Monday, August 09 1999

Greetings cyber-explorers,
we have spent a relaxing day in splendid isolation at the island of Tahanea, which consists of a series of low-lying, uninhabited coral reefs and islets. We arrived at about 7.30 this morning and entered to the lagoon through “boiling water” in the reef passage. The sky was grey and overcast and I am ashamed to say I found myself looking forward to day out of the glare of the sun and even perhaps some rain! After so many cold wet summers in Great Britain and North Germany I never thought I would feel like that, but it just goes to show you - you can have too much of a good thing! However it was not to be, by 10.30am the skies had cleared and the sun was beating down. Some of the crew went on land - from the boat it looked as if the numerous small islets were fringed by beaches of fine white sand - but on closer inspection this turned out to be great banks of dead coral, bleached bone white by the sun. Inland of the beaches, the narrow elongate islets were covered by the ubiquitous palm trees. There is very little life on any of the uninhabited atolls of the Tuamotus, just a few lizards, insects, coconut crabs and hermit crabs.

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Hermit crabs feeding on a coconut

Exploring the island was followed by a dive in the reef pass. I was manning the galley, and so I gave that one a miss today, I didn’t really mind as I have had enough “up close and personal” with reef sharks for the moment! The divers came back however and reported no sharks, but also very different conditions from the reef pass at Raroia - the reef was very flat and the reef life was all very small, no large fish at all and very little current. The visibility was about 30 to 40m, which Michael said was exceptional, and very good for photography - so we will be going back there tomorrow.

In the afternoon Rudi and I paddled the two kayaks over to the nearest islet. The kayaks are really great fun because you can go into very shallow water, and can even carry them over reefs, so they are great for exploring. As we paddled over to the island and up onto the shore, we felt like real castaways. We walked around the island to the seaward side and spent a happy hour beachcombing. I first began this as a child with my parents, who are avid beachcombers, and the thrill has never worn off. What makes it so exciting is that one never knows what one will find. Of course, a lot of rubbish, but often hidden in amongst it is something especially beautiful, unusual of useful. In my collection at home I have an old green glass float, a piece of intricately carved wood - which I think must be from and old boat, and many old fragments of sea washed coloured glass, china and wood which are still waiting to be made into a mosaic.

Today was no exception, almost the first thing we found was an old bottle - it was an empty, brown glass bottle and on the bottom was written “Santori Whisky” - this is Japanese whisky, and in fact Rudi and I had visited the distillery on the island of Hokkaido back in 1996! I also picked up some beautiful pieces of coral, bleached white by the sun.

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Wilfried enjoying a “test” dive with Angel

Today for the first time we have persuaded Wilfried to go into the water on a “test” dive. He went with Angel and enjoyed himself so much that we are thinking of changing his name from Erdmann - “Earthman” to Wassermann -“Waterman”! He’s all ready for another dive tomorrow. This has been an ideal place for him to try it out, no sharks, clear water and very good visibility.

More news tomorrow,

Janet