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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
We Land on Easter Island

Gingerly, we stuffed the four of us into the Zodiak. The smell of eucaliptus and horses focused our noses to the new scents of an unfamiliar island.I navigated the raft between the breaking combers, apparently a little too close to the local surfers. One of them slid into our path and doused us good. We turned hard to port at the small breakwater and throttled down into the boat harbor. Two fishermen and a boy tethered us fore and aft alongside their skiff. We saw their yellowfin operation up close with tuna line all knotted, gloves with no palms, frayed wire and rusty knives. Live bait which they scooped up at night was hooked on a wire leader and then hand jigged "Ika Shibi" style off the outer reefs. When a yellowfin hit, it took them on a ride ala Moby Dick until it weakened enough to be hauled onboard. This morning they had cleaned a fresh sixty pounder before taking it home to carve up for sale.

We asked in our best high school Spanish “Donde esta la officia de postal ?” Following their directions, we took our first saunter off the stone dock and were met by a man with a jeep. In very broken Spanish/English we arranged for him to drive us there as well as Rano Raraku to see the famous quarry and statues. What a day!

The post office took a long time. The air was thick and humid, probably 90 degrees. We did get our passports stamped with the “estampe especial de Isla de Pasqua.” Donee mailed her pounds of correspondence class work. We all mailed the typical postcards…..Off in the jeep, we drove slowly through the main part of Hanga Roa, a dirt road lined with low black stone walls with hibiscus, bougainvillea, and palm fronds draped on and around the one story buildings.

We crossed the island through fields of black boulders, pumiced and pocked, strewn over the sparse grass as if they were sprayed out of a fountain. They were in a way. It wasn’t long before heads with long ears loomed up on the mountainside. There were a lot of them, tilting to the side, leaning headlong away from the hill. I was 150% alert and aware.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Officials Troll for Goodies

We anchored in six fathoms off of the main town of Easter Island, Hanga Roa. Aloft we flew a quarantine flag, a yellow square basically, and under that the official flag of Chile. This hastily sewn flag featured a rectangle with the bottom half red, the upper left quarter, a field of blue with a white star, and the upper right quarter, a field of white. Steve’s old white Hanes and an extra scrap of blue did well for part of this flag, but I was hard up for the rest. A red remnant out of the engine room sufficed. Soon the customs and immigration officials assembled to board us an hour later.

First over the rail was the “El Commandante” and then the other three who checked our passports, boat documents, and galley. The fourth official claimed to be “agricultural” and he confiscated all my carefully chosen Panamanian fruit and vegetables, leaving only one soft grapefruit. As the galley slave, this was not a popular move. Then we pulled the biggest potential boner. We gave the Commandante two albacore we had trolled up just a day or so out of port, well within the EEZ or 200 mile limit of Easter Island. Being that no one there was prudently aware of this new phenomenon, everyone was happy. We were given permission to visit the island and the skiff full of our entire stash of produce, two tuna, and four officials buzzed off to shore.

We learned that the Chilean government was not especially popular on the island. The locals spoke Polynesian and a little Spanish. They called themselves Rapa Nuians. We assembled the Zodiak, mounted our 25 hsp Johnson, loaded the gas tank, and Steve began pulling the start cord to begin our adventure on shore.


Friday, February 23, 2007
A Tuna Troller Approaches Easter Island

Approaching a remote island by sea on a clear day gives one many hours to study its contours. The chart offers a birdseye view from which a course of action is planned, but a surface view provides the real perspective. From ten miles away, Easter Island was a small lump with clouds overhead. The details formed slowly as we ran closer. We cruised along a black rocky shore with green hills sloping up behind. Easter Island reminded us of a worn down Aleutian Island, volcanic, basalt columned, and with crumbling lava rocks strewn around a rugged landscape.

Approaching an unknown island is very exciting for a seagoing crew. Of course we tidied up the boat inside and out as we knew customs officials would scour it with their eyes and poke around for illegal items. I was realizing a childhood dream, not just to explore Easter Island, but to have reached it by boat. My boat was not the brigantine “Yankee” like I imagined as an eight year old girl, but at least it was my own, and we did have one sail onboard for a dire emergency. A fisherman doesn’t often have such an exciting landfall as I did on this misty morning. As if on cue, a rainbow appeared above the black rock beach and under it loomed the ancient image of a long eared statue.


Saturday, February 17, 2007
Background on Easter Island
We studied the British chart of Isla de Pascua and imagined what it was like. All the National Geographics and guide books could not prepare us for the magic of Easter Island. Some background information is helpful, beginning with Thor Heyerdal's Kon-Tiki Expedition.

