Crossing the Equator is quite an important event onboard ship.
King Neptune came aboard and slathered fresh fish over each of the
first-timers, called polliwogs, before throwing them into the pool.
We hold a certificate signed by the Captain and King Neptune that
we were appropriately initiated. Tahiti and Morea are located as
distant from any continent as one can get; 4000 miles in either
direction to L.A. or Australia. With the exception of native fruits,
almost everything else is imported. (Gas is $5.00 per gallon.) Being
French possessions, their language is French (perhaps Tahitian at
home) and their currency is Francs, not Euros, interestingly enough.
The islands are volcanic craters formed millions of years ago, but
its people are quite recent, having come by canoe from Indonesia.
Anthropologists have timed their arrival to each island in the South
Pacific by linguistic analyses. It seems that the Polynesian language
evolved as they reached islands increasingly more remote from Indochina.
Since the language of Hawaii and Tahiti retain certain similarities
it is thought that folks settled these islands simultaneously, about
1000 AD. When man first arrived, the island flora was limited to
ferns and orchids which mean that all of the colorful abundant foliage
growing there today was imported. The same is true of native fauna,
all of which were introduced by immigrants. In order to control
a rat population that had inadvertently been introduced to Tahiti,
a European hawk was brought over. Unfortunately, native birds were
easier prey for the hawks, so they completely annihilated the native
bird population and the rats continued to flourish. When will we
learn? Tahiti is very developed with a westernized city, Papeete,
which looks like a typical Caribbean Island city. Across the water
though is Lt. Cable's view of Bali Hai in all its mystical wonder.
Bali Hai is one of the volcanic crater mountains on Morea, which
remains the prototype of what we expect a romantic Polynesian island
to be. Only 15,000 people live here in modest homes along a paved
road which encircles the shoreline. White sandy beaches with waving
palms sprawl in all directions. Braking waves, punctuated with distant
surfers, encircle this "South Pacific" paradise. We attended several
native dance events done by local dance teams. As you know, these
dance forms were prohibited by the Christian missionaries, and were
sadly becoming lost. Fortunately, a new interest in cultural preservation
has occurred and these dances are increasingly being revived and
revered in their rich heritage.