lewis r. freeman : canoe surfing, marquesas, 1920
Nuku Hiva (sometimes
spelled "Nukahiva") is the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia,
an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean.
It was formerly also known as Île Marchand and Madison Island.
Herman Melville wrote
his book Typee based on his experiences in the Taipivai valley in
the eastern part of Nuku Hiva.
Robert Louis Stevenson's first landfall on his voyage on the Casco, was at Hatiheu, on the north side of Nuku Hiva, in 1888.
Nuku Hiva was also the site for Survivor: Marquesas, the fourth installment of the popular CBS reality television show in the US.
- wikipedia: Nuku
Hiva, viewed 22 April 2013.
with Queen Mareu was somewhat restricted as a result of having to be carried
on through the medium of an interpreter.
We found her a most personable young lady of about twenty-five, with a strik-
ing face and figure
and a glint of sombre fire slumbering in the depths of her dark eyes that
indicated temper or temperament, and probably both.
She had ascended the "throne" a year previously, after her father, the late King, had slipped on a ripe mango in endeavouring to elude the charge of a wild bull he was hunting.
Her manifest determination to rule her home as well as her people was responsible, it was said, for the flight to Tahiti of her husband a young half-caste of little account a month or two later.
Since then she had ruled alone.
Of what mind she was in the matter of taking a "Prince Consort," we were unable to learn; but a tender light in the sloe eyes when "Lord Chamberlain" McGrath was about might have furnished a clue to the trend of her intentions.
Whatever these might have been, however, Fate, as far as the near future was concerned, had other plans incubating for the slender, blue-
eyed trader to whom every one that came in contact with him seemed to become so much attached.
The print holakau
or Mother Hubbard wrapper which descended upon the South Seas with the
missionaries would ordinarily hardly be rated as a regal garment; but Mareu,
with the sweeping lines of her Dianesque figure softly outlined by the
clinging calico, carried hers as if it was a Grecian robe, and was distinctly
well, I noted that even the Commodore was keeping his weather eye lifting
whenever she hove above the
But she was at her best when, in a bathing suit improvised from a pareo, she sported with the gay abandon of a porpoise in a natural pool of pink and blue coral where the beach curved up to the base of the great cliff, or, perched cross-legged in the stern of her little
sent that slender craft, a sliver of shining silver, speeding through the
surf -swept mazes of the outer reef.
She was indeed a consummate canoeist quite the best I have ever seen and in the light of subsequent events I have often recalled the words with which McGrath once referred to her skill with the paddle.
We watched from
the thatched roofed veranda of McGrath's quarters one dewy-fresh morning
when the whistling Trade had whipped up a more than usually stiff sea outside,
the course of Mareu's canoe where, with Claribel as a passenger, she was
shooting the breakers as they came booming in across the reef.
Suddenly the even line of the horizon was blotted out by the loom of a roller of huge bulk and weight "the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," as the sailors call it when they don't use a stronger term.
try that one," muttered McGrath decisively; "it's big enough to founder
a war canoe."
And then, as the helio flashes from the blade of a swiftly plied paddle told him his surmise was wrong, "Good God, there she goes!"
The canoe gathered
momentum, hung for a few moments on the back of the mounting comber, and
then "caught on" and commenced to race. Slowly the wave gathered itself
together and, as the water shallowed above the edge of the reef, curled
over and broke with a roar that rattled the glasses on the arms of our
For an instant nothing was visible but foam and spray and tossing waters; then, clinging tenaciously to the comber's flying mane as a panther, teeth in neck and safe from the animal's horns, rides the stag he has
the little canoe.
On it darted like the flash of a sunbeam, a smoke of spray rising from its bows and the floundering out-rigger trailing like a broken wing.
Twice or thrice, as the tossing waters gave way beneath the prow and the slender craft seemed on the point of "somersaulting" over the breaker's brink, there came the flash of a steadying paddle and the equilibrium was restored.
Now the roughest of the ride was over and a swift dash of a hundred yards remained before still water was reached.
Claribel, game but chastened, still lay low in an instinctive endeavour to keep the centre of gravity down near the keel where it belonged; but Mareu, mad with the ecstasy of swift motion, leapt up to a hair-poised balance and, swathed in sheets of flying spray, finished the run after the fashion of that other Venus who was born of the sea-foam where the breakers travailed on the Cyprean coast.
I saw the Commodore lower his glass with a gesture of relief where he had watched with the Mater from the veranda of the Queen's "palace," but McGrath was only smiling.
"If there was a reef and a surf hedging in the jaws of hell, that girl would try and shoot the passage with never a thought for what she was going into beyond," he said evenly as he watched her beach the canoe and help Claribel to alight.
Absorbed in his
thoughts, but still with his eye on the girl, McGrath poured himself another
glass of absinthe.
Disdaining the aid of a couple of her boat-pullers, she dumped the water from the canoe and hauled it up to its shelter of thatch above high-tide mark; then, like a spaniel that has finished its swim, she gave
herself a vigorous shake, so that her wealth of glistening blue-black hair came tumbling down and swathed her spray-wet body to the knees.
"And by God! " McGrath gave vocal expression to the thoughts that were in his eyes "with Mareu at the paddle I'd run the jaws of hell myself!"
Chief item in
the visitor's program in Tahiti after he has called on the Governor, appeared
at the Club and spent a small sack of Chilean pesos to see a hula which
has been so completely "expurgated and legalized" as to make a Maypole
dance on the green in his old home appear Bacchanalian by comparison is
the hundred-mile drive around the island.
The roads are bad over half the way and the vehicles all the way, but the ride unfolds such an unending panorama of sea, surf and lagoon; of beach and reef; of mountain, cliff and crag; of torrent, cascade and waterfall, and of reckless, riotous, onrushing tropical vegetation as can be found along few, if any, similar stretches of road elsewhere in the world.
Our drive, in the company of the American Consul, William Doty, and his sister, on which we were entertained each day by a different district chief with specially-arranged surf-rides, feasts, dances and himines, was one unbroken succession of new and delightful sensations.
In the Tracks of the Trades-
the account of a fourteen thousand mile yachting cruise to the Hawaiis,
Marquesas, Societies, Samoas and Fijis
Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1920.