November 10, 2013

A Cargo cult, Waiting for the Americans to return. Inyeung, Vanuatu.

Inyeung island, or Mystery island, is the southern most island in Vanuatu. It is little visited except by the occasional cruise ship, the intrepid traveller catching a boat across from Aneityum (Anatom), or waiting for the weekly flight from Tanna.

The nickname Mystery island was created due to its hidden runway. This was built in World War II during the war in the Pacific and is very well camouflaged, being invisible from the sea. Visiting the island today it is hard to believe what an important base it was for the American bombers being sent north to the Solomon Islands to attack the Japanese occupiers. Nothing remains except a solitary guesthouse, and the impressively long runway itself.

Inyeung is surrounded by sandy beaches, palm trees and a coral reef, it perfectly matches the stereotypical image of a south pacific island. There are no roads, shops, electricity, internet access, or other distractions. A perfect place to get away from it all.

The runway itself was the cause of a cargo cult on nearby Aneityum, the island which can be seen in the background above. The islanders had rarely seen a white man before, and now they were confronted by hundreds of them, accompanied by large numbers of aircraft. Similar to the John Frum cult in nearby Tanna, the islanders were captivated by the sight of the silver planes flying in, unloading huge amounts of cargo, and then flying off again.

Cargo cults are peculiar to this region, they were caused by the sudden and dramatic meeting of cultures. The short lived nature of the contact (being only the last few years of World War II), contributed to the local myth making and belief that this time of wealth and change will come again. There are still members of the cult today on Aneityum patiently waiting for the day when the planes return and provide goods for all, accompanied by their messiah.

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Accompanied by a selection of stories about places, events and people in Vanuatu which will transport the armchair traveller to this incredible Pacific nation, while giving more background and details for the intrepid visitor. Available as an ebook or paperback from all good booksellers. Buy it from here and from here 

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