St. Patrick’s Day Aboard The RCS
March 17, 2023
Una McCoole, A watch, UMass Amherst
Happy St. Patty's Day from me and mine to you and yours, SEA Community!
Although I would've loved to push my very Irish agenda on those around me with all the flashy green and Guinness I could conjure, I instead took the backseat and celebrated Rangiroa's beauty and culture this St. Patrick's Day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that from an island in the south pacific to an island in the north Atlantic many aspects of life remain the same. I found the same caring communities and love of the land. I found a similar fondness of ocean sports such as surfing and diving, and above all I saw a group of hardworking people who are extremely proud of the nation they've built and tended to for centuries.
My day started with a huge smile on my face. The first thing my eyes fell upon was a "Happy St. Patrick's day, Tuna" sign taped to my bunk in the time between when I went to bed after anchor watch at 0300 and wake up at 0600.
As I made my way through the boat I was awarded many St. Patty's day blessings which I would return with a "Top of the mornin'!"
Within a blink of an eye we were boarding water taxis and heading to the pier to begin our busy day of exploration on Rangiroa. Our first stop on today's agenda was the Gauguin's Pearl Farm. This destination was of particular interest to me as I've spent that last two months researching the effects of climate change on black pearl farming in French Polynesia for Jeff Westcott's class. Finally I got the chance to see a pearl farm in action! Upon arrival we got an in depth educational, informative, and very humorous discussion on the processes and challenges of operating a pearl farm from the very passionate owner. Some of the main takeaways I want to share with you is the work of the Tuamotus to protect this fragile market.
Cultured pearls did not gain popularity in FP until the mid-70's but once the black pearls hit the market the industry boomed out of control.
Production increased and relatively no standardization of quality control had been put in place. This caused a short but devastating crash in the value of the pearls hurting many businesses across the Tuamotus. For a quick minute there was an attempt by the Chinese and Japanese jewelry manufactures to buy up these tanking businesses. Luckily the Polynesian government knew the determent that would come from this exchange in power and refused the small fortune. Instead the government developed standardization practices to protect the price and quality of pearls sold. We watched the meticulous process of the oyster grafting in action. The attention to detail and skill of the grafter is vital to the success of the round shape of the final pearl. Of 100 oysters grafted, after survival, exposure to elements, and predation, returns only about 50 pearls of varying quality and grades. To make a long story short, the price tag often can't begin to represent the amount of care and time that goes into each singular pearl.
Next we visited the town hall. It was a gorgeous community center, somewhere that looked welcoming and enjoyable for all. Behind the main building is the islands new recycling plant which opened just this past January. It was amazing to see the excitement and passion the employees showed for this new project they've brought to life together. In an effort to mitigate waste on the island all broken electronics, machinery, and lots of fans, bikes, and wires, pass through their shop every day. The mission of the recyclers is to use their library of acquired parts to repair a broken item and resell at a reasonable price to be used again by the community. One of their most popular products are refurbished bikes.
My favorite of the day (my rose) was devouring a pack of 10 popsicles with Sofie on our walk around town. It was quite a scene to the onlooker from what I could imagine. My thorny part of the day would have to be when I received the devastating news about Megan's precious fiddle string. It snapped while tuning after I sent her away to prepare for a St. Patty's day jig. I'm sorry Megan; I hope Jen's reorder gets to Papeete lickidy-split.
And the thing I am most looking forward to would have to be the upcoming swizzle. I can't wait to see what my shipmates have in store.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading! -Tuna P.S. Happy Birthday Vanny! I love you!!!
[Author Name, Watch & College/University] Una McCoole, A watch, UMass Amherst
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Great to read about your adventures and thanks for your postcard. What an interesting experience you are having. Can’t wait to hear all about it!
Clodagh & Will