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Tuamotus- Spear Wielding Savages in a Shark Tornado

January 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments

The following text is torn from the pages of my journal. It was written during inspired moments of bliss and is now about 5 months old. I hope you enjoy the photos from this beautiful corner of the world.


The locals here are as friendly and as welcoming as any church or charity in the world. Some of the happiest, most generous people are living the simplest lives. All of their basic needs are met and they are unencumbered by a greed for frivolous possessions. The more affluent and powerful we have become as a civilized culture, the more our soul has been depleted. By yearning for the things we don’t have, we’ve caged ourselves in a prison where we can never be satisfied. Our materialistic tendancies have beat us into submission but these people know no such suffering.

For the first two weeks we waited and waited for a no-show south swell which left us feeling a little frustrated. Instead of logging tube-time in the green room, we danced the Tuamotan Tango. The locals threw us a party and welcomed us into their community with true Polynesian warmth.

Dizzy and I had the pleasure of leading lectures at the local school for grommets. We were led by our tour guide and school principal John, to packs of frothing mini Tuamotans. They were totally thrilled to hear every word they couldn’t understand. The teachers acted as translators but I’m pretty sure they only understood about 20% of what Dizzy and I blathered on about. By the end of the day we were stoked to have spread the MysticSail creed of environmentalism and adventure. Hopefully we inspired the kids to travel and learn as much as they can.

In a recent installment of our adrenaline soaked drama, we found ourselves stuffing our faces with chickens, stuffed with pork and beef wrapped in bacon. It turned out that the first phase of “short rations” was a gluttonous binge of our suddenly unfrozen food reserves. The thermostat in our freezer broke, so we were forced to eat an entire month’s worth of food quickly before it rotted. Our freezer’s demise came at an inopportune time, since provisioning here is more difficult than finding an attractive girl.

Bogged down with guts packed full of meat, our tropical lethargy set in. As we basked in the nuclear sun of the tropics, motivation was sucked from us like an over-worked bilge pump. We waited, sure that inspiration would come, confident that the southern ocean would soon generate energy to head our way. Optimism is our alley. With the good trade winds, Kyber fought the boredom by kiteboarding. After a failed attempt to launch the kite from the dinghy, we found a spot to launch from land and kept ourselves entertained for the day.

Mom Nature finally dished out some south swell. Head-highs were rolling in at a rate of 2 per hour. For those who value short rides more than their epidermis, these waves rule. Risk versus reward is of unequal proportions. These wave break over a sharp, daunting reef that is covered by about 4 inches of water.

So the days roll by here in one of the most remote corners of the world. Day breaks, the heat bakes, the boat shakes as the sunset takes shape. It dims the day’s toxic light and all is well. The placid explosion of magenta and orange sing in a chromatic symphony. This color canvas of supernatural proportions was far too vivid to replicate. No pixels, film or words could possibly do this perfect Pacific sunset justice.

Our closest star, our solar friend, heats our spinning globe creating wind. This unseen force pushes water, creating waves. We harness these forces and exploit them to our advantage. Capitalizing on the intensity of the sun, the amount of solar power we generate allows us to live with the conveniences of the modern world while we journey through lagoons passing by lands completely untouched by man.

We’ve discovered our inner-savage, the survivalist hunter. As we prepare to harvest the sea for sustenance, we sink into the Pacific abyss. We fight the urge to breathe as we continue to sink into the dark depths of the sea. Under meditative conditions we allow ourselves to nearly implode from the pressure. We utilize the fertile area and we continue to flourish from the bountiful life that surrounds us.

Every aspect of this vast ocean is humbling. Just admitting to the sharks, whales and other giants of the sea that I am inferior is a shock to my ego. No longer am I the dominant king of the food chain. I am an awkward, air breathing meal that is totally out of my element. Why do these flesh-tearing, predatorial, aggressive beasts allow me to invade their home? Me, a clumsy tourist stealing their food. They’re curious but territorial. They circle me, smelling me, feeling me out. The smaller ones wait as they swirl in a cyclonic shark tornado. They’re hoping their larger cousins will turn their new visitor into bite-sized snacks. The vast number of sharply decorated jaws that surrounds me is staggering.

Brightly colored reef fish dance in schools weaving through the coral. The larger pelagic fish flow in and out of the lagoon through the fast flowing reef pass. Entering the pass from inside the lagoon into the outflowing current takes a commitment. There’s no going back once you enter 6 knots of current which propells you towards the sea. I am thrust towards unknown depths where untold danger surely lurks. From the relative saftey of the lagoon I am trajected towards the edge of the submerged shelf of coral that juts from the briny deep. In the shadows of the dark blue infinity hides ominous creatures with souless eyes. Seething relentless beasts that survive solely on the flesh they’ve torn from their prey. This bulky camera is the only thing that separates me from 3 meters of killing force driven by hunger and perfected through centuries of evolution. I quickly realize that survival is paramount as endorphins surge through my veins. I must eat to continue breathing but I’m suffocating myself as my friends and I steal food from stronger, faster and more agile killers. The more aggresive and focused I am, the more likely I am to make it back to land in one piece. And with any luck, we’ll have another bucket-load of fish to fillet for dinner.

Time is meaningless. In these moments of fight or flight survival instincts, expending mental energy thinking about the past or the future is futile. The past can always be relived, retold and rebroadcast. The past is someone’s perceived reality- their version of life. Often times this perception is viewed through a theatrical filter that creatively emphasizes the experience. The future is anyone’s best guess. Soothsayers are perpetually speculating, calculating, predicting and coming up short. The present tense is raw reality. Unchecked, unfiltered and uneffected by time’s distorting tendencies.

I know the expression; “those who fail to acknowlege the past are destined to repeat it”. I don’t see that as a wise warning but more as a battle cry. If your whole existance is the exertion and the enjoyment of what you’re doing, then why not repeat those moments of bliss? During my swim through the shark tornado, if my mind was anywhere but focused on the present, the distraction would’ve been distressing. Had my mind been in rewind mode I might have remembered the seven foot Gray Reef Shark that had just snatched a trevally from the tip of Kahlil’s spear. I would’ve recalled how the blisters and open wounds leaking fluids from my feet just might taste good to something with so much competition around. If I pondered the future before I plunged into the shark-saturated sea, I might never have had that amazing experience; a feeling of complete captivation. Watching the sharks from above the water was like witnessing a tornado on television. I wanted all my senses to feel the storm. I didn’t want to just see the power, I needed to feel it.

Here’s a quick slideshow I just threw together from the BVI and Tahiti

-Ben Anglin

Tags: Ben's blog

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jamie // Jan 14, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Sounds like the Tuamotus is were its at! Great pics and stories. I wish I had the chace to be there with you guys. Where are you Ben?? Jamie

  • 2 Charles Logue // Jan 15, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Hi Ben Nice work with your pen and camera. Interesting obsevations and conclusions after over a year at sea. Sounds to me, like 2008 may turn out to be one of the more important and character defining years in your life. So, what is next? Where to, what do you do? Life just might be a bit anti-climatic for you, until you find that next wave to ride. Good luck, as you seek and find purpose and adventure. Charles

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