Can Polynesia Survive Reality TV?
When the bulldozers arrived, Daniel was asked to leave. Production crews flattened his house, removed the small jetty, and wiped out all traces of habitation along the shores of Hakatea Bay, known by cruisers as Daniels Bay, on the southwest shore of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas. Three days later, no sign remained of the life the Polynesian man, known only as Daniel, took three decades to build.
Last November 12, Daniels Bay, restored to an uninhabited state, was deemed ready for Survivor IV. Sixteen contestants swam ashore from a cruise ship anchored in the bay, and the games began. The latest season of Survivor, the CBS reality-TV show, which had previously featured contestants "surviving" in Borneo, Australia, and Kenya, was filmed in Daniels Bay and at other locations along the southern and eastern coasts of Nuku Hiva.
For years, Daniel, 74, and his wife, Antoinette, grew pamplemousse and papaya, piping in fresh water from the nearby mountains. He lived in his modest house on the white-sand beach and maintained the small jetty that was his welcome mat for Pacific cruisers. Since the 1970s, this idyllic bay, with its nearby 600-foot Vaipo waterfall, has been considered the best anchorage in the Marquesas by voyagers, for whom the news was upsetting.
However, the people on Nuku Hiva were totally behind the show, said Al Keahi, managing director of Tahiti Tourisme. During the filming, CBS production crews filled Nuku Hivas hotels and restaurants, and more than 200 local people earned money, some for the first time. "Can cruisers do that?" Keahi asked. "The people here see it as an investment in their childrens future."
Coming to the Marquesas is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for many sailors, Keahi said, but they want the islands to stay the same, which is selfish. Cruisers arrive on boats no one in Nuku Hiva could ever afford, Keahi said; "Why shouldnt we have the same things?"
|Daniel's Bay has long been considered Nuku Hiva's best anchorage for voyagers.
With the permission of Daniel and his wife, the structures were removed by the territory of French Polynesia, the owner of the land they occupied, said CBS publicist Colleen Sullivan. Daniel and his wife were relocated to a prefab house built by the territory. Other houses built for the production crews were to be given to low-income families after filming was completed. Computers used by the production crews were to be donated to island schools. Although there may be a collective groan across the Pacific Net when they hear that Nuku Hiva is ready to log on, Keahi countered, "The sailors all have the Internet; why shouldnt we?"
All of the areas placed off-limits during the shooting were reopened after Christmas. The government offered to rebuild Daniels home on the beach, but according to Sullivan and CBS, Daniel and Antoinette prefer their new home. CBS has assured the citizens of Nuku Hiva that the areas used by Survivor IV will be returned to their original condition.
In theory, everything will be the same in Daniels Bay. In reality, nothing will.