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Jewels of the sea from French Polynesia's Gambier Islands
Jewels of the sea from French Polynesia's Gambier Islands

It was harvest time in this remote archipelago where French Polynesians produce the South Seas' most treasured pearls. After flying almost five hours over the empty Pacific, the turboprop carrying me and a scattering of passengers tilted for landing, revealing a 15-mile-wide lagoon pocked with 14 vivid green islands ribboned with peacock hues of turquoise, emerald, azure, indigo, cobalt and violet blue. My trip to the Gambiers in January was serendipitous. Some years ago I was taking a break from writing a book about my Afghanistan war coverage when I encountered a quirky fellow who told me about these Polynesian islands 1,000 miles southeast of Tahiti. A beautiful place, he said,...

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