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Images from my Photo and Fishing Excursion off Tongariki

Nov 5, 2020

Beginning a new flurry of E.I. postings? This post, along with any to come, was inspired by a BBC documentary we viewed recently that contained some old b&w travel videos. While watching, I found myself mind-freezing frames into b&w stills. It was something of an epiphany. Of a sudden I could remember a number of images from my 30k Easter Island collection that would strike me similarly – images that even in this last, I thought final, review, still didn't stand out. Suddenly they do. Astounding, a simple nudge to the perspective, combined with what I've learned doing my Havre de Grace project, and I have new veins to mine in the project that took up a decade of our lives. Good grief, looks like it's gonna be a longer ride.

Out to sea in a small boat:

The images today have a little more of a story than some. It was right at the end of our 2009 trip. I had decided to do the book and visualized a shot of Tongariki from the sea as the jacket image. I had put this off to the last minute because I was a little scared. Tongariki is on the far end of the Island from the one town. The sea is always rough there. Maruka somehow arranged for her cousin, fisheman who worked out of the cabin there – Karlo Tepano with his wife Maria – to take me out in his boat, sans life-jacket, in water so rough that my first act was to ceremonially kiss my camera good-bye and tell it that if I got thrown out it was on its own.

Fortunately I don't get seasick in rough seas, at least I never have so far. I locked my legs under the cross seat and we set off. We were out about 45 minutes, while I took a lot of exposures, by far most of them at off angles due to the rocking, jumping boat. The result was the image I wanted, below and larger on page 3 in the folio:

I get my shot and learn to fish…

I was never so relieved as when I climbed back out on solid land. Within a few minutes we were invited for lunch and, not understanding what that meant, we agreed. I was immediately waved back into the boat to venture back out and fish for our meal – oh well. Nan and Maruka would help make biscuits on the old wood stove in the cabin.

The opening image, setting out the on the first run, shows my escort trolling for atun (tuna), with Ahu Tongariki in the background. We'd noted this before – whenever out to sea, for whatever reason, Rapanui like to set out a line trolling for atun – a lucky catch is a big chunk of money. Karlo explained to me that his missing left thumb was due to a sudden bite that looped the line around the digit and completely severed it. Ouch.

Afterwards he would tall Maruka (he spoke very little English) that I did pretty good, other photographers that he's agreed to take out to sea having hunkered down in the bottom of the boat to shoot over the edge. Actually that seems less secure to me than cross-sitting the seat and locking one's ankles underneath.

I snapped the shot used for the second image, below, while we were fishing. The procedure was instructive to say the least:

When we started out the bucket was full to the brim with rocks, later dumped out into the bottom of the boat (visible in the image). A small piece of raw chicken was placed on the fish-hook. then the line was wound around one of the rocke, with a little bread between the line and the rock. When that was dropped overboard, the rock would take the bait down a few feet, releasing the bread to draw fish, and something was caught almost immediately. We would simply haul the fish in, dump it into the bucket and start over again. When the rocks were gone, and the bucket full of fish, we headed back. All this made me feel like quite the fisherman.

There was something of a downside. We fished in an area between Poike and the islet Motu Marotiri. The water was almost as calm as a lake – with a big but. It was like being in an elevator rising and falling quite a distance and with an unnerving regularity. I was beginning to turn green by the end of the hour it took to use all the rocks and fill up with fish. While, again, I've never reacted to rough or irregular seas, overly regular up/downup/down can do me in – ferris wheels, etc. I actually welcomed the very rough ride back.

Of course sitting in the front of a small boat means one spends a lot of time rising into the air only to slap very hard back onto the water. The oddest part though is when the boat strikes a low, leaving water to rise in a circle around, blocking out all view of land, however close.

I took the shot for the final image here on the way back – initially focusing on just this one here. It actually felt good to be back into rougher water and my thinking was clearing up.


When we got back the second time we got to watch the cleaning of the fish before they were cooked on an old wood-stove. Cool. Note:  …certain parts of the guts were eaten raw during cleaning.

Maruka, as always, would wash the guts and set them aside for making her, supposedly delicious, fish-gut soup – the one Island dish that, after viewing, I politely declined.

Into the folio:

Like with a lot of subject matter, I selected out three exposures to work up, expecting to reduce that to one, my favorite. But I actually like all three of these, all for different reasons. So all three are going into the Easter Island folio – Page 10 here. What else can one do – even Nan couldn't help by selecting just one (or even two).