Marquesas Landscape

The Marquesas are spectacular volcanic islands with rugged peaks and dense rainforest vegetation.

Maurice Tattoos

Maurice, a grower of nono fruit, sports traditional face tattoos.

Hiva Oa Dancer

Traditional dancer is more authentic than the polished performers we saw in Papeete.

Raroia schoolchildren

The schoolchildren and their teacher came out to greet us on Raroia. SPIRIT OF OCEANUS lies at anchor off the beach.


Musician accompanies dancers on Fakurava.

KWB joins in

Kathryn joins in. Polynesian dances always conclude with a couple of dances in which the audience is invited to participate.

Buying Pearls

Kathryn selects some black pearls with help from Donna Fox and Loren Smith of Cleveland. Salesman Christophe looks on.


Our guide, Claudio Christiano, is Professor of Archeology at the University of Chile and has devoted 30 years to the study of Easter Island.

During our 17-day trip in January, 2006, we visited three volcanic islands in the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva), three atolls in the Tuamotus (Raroia, Takapoto, and Fakarava) as well as Tahiti and Moorea aboard the SPIRIT OF OCEANUS pocket cruise ship. We also made a side visit by air to Easter Island.

The expedition was organized by Stanford Alumni Travel/Study program, in association with Duke University and the American Museum of Natural History, all three of which sent a faculty member. The star was Professor Michael Shara of AMNH who gave several superb lectures on astronomy and cosmology and led nighttime stargazing events. All of our guides were terrific: Heidy Baumgartner, author of THE guidebook to the Marquesas, Frank Murphy director of the U.C. Berkely Gump Research Center on Moorea, and the husband-and-wife team of Claudio Christiano and Patricia Vargas, both professors at the University of Chile who have spent thirty years researching Easter Island archeology and anthropology.

We made seven landings by Zodiac, each one the occasion of a welcoming event by the local community, usually including a musical/dance performance and a demonstration of handicraft traditions (weaving, tapa-making) or athletic prowess (coconut cracking, javelin throwing). The most authentic Polynesian dance performances were those we witnessed in the Marquesas although the fanciest and most athletic was the show put on by the Ballet of Tahiti in Papeete.

The Jacques Brel and the Paul Gauguin museums, both in Atuona (Hiva Oa), were major highlights (and the latter is far superior to the Gauguin museum on Tahiti). Kathryn got a kick out of a drift snorkel with the reef sharks of Fakarava, although the absence of sandy beaches in the Marquesas and in Tahiti both surprised and disappointed her.
The astounding archeological finds on Easter Island (Rapa Nui to the locals) were fascinating, bearing witness to a tragic history of decline and death .


The 15 Moais at Tongariki.

We loved the SPIRIT OF OCEANUS. It is a luxurious 295-foot vessel with accommodations for 120 passengers (we were 85) with superb cuisine and comfortable lounges. Our stateroom had a king-size bed, a walk-in closet, a sliding glass door to a private balcony and a very attentive Filipina stewardess named Aline. Captain Steve had his wife Barbara aboard, and they are fellow cruisers, since theylive on their sailboat in Venezuela when they are off the ship!