Port St Mary, Santa Ana

Port Mary, is a small small bay in front of the main village of Ghupuna. The ship could moor in the bay, but first had to navigate a very narrow entrance through the reef. The captain put out two ships officers in zodiacs to mark either side of the entrance, and then was able to sail safely through the gap marked by the zodiacs. Each Zodiac that arrived at the beach landing was greeted by a fierce “welcoming committee”, composed of local men, masked and mud-smeared, dressed in warrior costumes and brandishing spears, shields, and machetes.

The village had traditional houses built of local timber and leaf. Santa Ana’s leaf houses were built flush to the ground until the 1970s but are now mostly built on stilts. Dozens of curious children greeted us, and we enjoyed a local reception with dances by the island’s "mud men". First we had a very long selection od songs and dances from groups of both men and women, which were, shall we say, average: however the reason for coming here and seeing the dancing is to se the mud men dance. As the women danced, men covered in mud-paint and wearing mud-covered headdresses emerged from the forest and harassed them, caricaturing their dancing and making suggestive sexual motions. These red mud covered characters symbolised the disruptive intervention of white outsiders into traditional life. As they circled the female dancers they were confronted by the arrival of a group of black painted warriors who warded off the intruders and chased them into the surrounding forest leaving the women to complete their dance uninterrupted. Peace was restored. The local children laughed and we all laughed. 

Santa Ana is renowned for its small, ornately crafted ceremonial food bowls, dance sticks and fishing floats. these were on display for the punters to buy. What caught my eye was a medal pair from WW2 of General Service Medal and Pacific Star. The vendor had no idea what they were, hazarding a guess that they were US. Nor did he have any idea where thy came from. A bit sad really that an old soldiers medals end up like this. Unfortunately WW2 medals do not have the owners name inscribed, so it would be impossible to research their history

Santa Ana was first by Europeans was by the Spanish expedition of Álvaro de Mendaña in 1568. It is a raised coral atoll 5.6 km long and 4. 5 km wide. The island has two main villages Gupuna (or Ghupuna) and Nafinotoga. The island was visited by Austrian anthropologist and photographer Hugo Bernatzik in 1932. Bernatzik carefully documented daily life among the island people and published an ethnography a few years later. He also took some of the best and earliest photographs of the islanders, reflecting a culture that he deemed was dying in contact with the modern world. During his stay Bernatzik met Heinrich Küper, a German adventurer who lived in Gupuna village. Küper was married to a respectable local woman, Kafagamurirongo, and was the only white who ever reached the arafa (high person) status within a Melanesian community. Küper's grandchildren still live on the island.

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo

We walked over to the other side of the island to see another village, and their "spirit house". However when we got there, local politics between the two villages, meant the the second village would not let us enter the village, let alone see the spirit house. We gathered that the ship had paid the first village, but that the money destined for the second village and their spirit house had never arrived, so the pulled up the drawbridge and refused us entry. We just turned round and walked back across the island the way we had come. Streaming back from our arrival beach were masses of locals laden with produce, the supply ship had just arrived and staples like rice and even cement had to be carried back along the track, perched on people's heads.

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo

The ship bought a stack of live lobsters, which we had for dinner that night. There was a Remembrance Day service on board, it being November 11th, and as the sun set there was time to enjoy a sundowner.

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo


On to Luganville, Espiritu Santo Vanuatu

South Seas Holiday