May 9

Here we are in Taiohae Bay on Nuka Hiva. There's the smell of history here, for me anyway. This same bay is where Captain Porter of the US whaling ship "Essex" (though not the first European to spot the island) annexed the island for the US in 1813, though the act was never ratified by Congress. Porter built a fort at Taiohae and named it Madisonville after the president of his time, James Madison. In 1842, according to my tourist guidebook, the French built a new fort on the same site when they took possession of the island. The first European to "discover" Nuka Hiva though was also an American - Captain Joseph Ingraham in command of the trading vessel "Hope" in 1791. The Spanish, however, were the first to lay claim to the Marquesas. In 1595 the Spaniard Mendana was the first European to see the Marquesas, and it was he who named them.

At the time of the entry of the Marquesas into European history the population of Nuka Hiva numbered in the thousands. Captain Porter estimated, in his bid to defeat the Taipais to win favor with the Taiohaes, estimated he faces 4,000 warriors, and that was just the men of one tribe/village! Some estimates I have read put the total population of Nuka Hiva at over 80,000 at the beginning of the 1800s. Of course, after European contact the population began the inevitable rapid decline due to the introduction of European diseases, most notably Smallpox (see the enlightening book "Guns, Germs and Steel" for more information). By the time the French "protectors" arrived the population was down to 15,000 and by 1926 only 2,000 Marquesans remained.

It was not until 95% if the population was decimated that the Marquesans gave up their warlike, cannibalistic ways and became Christians. Today Nuka Hiva is the only one of the Marquesas to have a predominately Catholic population, the other islands being predominately Protestant. Nuka Hiva now has a population of about 2,500 people and most are extremely friendly and giving. I should note that much of the historical information presented above comes from the book "South Pacific Handbook" (Moon Publications) by David Stanley, a work of incredible value to us and anyone else traveling the Pacific.

Its not hard to imagine what Melville must have felt sailing into Taiohae Bay in 1843 aboard the whaling ship Acushnet. Taiohae Bay is impressive as it is surrounded by mountains of unimaginable roughness fully cloaked in lush green. Trying to imagine Melville scaling these cliffs to reach Taipivai, on the other hand, is difficult.

Anyway, this morning we woke at 5:30am to get ready to go to town early. We wanted to be at the stores early because apparently vegetables are delivered to the stores early and are snatched up quickly. Why there is a vegetable shortage on these lush, fertile islands is another story altogether, but suffice it to say that it is a fact of life here and we wanted to make sure we got some of whatever was available.

Well, we sure hit pay dirt! At first we were disappointed upon arriving at the largest of the stores. Fresh bread was plentiful (French Baguettes by the dozen, and still hot) and we got 3 or 4 of them. But there we NO vegetables at all! Then as we were paying the veggies arrived and were quickly sequestered in the back. When we asked we were told they would be out in about 10 minutes, so we waited. I guess they were bagging and tagging because in a few minutes a women with a shopping cart filled with veggies came out and started to pile them up on an empty shelf. We didn't wait for that and were scooping up bags of fresh veggies from the cart before she could get them on the shelf.

We got eggplant, cucumbers, string beans, green peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and two of the largest zucchinis I've ever seen. We also picked up a few odds and ends like more milk (UHT milk in a box) chocolate pudding for Jonah and pineapple juice (they have the most amazingly delicious pineapple juice here - its grown and packaged on Moorea in the Society Islands). Plus, our friend Marcus caught a Yellow fin Tuna this morning and has invited us over for Sushi tonight (I volunteered to make the rice)!

In the afternoon Chris and I went diving at the dive site known as Hammerhead East - just outside the East Sentinel (a large rock/islet marking the entrance to the bay). Unfortunately we saw no sharks today, hammerheads or otherwise. Chris and Marcus dove there yesterday and reported seeing them, and today while Chris and I were down at 90 feet Marcus was spear fishing at 30' and saw Hammerheads (but he caught no fish).