Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Contemporary cannibalism?

You hear stories that cannibalism is still practiced among the natives of some remote South Pacific islands, but headlines trumpet that as the fate of a present-day adventurer. Just 10 days ago, German yachtsman Stefan Ramin, 40, was killed - and presumed eaten - in French Polynesia. He and his wife Heike Dorsch, 37, had anchored off the coast of the Marquesan island of Nuku Hiva on Sept. 16th. In one of the last entries on his blog, Ramin wrote, "I seek freedom and adventures." He had gone goat-hunting, but never returned. Police are looking for his local guide, who tried to lure Dorsch into the jungle, telling her that Ramin had been in an accident and sexually assaulting her when she refused to accompany him. It was only recently that the authorities found Ramin's remains, consisting of ash, clothes, teeth, and bone fragments. The man's body had been burnt in a pyre so fierce that it left scorch marks 25' high in the trees and scattered debris over a 35' radius. The charred bones were sent to the island of Papeete for analysis. "It is almost certain the remains we found in the fire are those of Stefan Ramin," said prosecutor Jose Thorel. The teeth have been matched to dental records sent from Germany, but they are awaiting the definitive results of DNA testing. Modern forensics confirms that Ramin has been murdered and investigators are convinced that the guide is both killer and cannibal: "It is the suspicion of the authorities that the hunter carved his victim up, ate parts of the body and burned the remainder along with animal cadavers."

1st image) A view of Nuku Hiva from on board the restored tallship Soren Larsen, which can be booked for adventure sailing cruises; 2nd image) Ramin and Dorsch at another stop on their around-the-world voyage, which had begun in 2008; 3rd image) An 1892 painting by French artist Paul Guaguin (1848-1903) entitled "Arii Matamoe [The Royal End]," which depicts Polynesian funeral rites after the death of a monarch, including lying-in-state and collective mourning. "Arii Matamoe" was painted during Gauguin's 1st Tahitian period on another island in the Marquesas.

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