Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stepping ashore

It is quite possible that, over the last fifty years, more human beings have flown in space than have stepped onto the island of 'Ata. 

Since Tasmanian and New Zealand slavers stole its people in 1863, 'Ata has had no permanent inhabitants. A few sailors have been wrecked on 'Ata, and and the occasional archaeologist or ornithologist has come to examine its ancient ruins or count its storm petrels, but the island's wild surf and high, almost impassable cliffs have made their visits dangerous.

Visesio Siasau is not only one of Tonga's most famous artists but one of the small club of people to have landed on 'Ata. 

In the 1990s, before he began his career as a sculptor and painter, Sio was a member of the Tongan navy, and during one patrol of the southern borders of his country he was ordered to leave the safety of his gunboat and land a small craft on 'Ata's tiny, boulder-strewn beach. 

Sio recently returned to Nu'u Sila from a six month residency in New York, and I'm honoured that he will be sharing a few memories of his a'ahi to 'Ata tonight at the launch of my book The Stolen Island

I'll be complementing Sio's talanoa by showing a set of photographs that the Spanish adventurer Alvaro Cerezo sent me after his nearly disastrous visit to 'Ata last year.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Dr Scott,

I was at your book launch at the Auckland Central Library and I loved it. Thank you for sharing this history with us. Based on the photo I have of the white bird you showed during the presentation and a little bit of fun researchm it looks to me like a Juvenile White-Tailed Tropic-bird (Phaethon lepturus) based on the plumage colour and conspicuous, long tail streamers. Rinke (1991) had observed these birds on 'Ata and can be read in the link below. Hope this helps.

Matt Funaki

1:54 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Many thanks for your kind talanoa and the revelation of that ill-fated bird's identity, Funma1. It was great to have so many interesting people at the launch. I'll be talking about 'Ata on Radio New Zealand this Sunday morning, from 5 to 35 past 11...

6:38 pm  
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