…not bargained for.
It was prize-giving day for the students at Atiu College that day. M/S Edna had arrived, but the sea was too rough to offload her cargo that fateful November 28th 1990. Atiu’s barge driver, the late Papa Roi Viti, had suggested that the vessel continue on to neighbouring Mitiaro and come back the following day. However Edna’s Captain, the late Nancy Griffith, decided to leave the schooner anchored offshore with emergency staff and follow the college principal’s invitation to celebrate the student’s achievements that evening and wait for calmer seas in the morning.
That proved to be a fatal desicion. At 1:30 AM the wind turned and the schooner, full of cargo and with all crew back on board, was slammed onto the reef. Rarotonga’s harbourmaster, the late Captain Don Silk, remarked in an interview with Lawrance Bailey from Cook Islands News that “it wouldn’t have taken much wind to put the ship on the reef as the anchoreage at Atiu was very close to shore. In Atiu when the wind is off-shore, with any change of wind a ship was in danger” (CINews, 29-22-1990). Most of the unisured cargo was lost. For the captain, also one of the ship’s owners, who wasn’t even able to salvage much of her own belongings, this was a hard price to pay.
For Edna, it was the end of her seventy-four-year sailing career. The ship broke apart, one half sank into the depth of the ocean. The other remains now lie scattered and exposed to the fierce elements in between the large boulders of fossilized coral that litter the beach. Hurricane-force winds and high seas wedged her broken bow up into the passage to Ava Tapu. To me it appears as if the island wanted to ‘ingest’ her; a macabre thought.