05 August 2014

Retrospective - Suwarrow

I now have enough internet and a bit of free time to go over some of the parts of the trip that I was only able to talk about briefly earlier.  Blogger allows me to post via email but I can only send text emails while at sea, no pictures.

Our first planned stop after leaving Rarotonga was Palmerston atoll.  This is a sparsely inhabited atoll about 260 miles north west of Rarotonga, housing about 25 people (the population fluctuates a bit from year to year as some leave and some return), all of whom are from the same family -- the descendants of an Englishman who settled there in the 19th Century with his 3 Polynesian wives.

Unfortunately about 40 miles south east of Palmerston we were hit by strong north westerly winds, quite unusual for that time of year and not what was on the forecast at all.  So we hove to overnight and waited to see what the wind would do the next day.  In the morning I discovered that the wind had moved to the south west but was still quite strong, too strong to enable us to sail to Palmerston and also too strong (and from the wrong direction) to allow us to anchor at Palmerston.  This is because the only anchorage at Palmerston is outside of the reef, and it's a lee shore in anything coming from the west.

So we decided instead to make sail for Suwarrow.  Because the wind was strong and over one quarter we had a run of something like 168 miles over the next 24 hours, and in fairly quick time we had arrived at Suwarrow.

Suwarrow is an atoll in the northern Cook Islands that is usually uninhabited, however the park ranger Harry and his wife Vaine are stationed there from June until the end of October.

The anchorage is inside the lagoon, tucked away behind one of the main islands known as "anchorage island".  It's quite pretty.

The island has the trappings of home for the two people who live there for part of the year, including a sign to remind everyone how far they have come to get here:
The past history of the island includes that it was inhabited by a New Zealand seafarer, hermit, and survival expert Tom Neale, of whom a memorial is found on the island.
The island is also inhabited by hundreds of crabs -- mostly hermit crabs but the occasional coconut crab too.  We saw hermit crabs getting up to all sorts of antics -- climbing trees, digging holes, and getting into the occasional bar fight.
The atoll's name comes from the Russian "CYBOPOB" ("Suvorov", pronounced SUvaROV -- unstressed "o" vowels in Russian are pronounced as an "a"), who was a Russian general in Napoleon's time.  A Russian ship bearing Suvorov's name passed by the atoll during the 19th Century and gave its name to the atoll, the name has changed over time to "Suwarrow" and it's now known officially as that according to the Cook Islands.  There are some plaques commemorating the sighting of the island by the Russian ship on the island, however I'm not sure when the plaques were placed there (they appear to date from some time during the Soviet era).
All up we stayed at Suwarrow for 6 days -- snorkelling on the reef, strolling on the island, and watching some manta rays being cleaned -- video of that to come!

All good things come to an end though, and after a last visit to Harry and Vahine, who taught me how to husk a coconut and gave us the recipe for coconut pancakes, we packed up our dinghy and left for Samoa.