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kauehi ~ beautifully wild & rugged

Posted by on September 29, 2013

June 25, 2013

beautiful blues of Kauehi

Of 76 coral atolls, Kauehi is one of 46 inhabited atolls within the 1000-mile long Tuamotus Archipelago chain. Like many of the coral atolls, the Kauehi atoll is a chain of coral islets (motus) with only one navigable pass into the center lagoon. In Kauehi, each motu ranges from about half of a mile to a mile wide, and the center lagoon is about 12 miles by 8 miles in area. The water depth in the lagoon is over 100 feet in the middle with numerous coral heads peeking up to the water’s surface. From a distance, the beaches appear to be beautiful, white sand, but they are really made up of infinite tiny pieces of coral. Like others, the atoll is forested with palm trees and small scrub bush, and rain is the only source of fresh water. Very little produce can be grown on these dry atolls, so coconut and fish are the primary local resource. All other supplies need to be brought in by local supply boats or by other passing boats, such as cruisers. While these remote atolls are a tropical paradise, they are also a rugged and harsh place to live.

the southeastern anchorage of Kauehi

After having been in the deep waters of the Marquesas Islands, the clear, blue shallows of Kauehi’s lagoon were extremely inviting. Even though we had seen a couple of small black tip sharks swimming through the anchorage, it only took us a matter of moments after the anchor was secure on the sandy bottom before we all jumped in for a swim. To our surprise, the water was a lot cooler than we were expecting!

While Wil checked the anchor, the kids and I swam to nearby coral heads. This was our first view of a variety of giant clams, beautiful neon colored fish, some sort of small prawn, and the deadly cone snails.

There are many dangerous creatures in the waters of the Pacific. We had grown accustomed to fire coral, jelly fish, sea urchins, moray eels, sting rays, and lion fish. However, the cone snails, the high number of sharks, crown-of-thorns starfish, and stonefish were all going to be new to us.

Cone snails are possibly the deadliest of creatures, maybe even worse than some sharks. Cone snails are carnivorous with different varieties that eat worms, fish, or mollusks. Sometimes inflicting a fatal sting, the fish-eating varieties of cone snail are the most dangerous to humans. The venom which is harpooned from the snail’s proboscis is quick-acting, powerful, and paralyzing. The shells are beautiful and plenty, so it’s easy for the unsuspecting shell collector to make a fatal mistake. Therefore, we drilled it into everyone that, if we’re going to pick up shells, we must pick them up properly. Don’t let the proboscis end near your skin and don’t place shells in your pockets or in thin, plastic bags. We told the kids that it would be best to use a stick to turn over shells before picking them up, but still never assume that the shell is empty. (Ok, this makes me think of letting my kids play in traffic!)

cone snail shells added to our collection

the narrow end is the deadly end

passing squall to our east

We may have been anchored in a remote atoll, but we definitely weren’t alone. There were about a dozen boats in the area, and more than half of them were the other kid boats. Now, forget the fact that we’re in the remote South Pacific. A birthday party was number one priority on our busy schedule for the next day.

a majestic sunrise over Kauehi

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