A month in the Marquesas

I have just returned from a month of fieldwork in the Marquesas. As part of the project I'm coordinating, the French Polynesia Terrestrial Arthropod Survey, I have been organizing and taking part in fieldtrips across French Polynesia. This time, is the first time that Matotea and Viriamu weren't able to come along too, and it's been a difficult month for me, wrestling with the guilt of having left Matotea for so long. The fieldtrip itself was fun in a dirty and gruelling kind of way, they always are, and although it's the third time I've visited the Marquesas archipelago, it's always great to go back.

Temetiu plateau, Hiva Oa - it's wet up there in the cloud forest!

Nuku Hiva's cross-island road, which cuts
through some really nice cloud forest

Ouia Valley, Fatu Hiva - home to Thor Heyerdal and his wife
during their self-imposed exile in 1937!

An innovative solution to drying clothes in Hiva Oa
the Marquesas are a ways north of Tahiti and so the weather is really tropical

Poutemoka monolith, Ua Pou, one of the many imposing stone
formations on the island, we climbed up to its base

But I'm definitely feeling conflicted, my obligations as a mother should probably come first...my days as a field biologist may be numbered!

The Marquesans are a little bit like the Austral islanders, in that they're really quite distinct from the Society Islands and extremely proud of their roots - they also have their own traditions and language, there is even a pro-independence party, seeking independence from Tahiti! The Marquesas were first claimed by Catholic missionaries, so they are predominantly Catholic. The culture has remained more intact then those 'converted' by the Protestants, who basically forbade everything- most contemporary Tahitian/Polynesian tattoos are based on Marquesan motifs, as the traditional motifs from the other islands were all but lost. For more info and lots of pictures of Tahitian tattoos check out Tattoonesia's blog. The Marquesans are also well known for their carving - they are talented wood and stone sculptors, having both quantities of good quality basalt and abundant supplies of fine wood (one of the finest being miro, rosewood - Thespesia populnea). They have also, more recently, started making some fabulous seed necklaces. The Aranui cruise ship/cargo boat plies the islands every few weeks, and it's this source of tourism that has really fueled the development of the flourishing local arts and crafts scene. The annual 'Salon des Marquises' held in Tahiti, is definitely worth a look, if you ever have the occasion.