A field trip to Vanikoro


A field trip to Vanikoro


The 2005 Lapérouse expedition was the subject of a documentary for the French TV program Thalassa – a 52' film directed by Yves Bourgeois, and entitled “Le secret des déferlantes”.

You can watch the whole movie (in French) online – or watch shorter clips below.

The film follows all the actors of the 2005 expedition, as they investigated the 1788 shipwreck of navigator Lapérouse: land and underwater archaeologists, naturalists, botanists… and one linguist.





One of my main activities on the island was to document the four languages of Vanikoro. I paid particular attention to the two most endangered languages: Lovono and Tanema, each down to a single speaker.

Thus, in the following excerpt, I am collecting the first sentences of the Lovono language from Rubenson Lono (1933-2020), the last man who could still speak it fluently. (The sound recordings I made that day are available online.)

Clip 1: Recording the Lovono language, with Rubenson Lono (18'19" — 21'20")



Besides my linguistic surveys strictly speaking, I also endeavoured to document the knowledge of Vanikoro islanders concerning the history of their own island – particularly the oral tradition around the 1788 demise of Lapérouse. In the same spirit, I collected the rich toponymy of Vanikoro (hence this toponymic map).

Clip 2 : Investigating the history and geography of Vanikoro (28'05" — 29'47").


You may visit the introduction to the 2005 Lapérouse expedition, or discover more about the languages of Vanikoro.



©  Cécile Kielar