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Jon Bowermaster

From the Field
Expedition: Dangerous Archipelago
Kayaking French Polynesia's Tuamotu Islands

Explorer Jon Bowermaster sends dispatches from the deep South (Pacific).

Dispatch 6: At the Eastern Edge

October 14, 2002

[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]

We got off the cargo boat early this morning at Pukarua and were greeted onshore by the mayor of town—a very big man—who escorted us to his house, where at 7 o'clock in the morning, he served us fried fish and lobster and warm Coca Cola which actually was quite great.

And he was an even greater character because he had a monstrous scar on his leg from having been bitten by a shark about 10 years ago while he was spear fishing. He had seen a shark go after one of his buddies he was fishing with and so he shot the shark and the shark turned and attacked him. And many hours later he was flown to Tahiti and after hundreds of stitches, they saved his leg. Anyway, great, great, great, great, great character.

We walked down to the lagoon in Pukarua and met an 84-year-old woman who was just sitting in her chair with a straw hat on, in a very simple dress, and she had a big knife in one hand and a big hook in the other, just watching the shallows, waiting for octopus to come in. And if she saw one, she would walk up to the water and hook it with the big hook and then stab it two or three times and then carry it up and let it dry in the sun where she would save it to eat. Another great character.

From Pukarua, we went in later this afternoon to Reao which is the furthest east of the Tuamotu Chain. We are now at the far eastern end of the 900 mile (1,449 kilometer) chain and from here, we start heading back north and west and then back to Tahiti.

In Reao, it was quite moving today, because the last month that the cargo boat was here, in September, there was an accident just there in a little miniature pass where they bring the boats in filled with the goods that they are bringing into shore. The boat flipped and killed the driver. So we had a small memorial today out at sea throwing some wreaths of flowers in—which was quite moving.

We couldn't be more isolated out here in the middle of the Pacific, but on the other hand, couldn't feel more at home. So, we'll continue.

Next: Dispatch 7: Big Day on the Seas >>

—Jon Bowermaster

Click map to enlarge

Look for Jon Bowermaster's feature article on kayaking the Dangerous Archipelago in a future issue of Adventure. Subscribe Now and Save 62 percent off the cover price >>

Funding for this expedition was provided by the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council. For more information on the Council, its projects, and grants, e-mail ecouncil@ngs.org.


Photograph courtesy Jon Bowermaster; Map by NG Maps
  The Team
  Photo Gallery
  Dispatch 1
  Dispatch 2
  Dispatch 3
  Dispatch 4
  Dispatch 5
  • Dispatch 6
  Dispatch 7
  Dispatch 8


Audio: Dispatch 6: At the Eastern Edge (1:54)
"Couldn't be more isolated out here in the middle of the Pacific, but on the other hand, couldn't feel more at home."
RealPlayer: 28.8 | 56.6

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Related Web Sites

Ask the Expedition Advisor
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Descending the Dragon
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Dispatches From the Birthplace of the Winds
See photos and hear dispatches from the expedition that inspired Bowermaster's new book, Birthplace of the Winds.

Video: Bowermaster on His Aleutian Odyssey
Find out what it took to take Alaska's Islands of the Four Mountains by kayak.

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