8 March 2010 12:42:00 AEDT

Pohnpei, 1995

Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time. - HP LOVECRAFT (The White Ship)


Warm Pacific breeze blows through busy open air bar scene on the island of Pohnpei. Stars shine brightly as full moon rises over Harbour in distance. A man and a woman sit opposite each other at coconut wood table, both drink bottled beer.


Okay, so on three say what your favourite Madonna song is.



ME / WOMAN (together)


ME / WOMAN (together)



Oh my god, did you just say Borderline?


Yes I did...yes I did.

Woman’s friends enter scene and take her away from bar scene

FADE OUT to Henry Mancini soundtrack.

And with that she was gone, swept into the warm Pacific night as my own evening quickly disintergrates into a mosaic of metallic South Pacific Lager, muddy Toddy Water and numbing betel leaf. Hours into it we bumped into another group of missionaries, brainwashed mid 20's youth from Utah with crew cuts in Pearl Jam T-Shirts. I overheard one of them talking about surfing Palakir tomorrow and at that moment I decided it would be great to spend some time getting to um.. know them ... A man will do peculiar things to get access to a surf boat in Micronesia...peculiar things.

It's 6 am the next morning and Robert Birmingham the third stands in my doorway framed by the green morning light of dawn across the Pacific.

Yo let's go dude we gotta punch it.

I force a smile but wonder if he will continue speaking like that all day. He looks at my 8 footer.

Yo this place is like gnarly dude, you sure you wanta be bringin that?

Yeah I'll be alright.

Like whatever man, your medical insurance.

We clear the doorway and reach the street. Another missionary clone sits in the van bouncing to generic hip hop. Birmingham bellows,

Yo bitch start it up, we're doing it.

As he puts his cap on backwards and I see some of the local children stop and whisper to each other, I wonder if I can really do this all day. We bounce down to the docks, water slick and oily, air heavy with the keynote of coconut husk. The boat is a converted diving tender, the mission uses it to peddle God across Micronesia, winning hearts and minds one island at a time. We make Palikir in 20 minutes. This is the mid ninety's - no crowd, no surf camps. Someone hasn't decided that the native word 'Palikir' is to much of a ballache to say yet - so it isn't even called P-Pass.

The two of us paddle out from the boat. It annoys me to admit that Birmingham has this wave wired. He drops in late on a bomb and sits in the pocket for a good 100 yards before flicking out, the hooting and hollering are unlike anything I have experienced. The way it works out we actually end up with a pretty good rhythm. I'm happy to take off the fatter reverb sets while he picks the heavies. The real benefit here is that I don't have to spend a lot of time sitting with him in the lineup talking either, we pass each other one riding one paddling. About an hour later, a westerly starts to push across the lineup. It's still good but not perfect. I could have stayed there all day but Birmingham doesen't stop complaining. When he mentions checking out Nan Madol on the eastern side of the Island I suddenly agree with him totally. We swing past Easies and a few other reef passes - good but all sideshore.

By late morning, the weird coral stone logs of Nan Madol are rising from the jungle, first in ruined walls and then in towering platforms and dark stone temples. Corridors snake deep into the jungle, their bottom flagged in smooth stone, purpose built for something unimaginable.

The break to the south east is a fatish peaky right hander that runs on a sharp corner of reef all the way to the shattered outer walls of the temple city. Birmingham complains about the shape of the wave and I am glad to see him go back to the boat. I catch another three waves alone in the shadow of the last great house of The Pacific.

Later, back at the boat we motor in for a closer look at the main temple. A flat stone altar rises over the sea. Hand carved steps rise to it's base, the outer rim adorned in strange carvings and symbols. Deep black stains radiate from the centre, soaking deeply into the heart of the porous coral stone. I talk to the driver.

Did the islanders practice human sacrifice?

Birmingham moves into the conversation.

Savages man, check it out

The driver cut him off

It was only after the early missionaries arrived that they started it up again. They never killed the settlers, only the missionaries

I turned to Birmingham,

Missionaries mate. so blokes like you!

I looked at Birmingham and watched him swallow hard, in that instant he knew exactly what I was thinking and he saw it to.

A blood red sky with the sun setting behind the altar, Birmingham lying on the stone with his throat flicked out in a red gush, life blood dripping along the coral rock and down into the sea. He goes into his death rattle as the priest raises the stone knife high into the air. Somewhere...just out of shot there is the husking of powerful unseen leathery wings from something massive and ancient.

(Story 4 of 365....361 days left, 361 stories left)

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