Fatu Hiva - Marquesas Islands, Hanavave Bay


Hanavave bay

As you can read bellow, Fatu Hiva is full of surprizes. Apart from that it is an incredibly beautifull island.


Adventure of discovering the past Day 1


I have good news for everybody who likes the taste of adventure, exploring, traveling without travel agents, hotels, tour buses, dipers etc. There is something left around to be discovered. I was not sure before but I know it now! Fatu Hiva was a good place for me. I found something. Not exactly Tutanchamon tomb but good enough for me.


Fatu Hiva did not like me at first. Disappearing in heavy clouds completely even when I was few miles away. Later, strong wind gusts (45 knots) made my anchor dragging in few secconds and because it was dark and Hanavave Bay is a tight spot in this kind of weather, I spent first night drifting in the lee od the island. I was only hoping that this would not happen again during my whole day trips inland. (I already lost enough in the ocean. Too much to mention it.)


  Thor Heyerdahl mentioned an interesting legend in his book about Fatu Hiva. Too romantic to be true perhaps. He and his wife visited an underground lake called Vai-Po (Night water)approx. year 1936. They explored its dark silent waters in canoa in a dim light of a kerosene lamp. Their local guides were frightened because they all broke Tabu and they were not sure whether a dangerous monster lives there or what was going to happen. One thing they knew: a legend saying that there is an underwater entrance to another cave. A cave where a shaman from a village nearby was burried. His skeleton might be still resting next to his altair. Even Thor Heyerdahl could not do much with his kerosene lamp so that was all what I have read.  


My first question was if the place still exists. The entrance lies under huge costal rock in very unstable area. One fast earth slide burried whole village just next killing everybody and causing tsunami which damaged other places at least on the island. Surprisingly I found the entrance almost in the same shape. Thanks to seventy years´advance in technology I had my little headlamp closed in a marmelade jar, wet suit and snorkeling equipment. Nothing could have stoped me. I did not ask in the village if somebody made the research before because I did not want to know what I am going to find. I was surprised at first the place looked so small why to talk about a lake. It is certainly smaller than it was described in the book. But once in the water I saw that there is a lot of space underwater, going much bellow and behind the rock ceiling especially in the back part of the cave. I can not help myself I was thinking about monsters too. I did not believe it but such ideas come. I started to search step by step not to miss a possible passage to another cave. This took quite a long time, because the distance to get to the end was several meters but I had to come back many many times to breath. I remember somebody was telling me how dangers cave diving was and how special training I need. Maybe it is true but I was just snorkeling. (Have you ever heard about cave snorkeling training?) Good think there was the light from the entrance. It was always visible on the way back and it really gives some confidence. I realised soon what my handicap was. Too much boyancy is not good and rock ceilings are hard. Wet suit, the jar and my camera, everything was pulling me up. I left all the weights behind but there was no thinking about going back to pick them up in the boat. Landing in the surf is a tricky adventure not talking about setting off. My body suffered much less without all these weights.    


Vai Po, Water in the night, underwater cave towards its entrance

Looking back towards the entrance. You see (poorly) the bottom going down. It becomes flat furthter from the entrance in approximately 3m depth. This bottom has only little stones after it becomes flat as you can see on the picture).

Enough of detailes. I found him. Not the entrance, not another cave, but THE MAN WAS THERE! A bit weathered I must say. But it was a skeleton. I did not find teeth and only fractures of the scull. Everything was messed up. No amulets, clothes, weapons etc. I made several trips to see everything properly and I had to finish before my oxygen diet kills me. How did he (or she) get there, who moved him there (if they had watertight jars, which I doubt, they did not have headlamps!). Was he a shaman, burried there by somebody or somebody who drowned there? I do not know. "Unlucky cave diving pioneer" is a bit boring theory comparing to other ones and I do not mean it seriously. How original! A legend about a corpse interested somobody that much that it ended with real corpse...


Underwater skeleton in the darkness

This place is in the far end of the cave. I swimmed about 10 meters from the entrance shore and later about 6 meters underwater. There are stones again, and what kind od stones?




The story continues: the swell when leaving Vaipo was so big that it become the most dangerous part of the whole trip. But I made it, I little bit bruised, with some loss of equipment but alive and with my outboard running. I felt happy. I know, skeletons do not normaly make people happy but this one did. I found something! Maybe it was just a boyish adventure but it worth!


The story has two ends. A sober one: a day after I found a man in a village who was snorkeling with an american visitor some years ago and they both found the skeleton. Most likely there were more such visitors in the past. It means my discovery was a discovery of something discovered. What a pity. BUT - there is no reason for too much pity. But there is still something to look for and it is the other end - happyend. There might be something left to find. As far as I know nobody was doing a serious research underwater. An entrance to another cave may be real even if not probably open. (I would give only a little chance of an open entrance after my quick look.) The above pictures provide some clue. I am sure there is something to think about. there is evidence that the water level had moved significantly during the years. Look at the pictures and think about it. Good luck for your discoveries.

Day 2 - more to be found


The day after I was looking for a tomb of the last shaman of Hanavave (according to Heyerdahl), not far from the village. Thanks to good description in the book and the fact that the place did not change much, I found it. To uncover the relief on the red stone on the top I had to remove some earth and plants, probably the same as T.H. did before the WWII. Unfortunately red stones from the top are damaged so is the whole tomb, covered with branches and filled with coconuts. I did not want to search there because this place is well known and there is probably nothing left inside.



Relief on the red stone

Relief on the red stone on the top of the shaman tomb. Some locals are complaining that T.H. took everything valuable from Fatu Hiva´s history away. The picture shows that what he had left was abandoned without attention and weathered for more than 70 years except the fact that the tomb was partialy destroyed and both of the red stones broken. But the question has some merit: Why should be the artefacts from Pacific Island on the shelves in Norway?

I was looking for burrial places on the rock nearby. This time I went up to the skies to find something interesting. The rock was very high and without climbing equipment I did not dare to climb everywhere. I found an accesible wall with lot of roots from trees above. The stones themselves are very unreliable because the rock falls apart easily. I felt height sick soon. Finally I found what I was looking for. Four burrial boxes with bones. One box was made of boards nailed together, the other three were carved in a piece of trunk. Those trunks looked as if somebody put them there yesterday. There were some old shirts inside and the box contained tapa, localy made cloth which was used to wrap up the remains of the body. I do not know what they did with the body that it fits in such a small box. One man in the village told me later that thay ate the meat but it sounds as a nonsense. They ate their enemies and the enemies would not get a privileged burrial place high on the rock. Unfortunately the bodies I found had been disturbed in the past, somebody was looking for "tiki" or another souvenier. Many bones were out of the boxes and one trunk nearly fell down. The thief came maybe a long time ago. People in the village did not know about about this place and it was a different one than T.H. found. This time I was happy I had found something new. By the way the view from the rock is spectacular. I was on the top and I understand that somebody wishes to be buried up, high above the village, in a clean fresh air. Our tradition - 6 feet in the ground seems to be far less charming.




Burrial box above the Havavave village

This place is a little cave and shelf on Moturui rock. There are many similar places on rocks around but climing is not easy. Probably most of them had been robbed in the past so many interesting things which were given to the dead are lost forever.

Some yachtsman look for facilities, where to buy food or souveniers and spareparts for their boats. Others could not be more happy, just to find some old ruines or stone carvings or just an interesting but unknown place. I am gratefull to be in places where the former is unknown and the surprizes are still waiting.





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