Russian mission foiled by seasickness

Tuesday October 04, 2011 Written by Rachel ReevesRachel Reeves Published in National

Russian politician Anton Bakov set out on a mission in July to visit the atoll he claimed to have purchased from the Cook Islands government but a bad run with seasickness foiled his plan.

He chartered SV Southern Cross to make the journey from Aitutaki to Suwarrow and back, but about a week in said he was too seasick to proceed and asked skipper Paul Green to turn back.

He never made it to Suwarrow.

Bakov made headlines at the weekend for claiming that Suwarrow is the capital of the Russian Empire he is trying to re-build.

He told a reporter at major Moscow newspaper Isvestia that he bought Suwarrow from Prime Minister Henry Puna on July 20. The story ran in early September.

His claim is news to Puna, who says government had no contact with the man making the hoax claim and any suggestions of such an arrangement were preposterous.

It appears that Bakov intended to meet with Puna when he was in the Cook Islands. He even asked Green for a lift to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cook Islands Parliament House.

Green says hosting Bakov and his entourage was a rather strange experience.

They were the second group of Russians he has hosted aboard Southern Cross the only other group wanted to travel from Samoa to the Phoenix Islands.

Through Jetsave Travel Bakov and his backup booked a trip from Aitutaki to Suwarrow aboard Southern Cross.

We picked them up in Aitutaki and left for Suwarrow and about 180 miles off Suwarrow they were all seasick and decided they wanted to turn around, Green said. They never got there.

Bakov was accompanied by his 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, and had hired a film crew comprising a producer, photographer and scriptwriter to document the journey.

While he did not speak much English, both his daughter and son were fluent.

It was my understanding that his mission was about taking his son and daughter (to Suwarrow), Green said. They had read that the Russians discovered it.

That part is at least in part based on truth Russian ship Suvorov, named for Russian general Alexander Suvorov, made landfall on a reportedly uninhabited Suwarrow in 1814. (The generals name is spelt Suwarrow in Lord Byrons epic poem Don Juan, explaining the difference in spelling.)

It was not until Green was en route to Suwarrow that he learned Bakov is a prominent politician in Moscow. He says he does not remember the Russian mentioning a plan to purchase Suwarrow.

He was talking about doing promotion of the Cook Islands, presumably to boost tourism, Green guessed. There was no mention of buying Suwarrow, though there was mention of giving funding for conservation and the preservation of Suwarrow.

Green says that following the aborted Suwarrow mission, Bakovs group spent about 10 days on Rarotonga.

Out of sympathy for Bakov who never reached his destination, Green offered to show him around Rarotonga.

He remembers Bakov spending about $80 on flower arrangements at Island Craft, which he ceremonially laid at the headstone of Tom Neale, the Kiwi who penned An Island to Oneself documenting his life on Suwarrows Anchorage atoll.

Bakovs crew filmed the wreath-laying at the RSA cemetery.

Green says he dropped Bakov off at the Office of the Prime Minister twice, but Puna was out of the country.

He also gave him a lift to Parliament House.

Clerk Nga Valoa says he vaguely remembers a group of Russians dropping in to ask more about the Cook Islands.

At the time he thought it was just another group of tourists.

Russian politician Anton Bakov set out on a mission in July to visit the atoll he claimed to have purchased from the Cook Islands government but a bad run with seasickness foiled his plan.

He chartered SV Southern Cross to make the journey from Aitutaki to Suwarrow and back, but about a week in said he was too seasick to proceed and asked skipper Paul Green to turn back.

He never made it to Suwarrow.

Bakov made headlines at the weekend for claiming that Suwarrow is the capital of the Russian Empire he is trying to re-build.

He told a reporter at major Moscow newspaper Isvestia that he bought Suwarrow from Prime Minister Henry Puna on July 20. The story ran in early September.

His claim is news to Puna, who says government had no contact with the man making the hoax claim and any suggestions of such an arrangement were preposterous.

It appears that Bakov intended to meet with Puna when he was in the Cook Islands. He even asked Green for a lift to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cook Islands Parliament House.

Green says hosting Bakov and his entourage was a rather strange experience.

They were the second group of Russians he has hosted aboard Southern Cross the only other group wanted to travel from Samoa to the Phoenix Islands.

Through Jetsave Travel Bakov and his backup booked a trip from Aitutaki to Suwarrow aboard Southern Cross.

We picked them up in Aitutaki and left for Suwarrow and about 180 miles off Suwarrow they were all seasick and decided they wanted to turn around, Green said. They never got there.

Bakov was accompanied by his 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, and had hired a film crew comprising a producer, photographer and scriptwriter to document the journey.

While he did not speak much English, both his daughter and son were fluent.

It was my understanding that his mission was about taking his son and daughter (to Suwarrow), Green said. They had read that the Russians discovered it.

That part is at least in part based on truth Russian ship Suvorov, named for Russian general Alexander Suvorov, made landfall on a reportedly uninhabited Suwarrow in 1814. (The generals name is spelt Suwarrow in Lord Byrons epic poem Don Juan, explaining the difference in spelling.)

It was not until Green was en route to Suwarrow that he learned Bakov is a prominent politician in Moscow. He says he does not remember the Russian mentioning a plan to purchase Suwarrow.

He was talking about doing promotion of the Cook Islands, presumably to boost tourism, Green guessed. There was no mention of buying Suwarrow, though there was mention of giving funding for conservation and the preservation of Suwarrow.

Green says that following the aborted Suwarrow mission, Bakovs group spent about 10 days on Rarotonga.

Out of sympathy for Bakov who never reached his destination, Green offered to show him around Rarotonga.

He remembers Bakov spending about $80 on flower arrangements at Island Craft, which he ceremonially laid at the headstone of Tom Neale, the Kiwi who penned An Island to Oneself documenting his life on Suwarrows Anchorage atoll.

Bakovs crew filmed the wreath-laying at the RSA cemetery.

Green says he dropped Bakov off at the Office of the Prime Minister twice, but Puna was out of the country.

He also gave him a lift to Parliament House.

Clerk Nga Valoa says he vaguely remembers a group of Russians dropping in to ask more about the Cook Islands.

At the time he thought it was just another group of tourists.

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