Friday, May 7, 2010

Passes and sharks and rats, oh my

About to enter the pass into Katui in the Tuomotus
16 20.9 S 144 21.0 W

Just so you all don't think that this is just nothing but fun and carefree days let me tell you about the stresses of our days in the Tuomotus. I basically hate the passes(narrow entrances with lots of current and standing waves in and out)..they are just too scary and we keep having to come in and out of them to get to the various lagoons we want to visit. My new strategy is to be down below working on emails which is just what I am doing while the guys get us thru the pass this morning. Yesterday Gram was finally able to get back in the water( his finger has healed well and looks like we dodged the infection bullet) so we celebrated by going on a snorkel at the reefs near the pass on Makemo that we had anchored at to be able to leave early today. The coral was like drip castles with lots of pinnacles and quite interesting. Lots of fish including a few rather large orange (unusual) parrot fish. Two black tipped sharks which are nonagressive and only about 4 ft. plus one too big grey shark(said to be possibly aggressive). Don't think I have ever gotten out of the water and back into the dinghy so fast! After the snorkel we went to the deserted village ...a couple of funky houses that are used during coppra(coconut) harvest. We wanted to get a better look at the pass so walked across the island thru the coconut trees. We had noticed that something was knawing at all the coconuts and wondered if it were crabs or rats...just then a huge rat ran just in front of my foot and scared the bejesus out of me.

So a bit of facts(plaguerized from an email Bill wrote recently) on just what an atoll is as that is what the Tuomotus are wholly comprised of. An atoll is the last bit of a sunken volcano. Volcanoes string across the Pacific, even under the ocean floor! The volcano erupts, and you get a high island with mountains. Over tens of thousands of years, the mountain settles. As it sinks, the crater can flood and you get an ocean lagoon inside the walls of the volcano. As it sinks more, only the top of the rim is left, and coral reefs grow all around them.

The lagoons inside the atolls are like nothing seen before. They are large, this one over 30 miles long, and are surrounded by a coral reef. The south facing sides face the bigger waves and swells and are more purely reef. The North facing sides have little palm islands called motus. Lagoon navigation is not difficult as water is very deep (100 - 120 ft) with widely interspersed and steep cylindrical (very steep/vertical and 10 - 30 yards across) reefs just visible at the surface. No need to read depth of the water between them, just avoid the visible reef tops as you move around. It is tiring tho' as Gram and I have to be on the foredeck watching while Bill steers around the reefs we spot. Quite magnificent overall, the area is quite gorgeous and isolated. We have loved the water and the temps are such that we are not even wearing wetsuits to snorkel.. Bill and I were able to do a dive for his birthday (Gram stayed in the dinghy and followed our bubbles which made it a drift dive in the current ). It was very nice and for me my most comfortable dive to date. Wore a wetsuit and stayed really warm the whole 50 min. which is also a first as I usually get cold even in my wetsuit. That in itself may have increased the comfort level by a margin...

We are starved for fresh at this point...there are no vegies or fruit here as the soil would not grow anything and there are few ships and planes that bring stuff in. We are fine on protein and staples but quite missing salads and fresh fruit...even our bananas are gone!!! Hope that we will be in an atoll that is a little larger and more connected to the mainland of Tahiti with airplanes in a week or so and that there they may have some green for us. Last lettuce was 15. for a pack of Romaine but worth every cent of it. We are eating tuna every other night as we have an abundance of that and so far are not sick of it yet, Will be interesting to see what we will find in Tahiti as reprovisioning will be a definite need.

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