American Samoa, specifically the island of Tutuila, was our next stop after Suwarrow. What a shock to the system! The main harbour of Pago Pago is very industrial and the harbour and town are not what you’d describe as clean. We did rent a car and toured the island which provided us with some better memories. Also being a United States territory meant that it was a good place to receive mail and stock up on familiar products at reasonable prices.
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These gun emplacements appear all around the island and are reminders of the Pacific battles of WWII.
A curious cultural difference is the ritual of burying your dead relatives in your front yard.
Driving along the island roads you’re just as likely to see a grove of banana trees, a pile of trash or a breathtaking view.
Many homes include an open-air ‘fale’ guest house in the front yard. The fale is also used for parties and family get togethers. They come in all shapes and sizes.
It took us quite a while to figure out what the thousands of old gas bottles with the ends cut off were about. They are used as a bell to signal the evening time of prayer that each family observes in their own home for a short period near the dinner hour. The Samoan people are very friendly and are also big, solid people as a rule. In the photo on the right Wayne is dwarfed by the two friendly Samoan gentlemen. Note the standard wraparound skirt called a lavalava worn by both men and women.
Churches, churches, everywhere. Big, beautiful churches at every turn.
The island is volcanic in origin and the black lava rock is in stark contrast to the lush green tropical growth.
The island of Tutuila is at the stage of coral development where it has what is called ‘fringing coral’. So rather than a barrier reef of coral encircling a lagoon that circles the island, this coral is right up against the shore.
Sadly, just a few weeks after we were here, a large earthquake triggered a disastrous tsunami that killed a number of people, injured many and left a trail of destruction. Most of the villages around the island are just inches above the high tide mark and are often located in tiny, indented bays that would have funneled the tsunami waves.
Pago Pago is a fine natural harbour. It looks good on paper but it has many drawbacks. It’s filthy, noisy (generator plant), smelly (local fish canneries) and very, very rainy. It would make quite a secure anchorage if it wasn’t for the multitude of abandoned, sunken wrecks and legions of plastic garbage that litter the bottom.
Here are some photos (on a rare sunny day) of the local boats on the ratty local docks. We’re guessing that these docks no longer exist after the tsunami and many of these boats likely now add to the wreckage on the bottom.
While in Pago Pago, Wayne and Scott (from Whisper) organized the rescue of a Spanish sailboat called Avatar that lost its rudder near Bora-Bora and had drifted for 35 days toward American Samoa. To avoid disaster in the last few miles they needed some help. Wayne spent a week working his magic to arrange for the boys from Marine Wildlife to head out in their powerful new aluminum boat and tow Avatar into port.
Below is the rescue boat, the rescue crew (minus Wayne) and the relieved rescuees.
As you can see from the following sequence, towing was no piece of cake especially with the sea conditions. It was quite the struggle as a fin keel sailboat without a rudder doesn’t want to be towed. It took the guys (including Wayne as crew) all day to tow Avatar those last 14 miles. Maximum tow speed was 2 miles/hour.
We celebrated Mary’s (from Whisper) birthday in the cockpit on a wet and steamy night in Pago Pago.