, they deny being related to one another. Confused about this, I asked Tarol Christian Warren, a life-long resident, why this was so. She explained that although they are direct descendants of Fletcher Christian there has been so much intermarriage on the island they no longer consider themselves related.
I also learned that within two years of settling Pitcairn only one of the original Bounty sailors was still alive, the rest being killed off in a feud that erupted between them and the Tahitians they brought along. Tne fighting started after one of the Bounty mutineers stole a woman from the Tahitians after his own wife died. The Tahitians quickly retaliated. Fletcher Christian died in a raid while tending his garden. The Bounty survivors organized and disposed of the Tahitians. Soon the Bounty survivors were fighting among themselves. Of the last three surviving Bounty sailors, one lost his head while asleep; the second died of natural causes; and the third, John Adams, became the leader of the surviving community of women and children. Today the only village on the island, Adamstown, bears his name.
On our last visit, a close bond developed between Hokule'a's crew and the 42 members of the Pitcairn community, all of us descendants of a rich maritine history. Our crew bundled packages of the canoe's excess food and gave one to each family that lives there. The supply ship that normally delivers food every four months had missed a delivery. They are hoping that in October the ship will be back, but some six months will have elapsed since the last ship visited.
The night the canoe departed Pitcairn on the first visit, Hokule'a's crew prepared an evening dinner on the dock of this island and fed the entire community. We brought in the canoe that night as these proud residents sang British hymns. Today Nainoa and the crew will put ashore to rekindle the friendship made 30 days ago, and once again remind ourselves that we are all residents of the same island earth and not very different at all. Aloha is alive and well on Pitcairn Island.
To Other Entries in Chad's Journal: September 20, 1999--Thoughts on Departure; September 22, 1999--Decision to Depart; September 24, 1999--Pitcairn; September 27, 1999--Getting into a Rhythm; September 29, 1999--Life at Sea; October 01, 1999--The Crew; October 04, 1999--Cherishing the Spirit; October 06, 1999--Gray Skies; October 08, 1999--Landfall!