Ride along on a rustic, and rusting, Polynesian cargo boat as it makes deliveries to 21 of the globe’s most isolated coral reef atolls in the heart of the South Pacific Ocean. Along the 3,000-mile route meet black pearl divers, the man who found the Kon Tiki, Marlon Brando’s Mutiny girlfriend, a ship laden with NFL-sized crewmen and many more – all set against the backdrop of a fast-and-forever changing paradise.
I jumped on the cargo boat for one of its monthly, 3,000-mile delivery jobs, taking us to ports-of-call that were literally just piles of sand and rock washed up on rims of coral, halfway between Australia and South America, each home to populations ranging from seven to two hundred fifty people. The trip took us through the Tuamotus, a chain of 78 atolls that sailors going back to Magellan dubbed the dangerous archipelago for its low-lying, barely visible, wooden-boat-sinking reefs.
Like a floating Super K-Mart, the ship is packed with 600 tons of – everything – from chicken and beef, to cement blocks and metal roofs, sugar and gasoline, shampoo and chainsaws, fishing boats and toilet paper, beer and cigarettes.
The cargo boat has changed life out here, for good and bad.