Los Angeles – Every single episode of ESCAPESEEKER requires the participation of various talented individuals–both in front of the camera, as well as behind the scenes.  I thought I would give you a sneak peak of four individuals who contributed to the success of our latest month-long shoot in French Polynesia.  We drew our ESCAPESEEKER participants from across the U.S., France, as well as Tahiti and her islands–giving our upcoming episodes a diverse and unique native perspective on French Polynesia.  But more importantly, all four of these inspiring individuals are living their dream–pursuing their passions, and doing it on their own terms.  

Not only does their presence on ESCAPESEEKER highten our PBS mission “to educate, to inspire, and to entertain–but we feel very blessed to have made some very special new friends!
Dr. William Harcourt received his Ph.D in Vertebrate Paleontology in 2002 from University College London, his M.Sc. in Paleoanthropology in 1997 from University College London and his B.Sc. in Physiology from King’s College London. He is currently Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Lehman College and the Graduate Center at CUNY, and a Research Associate in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History.  He also co-directs the Early Miocene field site of Rusinga in western Kenya.  His research interests include the origins of hominin bipedalism, paleoecology and hominoid evolution, primate cranial evolution and geometric morphometric techniques.  Is your brain dizzy yet?  I can’t even pronounce half of those subjects.   I like to call him Dr. Will.  And you know what I noticed?  When Dr. Will speaks, people listen.  But then again, with that deep “FM” voice and brilliant British accent, he could describe how to make English pudding, and it would still command attention!  I learned more about the different phases, the evolution of volcanic islands from Dr. Will in one sitting, than I have in all of my college science courses combined!  His enthusiasm for his field of study was definitely contagious.

Mark Eddowes came to Tahiti in l988 as a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  Studying the prehistory of Polynesia he was invited to excavate archaeological sites in the valley of Papenoo on the north coast of Tahiti.  The project lasted four years and he eventually decided to stay on, specializing in Tahitian culture of the 18th century, prospecting, mapping and excavating sites throughout the archipelago.  Spend just five minutes with Mark and you’ll quickly recognize that he is a man who loves what he is doing!

He became fluent in French and Tahitian, the latter giving him access to numerous communities with whom he has worked and intensified his knowledge of Tahitian society, past and present.   He is a student of Professor Roger Green (Harvard University, US, Auckland NZ), a founding father of Polynesian archaeology and the world authority on the “Lapita people” ancestors of the Polynesians.  He also began the first systematic studies of the Tahitian maraes, (temples).

Mark has excavated with his persona1 friend, renowned archaeologist Professor Bob Suggs, whose excavations in the 1950’s created the model for the settlement of East Polynesia via the Marquesas Islands.  As such he is an acknowledged expert and researcher in his field among academians and students alike in Polynesian anthropology. 

Mark was resident archaeologist from 1989 to 1999 at the Musee de Tahiti et des iles in Tahiti during which he undertook fieldwork and lived upon numerous islands in French Polynesia.  He now resides on the Society Island of Huahine.  Mark infused our entire ESCAPESEEKER team with historical and present day knowledge of the Marquesas Islands while on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, which better prepared us for our own exploration of the various Marquesas Islands.  We enjoyed his brutally honest, no nonsense approach to Tahitian history.

Frank Murphy, an Expat who has found his paradise on Moorea, definitely inspired our team to think twice about returning to the U.S.    Here’s an excerpt from a Nat Geo ADVENTURE Magazine interview, wherein Frank Murphy expresses his personal thoughts on his Expat status.  This article helped me decide that we definitely needed to get Frank’s  input on our quest to determine if Heaven’s Heaven is in French Polynesia.  I think Frank would tell you he has it narrowed down to the island of  Moorea!  

 Our film team completes shooting our interview with Tahiti Historian, Mrs. Hinano Murphy, wife of Berkeley Researcher, Frank Murphy, on the very spot where the original British explorers first landed.

“I’d never thought much at all about Tahiti until a job opened up to manage the University of California-Berkeley’s Gump Research Station. Having managed a field station in Baja and been a nature-reserve caretaker in Big Sur for a year, I had decent experience for the job—I guess I was just lucky that the station happened to be in such a great place.

