Ship-wrecked teen returns after 60-years

Saturday November 01, 2014 Written by Rose Clark Published in Weekend
TOP RIGHT: Old friends Stanley and Mary Taepae Marsters. CENTRE: Stanley showing love for his breadfruit tree that he planted in 1954 at the time of the shipwreck and on his return last week – tasting the fruit of his labour 60-years ago. BOTTOM RIGHT: A first time meeting Deborah (Stanley’s wife), Rose Clark and Stanley on the island of Palmerston.  TOP RIGHT: Old friends Stanley and Mary Taepae Marsters. CENTRE: Stanley showing love for his breadfruit tree that he planted in 1954 at the time of the shipwreck and on his return last week – tasting the fruit of his labour 60-years ago. BOTTOM RIGHT: A first time meeting Deborah (Stanley’s wife), Rose Clark and Stanley on the island of Palmerston. ROSE CLARK/A NEALE

Rare ship visits are always something that the residents of Palmerston Island look forward to with careful preparation, great anticipation and much excitement.

But the arrival of the Silver Explorer cruise ship to the island in the early hours of last Friday October 24 was a particularly unique occasion this time as she brought with her a very special guest.
At the request of the Executive Officer, the first privileged passenger to hop in the zodiac to heade ashore with officials was Stanley Mathurin of St Lucia in the Caribbean.
Stanley was shipwrecked on Palmerston almost 60 years ago in November 1954 on board Commander Victor Clark’s 33-foot ketch Solace – the first of his race to sail around the world in a two-man ship.
Commander Clark was circumnavigating the world, with Stanley a keen 16-year old aspiring captain-to-be as his crew at the time.
On their last night of a short stay anchored off the coral reef of Palmerston and due to set sail again the next day, the wind unexpectedly changed direction throwing Solace onto the reef, and incurring great damage.

The Solace lying on Palmerston reef after the storm in 1954. 14103119

Over the next weeks, men, women and children without exception all worked hard under the supervision of Ned Marsters to drag Solace ashore and set about repairing her by hand as there was no electricity on the island in those days, and the restoration was completed to an immaculate and expert standard some 9 months later.
This disastrous experience for Victor and Stanley turned into what they both later described as the best time of their lives, because they were welcomed wholeheartedly onto this paradise island as part of the family for the next two and a half years.

Stanley practices with sextant on board Solace, 1954. 14103120 

Despite keeping in touch via letter for the following 50-years with his treasured friends Ned, Tuakana and Inano Marsters, Victor never made it back to his beloved Palmerston before he passed away in 2005.
However his daughter, Rose Clark, who came for a visit in 2011 to see the place and meet the people she’d grown up hearing fond stories about all her childhood, ended up staying to work as one of the teachers’ in Palmerston Lucky School.
At about this time, she found contact details for Stanley Mathurin on the internet, and has been emailing him ever since.
She has had a photograph of Stanley and his partner Deborah stuck on her fridge door for the last 3-years and has been praying that he would make it back to Palmerston for a visit sometime before she leaves so that she could meet him for the first time face to face.
And last week, this prayer was indeed answered as Stanley, accompanied by Deborah, passengers of the Silver Explorer, once again set foot on the beaches of his much-loved ‘second home’, Palmerston, to be warmly welcomed by all the islanders, including a handful of mama’s who remember him fondly from their younger mothering days, and papa’s who were just little boys running around with no clothes on at that stage!
Lead by Papa Orometua Ina Moetaua and his band, the children of Palmerston Lucky School danced a beautiful performance on the beach as a welcome to the cruise ship passengers.
Following that, the visitors were entertained by guided tours around the island, and a swim in the gorgeous lagoon for those who wished, whilst Stanley was received into the home of the same family who hosted him 60-years ago, and once again tasted a veritable feast of local delights amongst which was bosun bird, parrot fish, and even a breadfruit from the very tree which he planted himself back in the day.
Stanley particularly astounded islanders with his incredible memory for detail, and much laughter was had as everybody retold stories and shared memoirs of those good old days.
He even managed a visit to see Palmerston’s current oldest resident, Papa Joe, who he fondly remembers used to carry around an old kettle of homebrew with him!
A wonderful day was had by all, and armed with local handmade craft gifts and other Palmerston memorabilia from all the families, Stanley left the idyllic shores shortly before 2pm to the sorrow of many who wished they’d had a longer chance to reminisce and laugh together, but with the hope that he will return again in the future for more than half a day, and his agreement not to leave it another 60 years this time! 


