Chapter Seven: Post 47 — What Happens in Manu’a, Stays in Manu’a (Part 1)

Larry exiting a longboat (called a tulula) but this is not Manu'a. The eagle eyes of George Hastings identify it as Aunu'u. But same general idea.

Larry exiting a longboat (called a tulula) but this is not Manu’a. The eagle eyes of George Hastings identify it as Aunu’u. But same general idea.

A wave of freezing Pacific crashed over the crowded bow of the deck, soaking the already dripping wet palagis as they huddled together on the hatch of the creaking ship. The moans of the sea barely covered up the groans of the passengers, many of whom were regretting the celebratory dinner they had consumed. Five hours earlier, the television teachers had gathered excitedly on the dock, their piles of luggage outnumbering the amount that most passengers would require for a long pleasure cruise. The Samoans on the trip had each brought an extra lavalava and a case of beer. Everyone travels the world in their own way.

The boating excursion was an information-gathering expedition. The teachers were on their way to Manu’a, a group of three isolated islands that make up the eastern half of American Samoa. The largest island of Ta’u reaches an elevation of 3000 feet, higher than the mountains of Tutuila. The other two are Ofu and Olesaga. The islands are beautiful, with green volcanic peaks covered in lush vegetation and far fewer western influences than the place the travelers now called home.

July, 1965

Some of the other studio teachers and myself embarked on a trip to the Manu’a group of islands. The islands are about 60 miles east of Tutuila, quite small, and extremely primitive. Manu’a is considered by many to be the last outpost of real Polynesian civilization in the South Pacific. Electricity just came to the islands this year with the advent of ETV. The schools themselves are not ready for occupancy yet because the building program was stopped when it was discovered that the chiefs were using materials consigned for schools for their own homes. Some people learn fast, even without TV.

We boarded the M.V. Samoa, (a converted latrine which now serves as the pride of the Samoan fleet) and proceeded to spend a miserable night. The few wooden bunks were immediately snatched up by crew so the group took up positions on a hatch cover which reeked of urine and vomit. We had brought some mats along for just such an emergency, but we had 16 people crammed into an area about fifteen feet square so stretching out was impossible. Another teacher and I played cribbage until our cards blew away. I had hoped to get a little sleep, but by midnight most of the people in the group were heaving indiscriminately and it was dangerous to stay in one spot for too long. The wind was quite strong and waves were breaking over the bow so everyone was wet and cold as well as sick. The only potty on board available was a tiny outhouse constructed out over the stern, but you had to crawl over the tops of 50 gallon oil drums lashed to the rails in order to reach the stern.

We’ll stay in the village of Fitiuta, the same village in which Margaret Mead collected her data for Coming of Age in Samoa. The purpose of the expedition is to observe true Polynesian life and practices in order to better understand the Samoan people. Just like Maggie did, I guess.


The travelers were exhausted after a night spent heaving, but there was more excitement to come. Since none of the islands had harbors, all people and materials had to be unloaded into longboats and carried over the reef to the shore. Lumber, oil drums and any kind of buoyant items were simply thrown overboard and then local kids would swim them to shore. The teachers weren’t sure which category they were going to fall into, so they were grateful when the longboats paddled up to the ship and they were allowed to board. They finally made land after a ten-hour trip.

4 Comments to “Chapter Seven: Post 47 — What Happens in Manu’a, Stays in Manu’a (Part 1)”

  1. Talofa, Chris! LOVED the latest entry in your “blook”! A couple of minor points. It doesn’t detract from the narrative, but the image you included is of your Dad getting off the tulula (longboat) at Aunu’u. typo – “they were grateful when they longboats were paddled…” should be “they were grateful when the longboats were paddled…” Here are some more pictures taken as Larry was getting ashore at Aunu’u, and a picture of a tulula (not on Larry’s trip) at Manu’a:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, George! I blame my parents for not captioning slides more accurately.



  3. Chris, I just want to let you know how much fun I have had reading The Letters to my mother.  We were there in 67 and 68 and again a little later. My Mom is now 92 and she remembers your parents……and we have enjoyed reliving those years.  My parents were Dick and Betty Fuller and my dad worked in the tax department.   We really laughed at the trip to emergency and the left uterus xray!  It was so typical.   Let us know when the book comes out.    Eve Riggs (In Samoa I was called Jeepers)


  4. Just discovered this and read this one, Chapter Seven: Post 47 — What Happens in Manu’a, Stays in Manu’a (Part 1), and think I’ll be enjoying the rest. Thanks Richard Carter, in Samoa the Samoans called me Hoss.

    Liked by 1 person

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