MARQUESAS, French Polynesia -- For the Marquesas, population 8,000,
the Aranui is a lifeline to the outside world. Every two weeks, the
ship delivers much-needed supplies, from cement and pickup trucks
to sugar and toilet tissue.
After unloading its cargo, the ship takes on giant burlap bags
filled with copra, the dried coconut husks that are the Marquesas'
But a look at Marquesas history shows there was a time when
ships sailed into port bearing nothing more than illness and ill
The population of the Marquesas at one time had surpassed
100,000 as the islanders prospered and developed a rich artistic
and cultural heritage based on ancestor worship.
The arrival of European whalers and traders upset the Marquesan
way of life as the Europeans fought for control of the islands
while missionaries banned long-held customs.
In the process, the Marquesans were decimated by diseases
introduced by the Westerners, and in just 30 years the population
plummeted to less than 2,000. -- J.S.
For more details on this article, see Freighter with amenities visits South Pacific