s/y Nine of Cups
Anatom, Tanna and Erromango Islands - August  2011
Return to Home Page
Republic of Vanuatu (Ripablik blong Vanuatu)
formerly: The New Hebrides

Capital: Port Vila (Efate Island)
Population: ~212,000 (est 2007)
Language(s): English, French and more than 100 local Melanesian languages;
    Bislama or Bichelama, also known as Pidgin        
Area: 12,200 sq km (slightly larger than Connecticut) includes 83 islands,
          about 65 of which are inhabited
Currency: Vatu (VUV) - $1US =  84.5 vatu
High Point:  Tabwemasana 1,877 m
Time Zone: UTC+11 hours

Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the
millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the
complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the
New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which
administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted.
Vanuatu (van-WAH-too) means Our
Land and the countries' inhabitants call
themselves Ni-Vanuatu meaning "of
Polynesia vs. Melanesia vs. Micronesia
Vanuatu is in Melanesia and we've come from Polynesia and we're hoping at some point to
go to Micronesia. We've heard these terms, but never understood the distinction between

Polynesia from the Greek "poly" (many) and nesos (islands) includes most of the eastern
South Pacific islands including French Polynesia, Samoa, the Cooks Islands, Tonga and
many smaller islands. The people are golden-skinned and speak variations of the same
mother tongue.

Melanesia  from the Greek "melas" (black) and nesos (islands) derives its name from its
primarily black-skinned inhabitants. It includes New Guinea, the Solomons Islands, New
Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji. Fiji has considerable Polynesian influence.

Micronesia from the Greek "mikros" (small) and nesos (islands) and includes the
thousands of little islands which make up the Marshalls, Mariana, Caroline and Gilbert