  • Comment Link Norman Doidge Tuesday, 09 August 2016 09:50 posted by Norman Doidge

    I sailed on Solace in the mid 1970s and thought her a wonderful ketch, but then knowing nothing of her past. It took me 9 years to find a second hand copy of Commander Clark's book and I began to realise what a part of history she was. Only recently I found the wonderful account of his life in The Telegraph, discovering then what a part of history he had been.
    It is a privilege today to have found what a part of history Stanley is.

  • Comment Link Kenneth Sebro Friday, 09 January 2015 00:00 posted by Kenneth Sebro

    What an experience! And to also have the good fortune of revisiting and seeing the fruits of the seeds planted so many years ago!
    Stan must be a blessed soul and a good man.
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful experience.

  • Comment Link Aisne Williams/Marsters Thursday, 08 January 2015 15:38 posted by Aisne Williams/Marsters

    What a beautiful story on the reunion of friends.
    Especially on the island where my mum's family comes from..Mary Mania Marsters..I hope to visit one day my partner comes from Barbados i can relate to Stan's home island..thank you for a lovely story..

  • Comment Link Jeanette Rosenblatt Monday, 24 November 2014 16:32 posted by Jeanette Rosenblatt

    What a fantastic heroic adventure at such a tender age of 16 years . Wow and to return to meet with those wonderful people who accepted you and your friend Victor as their own. What an explosive reunion especially accompanied by beautiful Deborah, to share in your past and present. What a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing such a very special part of your past with me. Let me know when the next episode will take place. Abundant blessings always. Much love to you both.

  • Comment Link Jeanette Rosenblatt Monday, 24 November 2014 16:10 posted by Jeanette Rosenblatt

    Wow Stanley, what a beautiful story of your experience of the shipwreck, what an adventure at such a young age of 16 years to travel the high seas, just you and Victor owner of the vessel. What bravery, great. To be on that lovely island with wonderful islanders for such a long time as one of the family, wow. It must have been very difficult to leave knowing that another experience awaited.
    So happy you made it back even after so many years to meet again those you left joined with the daughter of your great friend Victor, and to embrace your very own grown up breadfruit tree, so special indeed. You're so blessed Stanley to be accompanied by the very lovely dear Deborah to experience your past and present joy of the whole adventure. Please let me know me when the next episode is to take place. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful part of your past. Much love to you both. Abundant blessings always.

  • Comment Link David Grant Sunday, 23 November 2014 07:51 posted by David Grant

    I was also a passenger on the Silversea Explorer when Stanley made his return.

    Palmerston was the high point of my voyage on the Explorer from Fiji to Tahiti. Stanley was a lovely and very modest man. He gave the passengers a presentation of his time on Palmerston after the shipwreck, and how he and Commander Clarke continued on with their sailing after the yacht was repaired

  • Comment Link Stanley Wynter Saturday, 22 November 2014 08:58 posted by Stanley Wynter

    That was so good to know that you were able to return there after such a long time and most of all to re-unite with those you once enjoyed your life with. I sincerely hope you will be able to fulfill their wishes by returning to visit them once more.

  • Comment Link T Isaacs Monday, 17 November 2014 05:49 posted by T Isaacs

    Lovely article. Hugely inspiring for me, a Londoner! Well done Rose!

  • Comment Link uncle dan Saturday, 08 November 2014 19:17 posted by uncle dan

    Indeed a beautiful and hospitality people at the time I have been staying with them for a while back then and I have enjoyed it. The memory of the most beautiful people are still in my heart.

  • Comment Link Alan Brathwaite Friday, 07 November 2014 02:33 posted by Alan Brathwaite

    My hero! Stanley Mathurin is an inspiration to the black youth.Bravo! Many thanks for your story, and to the beautiful islanders.

Leave a comment