The email that started it all!

Fins and Flukes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Our saddest day in Ha’apai in seven years.

We are extremely upset that what may be an anchor from the Port au Prince

ship has today been removed from the reefs of LifukaIsland, Ha’apai.

I originally found the anchor, that was removed today, in 2009 and the

story of its discovery was well documented on-line and in the Tonga

Chronicle Newspaper (April 14th 2010) and Tin Can Mail tourism newsletter

April 2010.

Due to the historical significance of the anchor, its association with the

story of the Port au Prince and that of William Mariner’s time in Tonga

after the ship was sacked it had become a prime tourist diving attraction

for the Ha’apai group since its discovery.

However, at 11am this morning I witnessed the Pulupaki ferry, assisted by a

team of foreign divers, raise the anchor on a winch to the stern of the

ferry after it had lay undisturbed for over two centuries. It was just like

watching a grave being robbed and I sincerely hope it will bring only bad

luck to the people involved.

The anchor of the Port au Prince can be seen dangling from the ferry above

the bow of the smaller boat.

The loss of the anchor itself upsets us greatly at both a personal and

professional level. It means we have lost a very interesting diving site

for our visitors. Despite finding it three years ago I left it in place as

a testament and monument to the maritime history of these islands and this

is actually the greatest loss of all, a piece of history has been removed

from Ha’apai, and a unique part of the heritage of the Ha’apai people has

now been lost from the group of islands, possibly forever.

The true value of the anchor, one of the most important marine

archaeological treasures of the entire Kingdom, is its value to tourism.

The story of the ship, the anchor and William Mariners time in Tonga

excited the imagination of many visitors to Ha’apai. The anchor meant that

they could see and touch a piece of that story and so connect with the

history of Ha’apai. That connection is now lost and for tourism in these

small islands it is indeed a great shame that this has been allowed to

happen.

The story of the Port au Prince is world famous, so Ha’apai is known the

world over as the place where the Prince met her end. In the words of

William Mariner himself “On Saturday the 29th of November 1806, at 4 p.m.,

The Port au Prince brought to, for the last time, in seven fathoms of water

at the N.W. point of one of the Ha’apai Islands, called Lefooga”. It was

here that the unfortunate sailors lost their lives and the anchor was like

the headstone on their graves. Its removal is akin to grave robbing,

absolutely beyond belief and sickening. That the anchor has been taken away

from Ha’apai today is a tragedy and such a sorry end to an otherwise

amazing story.

I hope the senior members of the Ha’apai community realise what they are

losing. The anchor was originally taken by the warriors of Ha’apai in 1806

and I hope the men and women of Ha’apai in 2012 are ready to fight for it

once more. The anchor belongs in Ha’apai and should be returned to Ha’apai

to its original resting place so the people of these islands can reap the

benefits of tourism generated by the story of the Port au prince for years

to come.

An emergency meeting of the Ha’apai Tourist Association, with regard to the

removal of the anchor, has been called for 4pm on the Thur 15th November

(Tomorrow), if this story concerns you please attend. Here the acting

president and board are hoping to collect the signatures of those senior

community members who believe the anchor should be returned to its resting

place in Ha’apai. The Governors secretary is aware of the situation and the

Ha’apai peoples represenattive has been informed. Now the people and their

representatives will petition the Primeminister to have the anchor returned

to Ha’apai.

Seeing the anchor for the last time, being loaded into the ferry on a

forklift truck this afternoon, I felt as William Mariner himself must have

done when he watched his ship being burned to the waterline so many years

ago, completely hopeless to stop it with sadness so deep to make my blood

run cold. The anchor will leave for Tongatapu on the Pulupaki ferry tonight.

Having discovered the anchor myself I object to its salvage and subsequent

removal from Ha’apai and kindly request that it be returned to its original

resting place for the continued benefit of the people of these islands.

Thats why its the saddest day in seven years here, to see greed tourist

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