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Explorer Jon Bowermaster sends dispatches from the deep South (Pacific).
Dispatch 3: The Miramu and Wave Trains
September 23, 2002
[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]
We've moved to an atoll called Toau, about 350 miles [563 kilometers] east of Tahiti. It's 15 miles [24 kilometers] long by five miles [8 kilometers] across. Ten people live hereall of them related. They live off the fish that they catch and grow and the coconuts that they harvest. That's it. Pretty remote and pretty isolated.
We've also been met by what is known here as Mara'amu, which are seasonal winds out of the south and east. They've arrived a little early this year. The way that impacts us is we have a lot more gray skies, a lot more clouds, a lot more rainsomething I didn't anticipate here in paradise. I thought we'd just have blue skies and our biggest trouble would be staying out of the sun.
The evidence of how it impacts us was most strong yesterday when we paddled down the length of the atoll, to look at a shipwreck on the ocean side. When we came back we had to cross the two passes that allow water in and out of the lagoon inside this atolljust two passes on the entire atoll, which means that all the water that comes in and goes out goes through these two narrow passes. Which means lots of [heavy] seas, moving water, plus tides and current and winds during various times of day.
As we paddled back across the lagoon side of this pass the tides were being sucked out. At the same time, very strong currents were pumping in. We had 15-25 mile per hour [24-40 kilometer per hour] winds and rains in our face. The danger was that if someone was to get too close to that pass line, he could easily get sucked back out to the ocean through these big wave trains of sea moving out of the lagoon. At which point you'd be out on the oceanmaybe in your boat or out of your boat, depending on the circumstanceand be in pretty tough shape.
So despite the fact that I think that sometimes we do regard such places as paradise, there are definitely dangers. Every day we get a sense of why the early folks who arrived here did call it the Dangerous Archipelago, because of the unpredictable winds and unpredictable currents and tides and these incredibly mysterious and hidden coral reefs.
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