December 1975 Transcript: Fatu Hiva

Fatu Hiva was probably the highlight in terms of magnificent geology. It’s the most incredible island I’ve ever seen — shooting straight up out of the ocean. There’s only one little spot on the entire island where you can anchor and it’s very difficult anchorage even there. People tell me it’s similar to Pitcairn Islands. You have to anchor in about a hundred feet of water and it’s very windy and gusty at times, so we always had to keep a couple of people on board in case problems developed.

As you may know, this is the island where Thor Heyerdahl and his wife lived for about a year in the mid-1930s. He recently wrote a book about his experience there titled Back to Nature. So if you ever want to read about Fatu Hiva, it’s a good book, we have it onboard.

We really enjoyed the people and did quite a bit of hiking on Fatu Hiva. One of the high points was a rather long hike of about 15 miles from our anchorage, which was called the Bay of Virgins, over to a little town called Omoa. We had to go up over the top of the mountain and along some trails that were just fantastically beautiful. Just incredible waterfalls and sights.

I’ve done a lot of hiking in the High Sierras, and I would have to say this hike far surpasses any of the scenery that you would ever see in the High Sierras or the Alps. It was an incredible experience. Sometimes the trail would go right along the top of a ridge, and on each side it would drop off 2,000 feet almost straight down. Really, really interesting. And when the wind howls you have to really hold onto the trail. But that’s the only way to get from one valley to the next.

Apparently many hundreds of years ago these valleys were so separated that the different tribes spoke different languages in the different valleys. That’s how separated they were, even though relatively close in miles.

At any rate, we hiked over to Omoa and the girls came around in the whaler to pick us up. They were going to try to land on the beach and see the little town. When they got there, the surf was too big and they had to wait till we got there and then we had to go out through the surf. The big problem was that we had cameras.

So I stationed two of the guys on the point, and I swam out through the surf to the whaler. Taking the wheel, I steered the whaler as close to the point as I dared, and the guys were able to throw the cameras into the boat, all wrapped up in towels and shirts. Then they went back and dove in through the surf and swam out to the boat, and we motored back to the Firebird. That was quite an interesting experience in itself.

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