The term Polynesia was originally coined by Charles Brosse in 1756 and referred to all the
Pacific Islands. In 1831, Durmont d'Urville restricted the term to its current usage and
coined Melanesia and Micronesia to differentiate specific areas of the Pacific.
The first Christian missionary, a Canadian,
the Reverend John Williams of the London
Missionary Society, was sent to Erromongo
Island in 1839. Upon arrival, he was
promptly killed and eaten. Before cooking
him, they laid him out  and etched his outline
on a flat stone. Oh, my!
Captain James Cook explored the area in
1774 and gave the island group the name
New Hebrides because they reminded him of
the Scottish islands.
Return to Home Page
The route from Suva to the island of Anatom
(aka Aneityum) took us southwest about
550 nm. The going was slow and it took us
5 days to make the passage. We had some
good days and some bad days. Above a
sunset squall.
Our first sight of Anatom was at dawn.
The full moon was just setting in the
west (above) silhouetting the island and
the sun was rising in the east. Nature's
perfect balance.
Anelgawat, Anatom (Aneityum) Island - 20S14.35 / 169E16.70 - 42' in sand
We were still tidying up Cups when Jesse
paddled up in his dugout canoe. He had been
out fishing, but offered to show us around the
village when we came to shore.
As we beached the dinghy, two little kids
were sitting on the beach enjoying
themselves. One with a handmade
pinwheel and the other with a baby chick.
The village of Anelgawat is one of three on
the island. The community center meeting
place, built cooperatively by the locals has a
fresh market (shown) and a kava hut.
There are no roads and no vehicles on
Anatom. Streets are  well-worn,
hard-packed dirt paths which seem to
lead everywhere throughout the town.
David shares raw peanuts with the kids
on the beach. In addition to peanuts, the
locals grow mandarins, papaya,
grapefruit, banana, taro and breadfruit.
The Rev. John Geddie arrived at
Anatom in 1848 and established the
first Presbyterian mission in Vanuatu.
During our visit, the village got together at the community center for a fund raising event which
featured laplap, the national food. Laplap is comprised primarily of thinly sliced, layered taro, a
starchy root crop. It is cooked in  an earthern oven lined with volcanic rocks and thick layers
of green palm leaves which are then covered with dirt. The finished product is removed after
several hours and while hot, cut and served on fresh palm leaves as plates. It's quite tasty!
Outrigger canoes are the primary mode of
transportation here although there are
some small boats with outboard motors.
We watched as villagers cut, sliced and
ground up kava root for making the
mouth-numbing national drink.
The kava hut was a popular place. Kava
is a gray, dirty dishwater colored liquid
served in coconut shell halves and has a
bitter, peppery taste. Marcie's lips, tongue
and throat were immediately numb. Any
amount of dental work could have been
performed at this point without complaint.
Preparing kava is a community effort.
It is estimated that Vanuatu's population
prior to European arrival in the early
19th century was about a million people.
By 1870, it was reduced to 650,000
due primarily to disease brought by
European explorers. By the end of the
19th c,the population  fell to ~ 100,000
and continued its downward spiral to
1935 when only 40,000 Ni-Vanuatu
remained. Today's population is
~200,000. Even today the greatest part
of the population resides in small villages
of 50 or less people.
More so than other island groups we've
visited, we've had to be aware of possible
health/safety issues in Vanuatu. It's a malaria,
dengue fever area so we've had to keep
slathered up with insect repellent. There's a
cone shell whose occupant can give a
near-death sting as well as rockfish and lion
fish which sting. Salt water crocs some time
arrive in the northern islands from the
Solomons and sharks can be a problem in
some of the bays. There are frequent volcano
eruptions. Add that to the usual bad water and
food-bourne amoeba, worms and parasites
and you've got a lot to watch out for!
Port Resolution, Tanna - 19S31.56 / 169E29.75 - 19' black mud
Anatom is the French name for the island and the one used on our charts. Aneityum is an
adaption of the French name and Anajom is what the locals call their home island.
Dillon's Bay, Erromango -  18S49.268 / 169E00.696 - 33' in sand
The John Geddie Memorial Church  stands
in memory to the founder of the Presbyterian
mission here on Anatom.
Gravestones of the young children of the Rev.
Wattlecoat from the late 1890's.
Diadem butterflies are common here.
David was a popular guy on the island when they found out he was an engineer and could
"fix" stuff. He was 4 for 4 on generators, but didn't do as well with DVD players or inverters.
While anchored at Anatom, two earthquakes, 7.0+ magnitude, struck with an epicenter
just 40 miles off Efate. No major damage reported and no tsunamis. We slept through it all.
Just across the bay from Anatom is tiny
Mystery Island. Owned by the community,
it is maintained and carefully cultivated for
tourists.While we were there, the Pacific
Jewel anchored nearby, the 62nd cruise
ship of the season to stop here.
Mystery Island (Inyeug Island)
Nearly 2,000 passengers were disgorged
upon the tiny island. Tenders ran back and
forth constantly during the morning and
afternoon and just as quickly as they
arrived, they were gone.
The locals derive most of their income from
the cruise boats that stop at Mystery
Island. Above, tours and entertainment
were offered from fishing, snorkeling and a
crafts market to hair plaiting.
A tiny ni-Van warrior posed for
the cameras.
The locals will not stay on Mystery Island at
night because they believe it to be haunted.
Once the cruise ship and its
passengers left, we got permission to
visit on our own. What a difference!
David tries out a bamboo bass used by
the community orchestra. A shoe sole is
used to hit the ends of the bamboo tubes
to generate the proper notes.
We found the island much more appealing
without the crowds. White beach sand
walking paths crisscrossed the island
offering superb views of the reef.
Our favorite photo of the island...Nine of
Cups crew soup! We may not include  
this recipe in the next Cups cookbook.
Reconciliation Ceremony
In 1841, Samoan missionaries arrived at Anatom. They were butchered and eaten. For 170 years, the islanders have felt the shame of their ancestors'
actions and have felt that any bad thing that happened to the island was due to the sins of their fathers before them. While here at Anatom, we were
witness to a Reconcilation Ceremony where the islanders begged forgiveness and were forgiven. It was an extraordinary event. Above, a re-
enactment of the first Samoans landing with warriors racing to the boat, brandishing spears and war clubs. If it was us, we would not have anchored!
