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
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
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
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
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
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