Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

2005-10-25 Matavai Bay, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Matavai Bay, Tahiti, French Polynesia, 2005.10.25.
Nikon D100, 12-24mm f/4G lens @12mm f/9, aperture priority.
After a series of skirmishes in which one Tahitian was killed, "dozens of canoes carrying at least a thousand men and several young women surrounded [Wallis' ship, The Dolphin]. At a prearranged signal, the women stood up in the prows of their canoes, stripped naked, and made provocative gestures obviously intended to distract the sailors and entice them out of the ship. 'As our men is in good Health & Spirits,' seaman Francis Wilkinson observed, 'it is Not to be wondered that their Attention should be Drawn to A Sight so uncommon to them Especially as their women are so well Proportioned.' Only a few noticed the piles of stones in the canoes.

"Moments later a large double canoe approached the ship, carrying what appeared to be several of the island's most influential inhabitants. At a sign from one of them, stones flew through the air, pelting the ship's deck and bruising many of the crew. The friendly greetings, the offers of trade, and especially the provocative acts of the young women had all been part of a clever ruse.

"At first the trick succeeded. The Englishmen were so stunned that they did not realize what was happening to them, and it took some time before they could pull themselves together to fight back. By then, Wallis estimated, three hundred canoes with about two thousand men and women surrounded the ship, while several thousand more watched from shore. Surprise and sheer numbers had gained the Tahitians an advantage over superior weaponry.

"The advantage was brief, however. Wallis directed his men to fire small shot in an attempt to disperse the canoes, with little effect. He then ordered the cannon loaded with grapeshot and fired directly into the mass of canoes. The cannon fire terrified the Tahitians, and they retreated quickly, reassembling about a mile from the ship once the initial confusion passed. Hoping to forestall future attacks, the Dolphin's officers fired two cannon at the large double canoe that had initiated the attack, ripping it in half and killing several of those aboard. Another volley killed several more."

Lynn Withey, Voyages of Discovery: Captain Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific

Matavai was the preferred anchorage of the 18th-century English explorers, Wallis, Cook, Bligh and others landed here. To the camera's back is Point Venus, where Cook set up his astronomical observatory, and where Bligh grew his breadfruit garden. Fletcher Christian swam here. On weekends today it's a topless beach where demis sunbathe.