The Cook Islands are located near the end of the world, at least that’s what it feels like if you travel to the extremely isolated island of Palmerston. This secluded slice of heaven is not easy to get to, one must be very determined and brave to make the journey.
For starters, the frequent and forceful storms are enough to threaten lives and keep mass amounts of travelers at bay. Plus, the journey is no quick trip, you travel by boat for a long 9-days. Throughout nearly the entire trip you will likely see no other ships, planes, or people.
But once you reach the island of Palmerston, you are as close to freedom and paradise as possible. There is no money, no war, and generally no problems to mention for those that call the island home. Since residents have a very strong sense of hospitality, visitors also get a taste of a carefree existence.
William Marsters was the first to person to call Palmerston his permanent home after the man who owned the island offered him a position as the island’s caretaker. He planted the first coconut trees as a means of making the island more livable, and ended up selling coconut oil for many years.
He moved to the island with his wife, Sarah, and 2 of her cousins. Later he ended up making all 3 women into his wives.
After the owner of the island passed away, Queen Victoria granted Marsters with ownership of the island. Today, everyone that lives in Palmerston, except for 3 residents, are a direct descendent of Marsters, his wife Sarah, and her two cousins.
The tight knit community has no fights, and for the most part everyone gets along great. Bob, a local interviewed by BBC says, “Welcome to my world, a land of white sands and coconuts. Nothing goes wrong in Palmerston.” Bob goes on to share, “That’s one thing I’m so proud of with the families living on Palmerston– we work together, we love each other and we share. For instance, when I’m out of rice or flour I can just go next door and if they have- they give.”
Back in 1950 the population at Palmerston was 300, today only 62 people live there.
The island keeps it very simple and doesn’t even have a local bus stop. They do have a church and also a school for children, which make up approximately 1/3 of the Palmerston population.
In life nothing is 100% perfect, so while war, money, and other modern day problems don’t plague the shores of Palmerston, other troubles still do. For one, supply ships don’t come to this island often, never more than two times each year. This means locals often make do with the basics provided by the island, living on fish and coconuts for most of the year. And one local fisherman admits it’s getting harder to find fish than it was before, they no longer swim in large schools like they used to.
And when the storms come ragging, Palmerston takes on a lot of damage. Previous storms have taken out buildings, including an original church and William Marsters’ old house.
Many young adults have left the island in search of something more, namely a romantic partner. After all, there are only 3 people, 2 teachers and 1 nurse, that live on the island and are not related. Naturally, this has created some issues with intermarriage.
While no place is actually perfect, Palmerston is pretty darn close. Residents spend most of their time enjoying life instead of working, and as Bob says, “You are free to do what you want to do.” And isn’t that what we all want out of life?
Photo Credits: BBC.co.uk