INTREPID SAILORS TAKE REFUGE ON REMOTE TONGA ISLE

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Four adventurers following Bligh’s epic journey

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 27, 2010) - The Talisker Bounty and its support boat negotiated a tricky pass through a reef, to take refuge on an isolated island, Kelefesia, in Tonga's Ha'apai Group over the weekend after sailing from Nuku'alofa last week at the start of their recreation of the epic Bounty Boat voyage made by Captain Bligh over 221 years ago.

Ha'atafu artist and surfer, Shane Egan, who was anchored at Kelefesia with Capt Sam Tatafu on Deep Blue's "Kiu-nia", spotted the Talisker Bounty and its support boat sailing north outside of the reef late on Saturday afternoon, April 24.

The Bounty support boat radioed Sam for assistance, (not emergency help), as the pass through the reef is difficult.

"They were a fair way out and we were busy dropping anchor ourselves. I had been there before so I told Sam it was a good anchorage. There's a little pass into the lagoon - it's a bit tricky with blind rollers and coral patches," Shane said today. "There was a solid south east swell running and strong winds making the waves less predictable. We sent our tender out to them with an experienced Ha'apai boatman to guide them through."

Shane said the Talisker Bounty crew was heading past but then they must have seen the "Kiu-nia" and decided to turn around and anchor at Kelefesia.

The Talisker Bounty, a 25ft long and 7ft wide open wooden boat is carrying four adventurers who are recreating the epic voyage of Captain William Bligh, who was cast adrift from His Majesty’s Armed Vessel (HMS) Bounty following a mutiny in 1789 in Tongan waters.

"The Bounty guys were still at Kelefesia when we left for Tonumea island on Sunday morning and still there when we passed at a distance around 1:30 Sunday afternoon," said Shane.

Kelefesia is the most southern island of Ha'apai and the closest to Tongatapu. "It's a good eight hours sail hours- but twice that, I presume, for those guys." Kelefesia is south of Noumuka and usually uninhabited but there were also two Tongan fishermen sleeping there over the weekend.

Shane said that getting off Kelefesia is also tricky when the swell is running high. "They only have to sit it out until they can get out over the reef again, but if you watch it for a while you can figure it out."

On April 28 the crew expected to be on the exact location of the mutiny off Tofua marking its 221st anniversary, before embarking off on a 4,000 nautical mile journey from Tonga across the Pacific.

The replica "Mutiny on the Bounty Expedition" expected to take seven weeks consists of a four-member crew led by Australian adventurer Don McIntyre, with David Bryce an experienced Antarctic and Southern Ocean sailor from Australia, David Wilkinson a businessman from Hong Kong and 18-year-old Christopher Wilde of the United Kingdom who has no sailing experience.

[PIR editor’s note: The expedition, says Australian adventurer Don McIntyre, has been four years in the planning; this includes limited supplies of only 150 bounds of biscuits, 16 pounds of pork, six-quarters of rum, six bottles of wine and 28 gallons of water. The crew claims to have no modern navigational equipment during their voyage. See previous story.]

Meanwhile, Shane Egan was at Kelefesia wtih Prof. David Burley of Simon Fraser University, Canada, towards the end of their own Southern Ha'apai expedition looking for ancient petroglyphs (rock engravings).

"Our own expedition was a little disappointing but we documented some late Lapita sites. Though David has seen most of Tonga he had not visited these remote Southern Ha'apai islands.

"I was not so lucky with my rock art search. We visited all the islands where similar petroglyph sites had been reported in the 1920's and 1950's. These were never documented properly. We made an extensive search walking the circumference of each island two or three times by day and at night with torches where the low angled light helps pick up the shallow engravings.

Unfortunately, it appears the huge seas from the last cyclone season has pushed more sand up over much of the beach rock burying the rock art, which may have already remained buried since the earlier reports," said Shane.

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