Friday, November 18, 2016

In remote waters

Malo aupito to Auckland libraries for advertising the upcoming launch of my book about 'Ata Island with this fine poster. The map on the poster shows a fragment of the world's largest ocean, including 'Ata and two-thirds of the much larger Samoan island of Sava'i.

'Ata cover less than one and a half square kilometres, sits at the southern edge of the Kingdom of Tonga, and hasn't been permanently inhabited for one hundred and fifty three years. When I was researching the island, though, I met many people who were obsessed with its landscape, its coast, its fauna, and its history. Some of these obsessives were bound to 'Ata by blood and family stories; others had discovered the island on the internet, or in old books. Most had never so much as seen the place, but a few had visited it, at great cost and inconvenience.

One of the chapters in my book introduces Alvaro Cerezo, an adventurer who spent a week and a half on 'Ata last year, and returned with a healthy appetite. 'Ata was not the first deserted island that Cerezo had made his temporary home. Since he was nineteen, the Spaniard has deliberately wrecked himself on uninhabited islands across the tropics, and survived on what he has found there. He now makes money by abandoning wealthy Westerners on tiny pieces of land in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Jen Murphy recently interviewed Cerezo about this curious exercise in entrepreneurship.

After he had returned from 'Ata, I asked Cerezo whether he'd consider asking the Tongan government for permission to bring his business to that island. 'Never' he told me. 'The island is far too tough.' It had taken him two days just to get up the cliffs from 'Ata's tiny and stony beach to the plateau that dominates its interior.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


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