Well as you know, there have been many things I have not been able to talk about over the past two years. Some of it has now pushed to the surface. It is my firm belief, that the single most significant wreck in Tonga, the “Port au Prince”, is currently being blatantly and systematically plundered, with a total disregard to its Historical importance and in a brutal way, without any form of archeological survey to record the site for Posterity. The site will soon be meaningless rubble, where once stood a living link to an important piece of Tonga’s heritage that changed their nation forever!
To fully understand this, you need to read William Mariners Book by Paul W. Dale, titled “The Tonga Book” ISBN 978-1-60414-041-5..or the original written by John Martin in 1817 with William Mariner..check out Amazon.
A week ago I received a very sad email detailing the possible “theft” of an anchor, that is probably from the Port au Prince. It had been a popular Tourist Dive site since it was discovered in 2009. It is now ‘probably” being sold to someone in Britain for “apparently” $500,000. Yesterday I received another email “suggesting” the same people, with a team of ‘Foreign divers”, has anchored their boat above the recently reported, (world news) site of the wreck of the “Port au Prince” and are ripping up artifacts. Whilst I am saddened about all this, I have to tell you, that we have been aware of serious problems associated with this wreck site and its ‘covert plunder” for well over a year. The truly SHOCKING thing now, is that no efforts are being taken to hide this growing disaster. It is now blatant, out in the open, “SMASH and GRAB”. They are even using a “Popular” Tongan inter-island ferry as their support boat! There are now “rumors” that a second single item from the wreck, has been “Sold” for up to $700,000.
In April 2010, following a meeting with a senior Cabinet Minister of the then Tongan Government, I was asked to return to Tonga after the Talisker Bounty Boat expedition, to provide assistance, advice and logistics in relation to the wrecks of Tonga and ultimately help develop a Maritime Heritage trail in Tongan waters. I have been working towards that ever since. We will finally be ready to hit the water next season and will apply for permits soon. We know that if we applied for a permit this year, it would probably have been refused.
The Tongan Media have started to ask questions about the anchor? But are they the right ones? Like.., 1. Who in Government is overseeing/controlling/approving the activities on this priceless wreck site? 2. Who in Government authorized the removal and sale of the anchor? 3. Who in Government is responsible for collecting a share of this money from the “sale” for the people of Tonga? 4. Who in Government is responsible for making decisions on the Cultural and Historic sensitivities of each wreck site and are they doing that? 5 How in Government decides which items should be recovered and which should be left on site and are they doing that?.
You will see from the following Blogs, that as soon as these activities became public knowledge, I immediately wrote to HRH the Crown Prince, the Honorable Lord Vaea and the Honorable Prime Minister of Tonga and other important Government Ministers. Since then I have been informed, of the possible involvement of the Tonga Visitors Bureau who initially released the world news of the discovery of the wreck of the “Port au Prince”. I contacted them and they have advised, that they are now investigating and will get back to me. We are also aware that the Police Commissioner for Tonga has also been advised of the loss of the anchor.
Yesterday I wrote to the Honorable Lord Vaea, to tell him of the current situation re. the “apparent” ongoing plunder of the “Port au Prince”
This is a personal Blog, with my “personal” opinions and feelings. So Why have I just posted, in the following blogs, my correspondence to Influential people in Tonga.?? Because I am saddened for the great loss to the people of Tonga. Because I want to completely distance myself from the “foreign” divers undertaking this reckless SMASH and GRAB. Because I fear that when this story finally gets to the people of Tonga, they will be very upset and I do not want to be part of that. Because I know this story will get around the world and questions will be asked. Because the only way to stop corruption or confusion is to be totally open.
If the Tongan people knew what was happening, I cannot believe they would agree.
Today is a sad day in the history of Tonga.