Fw: Palmerstone Reef 18:02.6S 163:11.4W
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Mon 31 Aug 2015 08:22
Dear Family and Friends,
Having reviewed our blogs I have found that some are missing and some incomplete so I shall be doing some editing. However it seems as though the blogs will only be filed by date of sending so It may appear an odd sequence. Here is one that was missing entirely. Unfortunately when the satellite signal is intermittent there is no way of telling whether those emails in the sent box are actually sent until you can catch up with wifi access.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan
Sent: Wednesday, August 05, 2015 7:52 AM
Subject: Palmerstone Reef 18:02.6S 163:11.4W
Dear Family and Friends,
4th August 2015
Well we arrived at Palmerstone Reef, a small isolated atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Cook Islands, although the nearest of the group is some 180 miles further east. Once part of the British Empire, it was ceded to New Zealand in 1901 and gained its independence 50 years ago today, in 1965. It is in free association with New Zealand and it still has the Union Jack in the top left quadrant of its flag, English and Maori are spoken. But that is not the remarkable story of this atoll.
An English carpenter by the name of William Marsters arrived with his three Polynesian wives in 1863. He had been working in Tahiti and was offered a position, by the island’s owner setting up copra production on the islands of the atoll. Arriving by boat he was promised that further supplies and payment would follow the next year. Two years later the owner’s son finally arrived, Masters presented him with his bill but the father had died so in payment of this debt the island of Palmerstone was given to Marsters. It is suggested that Marsters had been part of the Californian gold rush and was able to survive by paying visiting whaling ships in gold for his supplies.
All the inhabitants of 1.5 mile long Palmerstone island, about 50-60 people, are directly descended from Marsters’ and his 3 wives, marrying with other islanders from further a field. The Marsters’ dynasty is reputed to be well over a thousand relatives, living in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia and many more places far from here. Palmerstone is the only inhabited island of the atoll, it has a school with an English teacher from Dorset for the 23 pupils, a church, coconut lined avenues laid out between ramshackle buildings, a solar power plant, satellite comms and wi-fi. Supply boats visit about every 3-4 months. What is redundant is reused including a yacht that was wrecked there in 2011. This is now a shelter with a toilet!
We had to apply to visit the atoll, to the Cook Island authorities, and to part with NZ$90 for fumigation, immigration and customs clearance, not the cheapest one night stop we have ever had but the people are charming. We were cleared in aboard the boat by a Arthur, a Marsters’ descendant and the son of another local celebrity Tom Neale, a modern day Robinson Crusoe who spent 25 years living alone on the uninhabited island of Suwarrow, also a Cook Island.
They welcome and collect you in their boats, the reef which is too shallow for yachts to pass through, would be tricky to navigate but for the branches that sort of mark the way. The islanders invite you to join them in a meal of barbecued fish, rice and salad, sing songs of how Marsters’ came to the islands amongst other traditional shanties and pop songs from 1960’s! It seems this is a daily ritual for any boat that chooses to go ashore. You are free to wander around the island, indeed we were hailed by another islander who offered all guests ice cream and soggy warmed doughnuts, holding court and conversation with any and all of us. He proudly showed us the half finished yacht club, apparently HMS Sutherland drank the bar dry and it hasn’t been stocked since 2000. The islanders do not ask for anything in return but when you ask them what you can give them they say whatever you like. This island has more use for resources than money so we gave books, DVD’s, rope, old clothes, children’s colouring books and pencils and food. It is suggested that there is some politics between 3 original families so making sure you pay your respects and give your contribution to your host is important.
The island is divided into 3 for each section of the family and there is something akin to a family committee for making decisions and asking permissions. There is also a coconut etiquette; if an owner has gathered fallen coconuts together on his land then its hands off, similarly if he plans to use green coconuts still on the palm, for the water, a green palm wrapped around the trunk has the same effect. Other than that people may seek your permission take some of your coconuts. If they want to get away from the island they go for a pic-nic to another of the 5 or so motus in 6 mile atoll.
What makes this island special is the warmth of their hospitality and their history, I wasn’t even sure why we would come here other than for a rest from the relentless swell but I am pleased that we did.
All our best, next stop Apia in Samoa, a journey of about 4 days.
Lynne and Alan