The days were filled with ceremony and
tradition. Above, a colorful group
assembles for singing and dancing.
A welcome song and dance called the
"salusalu" which is the traditional placing
of a lei around the necks of the visitors.
A unique "kastom" dance followed with
dancers in traditional dress.
The Reconciliation was about making
apologies and receiving forgiveness.
Village chief and ministers are blessed by
the Samoan minister.
The Samoan minister was
articulate, eloquent, charismatic
and most forgiving.
Gifts were exchanged between the islanders and the
Samoans. Forgiveness was the theme of these 4 days.
After a most emotional and heartfelt ceremony, each
member of the community queued up to shake hands
with each member of the Samoan delegation.
A pig was slaughtered and
prepared in a traditional manner for
the evening feast.
Palm leaves spread on the ground
were the tablecloths for the
villagers who shared in the feast.
Around Anelcauhat Village
Houses here are basic and either
constructed of bamboo with thatch roofs or
corrugated tin.
There are two schools on the island
and over 200 primary and high school
Our friend, Natu, teaches first grade.
Above, in her classroom, she poses with
her daughters, Leticia and Jessica.
The anchorage is calm and well protected. At
one point, there were seven boats anchored
here, waiting for weather to move on.
Whenever David fixed equipment,
it was an occasion for an audience.
We got to know several villagers
quite well. They "paid" us in
vegetables, fruit and eggs.
Small, fast birds were common, but the villagers eat larger (slower) birds we think. They
also eat dog and cat when meat is scarce. Wild pigs (tuskers) are common.
Poinsettias, white and red, grow wild here,
but are not native. Think of what we spend
at Xmas time to get a flower like this! Yikes.
After 10 days at Anatom, we
sailed along the island's west coast
and headed north about 50nm to
Port Resolution on Tanna Island.
Tanna has several interesting
things to see, but #1 is Mount
Yasur, the most accessible active
volcano in the world. We were
keen to see it and we tolerated
Port Resolution's notable rolly
anchorage in order to make the
trip up to the volcano's rim.
The locals know how to cater to yachts.
We met Cyro, the village chief and his son,
Randy, first thing. Wouldn't you know? The
chief's generator wasn't working.
Tidy Ireupuow (Ir-ah-poh) village aka Port
Resolution, has a population of about 200
very friendly people.
The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area where the action of the Pacific tectonic
plate being forced up and over the Indo-Australasian plate causes frequent
earth tremors. Vanuatu lies in this area and is continually lifted up
(2cm/year) in some areas and is sinking in others. There are nine active
volcanoes in Vanuatu.
The village is very organized and
Stanley, the yachtie coordinator,
arranged a trip to the volcano via the
village's 4-wheel drive, 1/2 ton Toyota
truck, for us and another boat.
Tanna in the local language means
"earth" and the  island is known for its
coffee plantations and gardens.
Port Resolution was named by Captain Cook
after his own ship in  1774.
The naturally black and white, barren land-
scape on the steep path to the crater's rim.
A topo map of the area shows the large, red volcanic
crater of Mount Yasur. The inlet known as Port
Resolution was our anchorage. The brown line from Port
Resolution shows our truck route up to the volcano.
Standing on the rim of an active volcano...
how crazy can you get?
Erromango, named by Captain Cook, translates to "island of mangoes" in the local
language or at least that's what  he thought. In actuality, Cook asked what he was given
and misunderstood ...  it was a yam not a mango.
The volcano belched thick brown smoke,
heaps of steam and blue sulphurous vapor.
Once the sun set, all hell broke
loose...literally...with a brilliant
pyrotechnic display.
We departed Port Resolution at dawn
Our view of the anchorage was stunning
with steam vents rising in the cool morning.
A rainbow stretched from the sea and
arced over the billowing volcano.
Two days at Tanna didn't seem enough,
but there's so much to see in Vanuatu that
a good weather window seemed foolish
to ignore...plus with 7 other yachts in the
anchorage, we needed to make room for
new arrivals. The 54 nm trip from Port
Resolution, Tanna to Dillon's Bay,
Erromongo was downwind, fast and
pleasant. After Tanna's rolly anchorage,
Dillon's Bay was calm and serene.
We were the only yacht in the harbour at
Dillon's Bay. We could have anchored in
closer, but with all the earthquakes less
than 40 miles from here, we worried about
tsunamis and preferred the deeper water.
We met Chief William and asked his
permission to stay in the anchorage for a
few days. "Stay a month", he said
graciously, "you add flash to the harbour
and we like flash." Our first day was spent
wandering around the village, visiting the
school and dinghying up the Williams
River to collect fresh water for laundry.
Pastor Robbie gives David lessons on
cleaning green coconuts.
We fished en route, but had no luck. The
locals say that the area has been fished out
by commercial fishing boats.
Two little boys check us out when we first
arrived. Many of the kids are somewhat
afraid of "white faces".
Continue on to Port Vila, Vanuatu's "big
smoke"on Efate Island, and the central islands.
Come on...not afraid of cannibals, are you???
"Cups" sits peacefully in Dillon's Bay,
recently renamed Williams Bay after John
Williams. There is a gravel bar that totally
closes off the river at low tide, but is
navigable by dinghy at mid-high tides.
David fixed a generator for Robbie
(what a surprise) as well as a chainsaw.
The longer David worked, the more
"pickininnies" (Baslama for children)
appeared in the yard.
We watched women washing their
clothes the traditional way in the fresh
water of the Williams River.
In the river we saw the bluest blue
heron we'd ever seen.
We went ashore one morning, but were met with long, teary-eyed faces and a tremendous wailing. A well-liked man in the
village had been evac'd by plane from the island yesterday. The family had had to charter a flight in order for this to happen.
Anyhow, word had just been received that he had died during the night. All the village women got together to "share" the grief
with mournful wailing and keening...a haunting sound as it emanates from the huts.  Robbie had planned to take us on a tour and
Chief William had offered to take us to his beach and the burial cave of his ancestors, but with the death, they begged off
understandably. The village would be in mourning for the next five days. We felt out of place here and returned to the boat. We
would leave Erromango the next afternoon for the overnight passage to Vanuatu's capital city.