Some people come here with the dream of moving to paradise, but after a while they just burn out—all they can do is complain about what they can’t do because of the limited infrastructure. Whiny old expats… don’t know why the dream sours for them. Because I deal with tourists and scientists visiting the research station, I feed off their sense of awe, and it reminds me of how beautiful this place is. 

In my day-to-day life, I don’t really miss the States that much. I guess most people would say they miss the hustle and bustle, and the culture. They get attached to bookstores, the theater, their Starbucks coffee. But I’ve never been a big-city kind of guy. Of course, I miss friends and family, and the American landscapes—especially the desert and the mountains. Without a doubt, it’s beautiful out here, abounding with spectacular peaks, ridges, and bays. I’ve heard a few people swear that Moorea is the most beautiful island in the world. There’s so much hiking; it’s easy to get out on the water in a kayak. 

I’m married to a Tahitian and have become part of her huge family, so it’s not like I’m flitting between worlds. When I think of our friends, they include a whole spectrum of locals, expats, visitors, and folks back in the U.S. People laugh when I say something to my kids in English and they answer in French. It’s great. Just like I didn’t plan to move here, we don’t plan to move away, either. I can see myself living here the rest of my life.

Andre Motte, a native of Brittany, France, has always dreamt all of his life about sailing across the French Polynesian Islands.  Fortunately for Andre, he married a beautiful woman, Marianne,  who not only shares his dream, but is also a competent sailor!  Fast forward, I’m on the Rangiroa atoll, sitting on the beach, just taking a break from our filming when I watch this remarkable 9-year old boy skillfully navigate his dinghy from a catamaran anchored offshore, and back and forth to the dock.   At one point, he returned with his father–so I just had to ask the question?  Who are you, and how did you become such a good sailor?  
His name is Corentin–the eldest son of Andre and Marianne Motte.  Corentin, along with his younger brother, Andre-Marie, and baby sister, Manon, are having the time of their life, exploring every corner of French Polynesia via catamaran!   Yes, their family is on their 9th month of a 12-month adventure voyage.    After years of planning and preparation, finding and re-fitting the perfect vessel that would meet their young family’s specification–taking a year sabbatical from their jobs, and plucking the kids from school, their parents’ life long dream became reality on July 20, 2009 when they officially set sail for Huahine, one of the Society Islands.

Honestly, you will not want to miss this episode of ESCAPESEEKER!  After arranging to spend some time with the Motte Family, I really wanted to post a new slogan–“A family that sails together, stays together.”  I have never met such a happy, close-knit, loving and generous bunch of kids! And, regarding their Mom and Dad–well, if the sparkle in their eyes, and the warmth in their voice is any indication–this adventure has provided exceptional glue to the entire family’s already cohesive qualities! 

           Bora  Baleine  Atol
        Here’s a brief recap of the Motte’s sailing itinerary:

~   2 months in Society Islands (Tahiti, Raiatea, Bora-Bora, Maupiti …) a sort of warm-up to help the whole family acclimate to their new vessel, and new environment.
~  Crossing 2 days to 2 months to the Tuamotu Archipelago lagoons bound for the east (Fakarava Rangiroa, Hao) eventually positioning  (relative to the trade winds) to cross to the Marquesas.
~  They pass Austral summer in the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva …)
~ Descends to the southeast Gambier, crossing Southern Gambier,  spending 2 months between Raivavae Rurutu and witnessing Humpback whales!

~ Their last voyage is back to Tahiti and Raiatea, where they hope to sell their boat before returning to France.

I hope these unforgettable individuals, (just a sampling of the incredible “talents”  who will be featured in the TAHITI: Oh Heaven’s Heaven episodes),   inspire and remind you once again of the saying,  “if you can dream it, you can achieve it!”

Thank you for your enthusiastic support of ESCAPESEEKER!

With love,


  1. Anonymous says:

    Love you the Mottes ! I dont know if I'm looking forward to seeing you again , this would mean you're back in France… but I keep a few good bottles of Red, just in case. Guillaume.

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