At Sea En Route the Cook Islands

Jun 02, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

The Pacific Ocean is the largest geographical feature on Earth, covering a third of the planet’s surface. It hosts more than 20 thousand islands, which is 80% of the world’s total. It is the “water continent”, based on geographical, biological, historical, and ethnic criteria.

40,000 years ago, humans were settling offshore islands of the South Pacific, long before rising seas separated New Guinea from Australia. Pacific Islands also experienced Earth’s last human settlements. Over tens of thousands of years, the history of the Pacific Islands has been one of never-ending migration: eastwards and northwards, with ‘back migrations’ southwards and westwards. This human ebb and flow created new cultures and communities adapted to differing island environments and new social challenges. Pacific Islanders were the last people on Earth to encounter Europeans, in some places nearly 500 years ago, in others 50 years ago.

The collision of the two worlds changed both the Pacific and Europe, as history will show. The history of the Pacific is understood to be the story of all islanders, old and new. As National Geographic Orion sails east into Polynesian waters, we have time to rest and let our minds wonder about the challenges and new discoveries of early navigation era and exploratory times. The myriad of untouched paradises waiting to be revealed. The diverse and enigmatic culture of Pacific Islanders. The exotic fauna and flora and the spectacular colorful reefs. As we sail, we take time to immerse ourselves into informative lectures about this incredible biodiversity, to learn about photography and share our precious captured images. And to experienced perhaps the sweetest moment of all, when old and new customs were united. Kura Happ, a talented Raratongan musician, performed side by side with her beautiful Grandmother, Tekura Ruaporo. A special moment where the old cultural songs met the new generation and explorers of a modern era.  A singular intimate moment of exchange that touched and warmed our hearts. A moment in time we will never forget.

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About the Author

Cristiana Damiano

Cristiana Damiano


Cristiana was born and raised in Brazil.  Being surrounded by natural beauty and diverse culture instilled her desire for exploration at a young age.  Her passion for wilderness, different cultures and inhospitable regions led her to pursue a career in ecology, oceanography and, ultimately, the pursuit of a Ph.D. in environmental sciences and coral reef ecology in Australia.  Her travels have taken her to the Amazon and Borneo jungles, the higher mountains of Southeast Asia, the Great Barrier Reef and Far Northern Reefs, Papua New Guinea villages, volcanoes in Guatemala and the deep seas in many remote islands around the globe. 

About the Photographer

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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