"The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1947)
After the war, Heyerdahl continued his research, only to meet a wall of resistance to his theories amongst comtemporary scholars. To add weight to his arguments, Heyerdahl decided to build a replica of the aboriginal balsa raft (named the "Kon-Tiki") to test his theories. In 1947, Heyerdahl and five companions left Callio, Peru and crossed 8000 km (4300 miles) in 101 days to reach Polynesia (Raroia atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago). Despite skepticisim, the seaworthiness of the aboriginal raft was thus proven and showed that the ancient Peruvians could have reached Polynesia in this manner.
The Galapagos Expedition (1952)
Following the success of the Kon-Tiki Expedition, Heyerdahl organized and led the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to the Galapagos Islands. The group investigated the pre-Columbian habitation sites, locating an Inca flute and shards from more than 130 pieces of ceramics which were later identified as pre-Incan. The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador and thus South American archaeology was extended for the first time in to the open Pacific Ocean. Parallel to this expedition, Heyerdahl worked with experts in rediscovering the lost art of the guara, a kind of aboriginal center-board used by the indians of Peru and Ecuador for navigation. From this tool, not used on the Kon-Tiki voyage, it become clear that ancient South American voyagers had the means to navigate as well as travel great distances in the Pacific.
The Easter Island Expedition (1955-56)
Following his successful work, Heyerdahl was encouraged to direct a major archaeological expedition to the Pacific's most isolated island: Easter Island. An expedition of 23 persons reached the island and began the first sub-surface archaeological excavation every attempted. They soon discovered that Easter Island had once been wooded until deforested by its original inhabitants, who also planted water-reeds and other South American plants.
Carbon dating showed that the Island had been occupied from about 380 A.D., about one thousand years earlier than scientists previously believed. Excavations indicated that some ancient stone carvings on the Island were similar to ancient traditions in Peru. Some Easter Islanders claimed that according to their legends, they orginally arrived from the far away lands to the East. The results of Heyerdahl's work were widely discussed and presented at the Tenth Pacific Science Congress in Honolulu (1961) where they were supported by the unanimous statement: "Southeast Asia and the islands adjacent constitute one major source area of the peoples and cultures of the Pacific Islands and South America". Thus, Heyerdahl's eastern migration theory had gained considerable influence."

Here are some background links for an historical perspective as well as the "Easter Island" website: Easter Id website…lots of links plus a map Good NOVA site with map of archeological sites Good history & tourist’s view

[edit] Books
Irving Johnson; Round the Horn in a Square Rigger (Milton Bradley, 1932) (reprinted as The Peking Battles Cape Horn (Sea History Press, 1977 ISBN 0-930248-02-3)
Irving Johnson; Shamrock V's Wild Voyage Home (Milton Bradley, 1933)

Saturday, February 10, 2007
Papa George to the Rescue
One week’s running from Easter Island, Brian from Pitcairn made an interesting request. Would we be the search and rescue boat in our area for a small plane who was flying solo around the world from west to east in the Southern Hemisphere? Apparently he was on his way from Papeete to Easter Island and then Chile. We agreed to monitor a special frequency and listen to his progress. He eventually made it to Easter Island safely and waited for us to arrive. We had an “easy-out”* which he needed to fix a broken off bolt on his engine. Without this tool he would have to wait a week for a flight to bring it over from Santiago, Chile. Our anticipation of seeing the moai (statues) and the island itself fueled our excitement to a high pitch. I had driven the 80 miles from Golden Meadow to New Orleans to a nautical store which sold me its one and only chart of “Isla de Pasqua” and now it was time to unroll this thick vellum British chart of Easter Island and tack it firmly to the chart board. We’re talking meters of depth here, not fathoms. The Brits, who invented “fathom”, have thrown it over the side for mathematical convenience.

*(Usually for a broken stud, you would either arc weld a bar to it, and then spin it out, or drill down into it (with a hardened metal bit) and then insert an "Easy out", which screws in and then screws the stud out. (They're reverse threaded.)


Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Trolling for DX and Albacore

In addition to our ham schedule with Brian on Pitcairn Island, we regularly talked with Gary K7WQE in Seattle. Gary is a lifelong friend of Steve. They sat for their ham licenses together in high school hence the sequential licenses of Steve, K7WQD, and Gary, K7WQE. That was an attention getter on the air. We developed a loyal fan club that monitored our sideband QSO’s with Gary, twice a week for many months while we fished for albacore in the South Pacific. In addition, Gary telephone patched us to our families in Seattle and Lopez Island, WA. Our best propagation was in the early evening on twenty meters sideband (14.260-80 kHz). Many times the ham station in Antarctica was sending telephone patches at the same time and their transmissions would bleed across a lot of bandwidth and wipe us out. Our DX club in Washington State had a 160 meter contest and we were able to give them maritime mobile contacts from way down under which helped their contest score. It was the last and only time I talked to Morry on the air. He was the first ham I had shared the “good code is like jazz” concept which elicited a wide conspiritorial grin.


Sunday, February 04, 2007
More Tuna Trolling Hams
Transversing the Southern Ocean, ( we’re talking 40 degrees south latitude); a boat can travel for days without seeing anything on, in, or above the water. I felt comfortable on my 3 am to 6am watch to DX on CW. With a straight key I was able to send Morse code at 15 wpm but could copy about 20 wpm, if I really concentrated. Somewhere in the world the sun was either setting or rising which affords the best propagation for radio. This phenomenon is called “gray line”. On my watch one morning I QSO’d with a ham in New Jersey who encouraged me to “keep my boots dry” and in a subsequent call, QSO’d with a ham in New Guinea, and later India. Both locations were gray line and received a 5-9 signal report. I am always amazed that some hams have a special talent with CW….either their sense of humor shines through or their “fist” is so melodic that the rhythm is like jazz. (Their “fist” is the style of sending Morse code.”)

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