At Sea En Route the Cook Islands

Michael Nolan, Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor, June 2018

  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 02 Jun 2018

At Sea En Route the Cook Islands

  • Aboard the National Geographic Orion
  • Pacific Islands

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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