Moho Tani - The Ghost Island

Moho Tani is a small, remote isle which forms part of the Marquesas Island group in Polynesia. Years ago, before the white man came, it was heavily forested and populated by natives who had lived there, co-existing with the fragile eco system, for many hundreds of years.

The tranquility of everyday life was shattered when, over 200 years ago, a European ship anchored down in the blue water surrounding the island. Men came ashore with their firearms blazing, they sought water, women and pigs. They didn't stay long, but left behind disease. The islanders, with zero immunity to the introduced viruses, succumbed in their droves. This is a common story of small isolated islands all over the world when they are 'discovered', but on Moho Tani the devastation was total. Not a single native survived. No history of their people is known, because there was no one left to tell it.

When the people were no more, their sheep ran wild. They bred out of control, with the extinction of man, they had no predators. In time, hordes of sheep had eaten all of the grass and shrubs on the island and then, when famine set in, they ate the leaves of the trees and then stripped the trees of bark, soon all the trees in the forests had had died as well.

Without trees to shelter the soil from the scorching rays of the sun and without roots to hold humidity near the surface, every drop of rain sank deep in to the arid ground and was lost long before it reached any watercourse. The gushing streams lost all their supplies and the last rivulets dissapeared from the surface of the land. Moho Tani now resembles a desert.

Thor Heyerdahl in his book Fatu Hiva - Back To Nature, wrote of a two hour visit to Moho Tani in 1938, by then the island was already depopulated. He wrote:

"...Never before had the sun, the very intensity of the sunlight, given me the same feeling as when a full moon shines on a cemetery. The ghostly white dead trees stood like tombstones over a pillaged graveyard. There were skulls and bones everywhere. It was like midnight at noon"

The author of these words signs off for now. He wonders what the Moho Tani islanders might have taught us, if they had only lived to tell the tale. He wonders how the human era finally ended. Perhaps the last surviving Polynesian died quietly in his or her hut, maybe a last desperate family took to their canoe looking for better prospects on another island, although no other lands are visible from Moho Tani. Or perhaps the last survivor was a child, left alone between the trees and the animals. We shall never know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a sad end brought about by"civilization".