All things of the sea belong to Venus; pearls and shells and alchemists' gold and kelp and the riggish smell of neap tides, the inshore green, and purple further out and the joy of distances and the roar of falling masonry, all these are hers, but she doesn't come out of the sea for all of us.-----------JOHN CHEEVER
For my mother and father
Somewhere in Sydney, a water-city with a gothic heart and an unquenchable thirst, there is a fat man with a sunburnt face called Norman.
I crouched and took the scoop from him, and while the sinking boat rolled on through the swells and the skies cleared, I sat by the clattering diesel, baailing with one hand, pushing fish and balls of sweet rice into my mouth with the other.
The Pacific Ocean calls to mind Marco Polo's fabulous kingdoms and the Noble Savage, the guilt-free sex and gin-clear lagoons of Polynesia, and the perfection of idleness on desert islands. Since Captain Cook first went to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, the dream of the Pacific has never lost its force. The journey narrated in this book begins with a much more modern myth - a photograph of a Last Judgement sky glowering on the horizon and spears of light spreading down into the ocean - re-entry vehicles from a "Peacekeeper" missile. It was the source of this man-made vision that Julian Evans decided he had to see. But the journey became a wanderer's tale. Delayed on his way to the "Peacekeeper"'s target by the stories of both white men and islanders, Evans found himself tracing the bizarre outcome of the Pacific dream. For Europeans it is a place of secrets and illusion, where interlopers lose themselves in schemes and drink-fever. For the islanders, beset by gifts of money and military ambitions, there is nowhere else to go. Few places illustrate more powerfully the creeping destructivness of civilization.
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