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!