In the footsteps of Capt. Cook & Bligh.

HMS_BOUNTY_II_with_Full_Sails

1960 reconstruction of HMS Bounty

Being in charge of the our Pacific agent network, I had to visit Tahiti of course . . well, someone had to do this difficult task!

Tahiti was originally called Otaheite, and once again it is thought the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit the islands in 1606, but others consider it was the Spanish.
In 1767 the British arrived and in 1768 it was the turn of the French.
In 1769 Captain Cook arrived to observe the transit of Venus, and in 1788 Captain Bligh arrived in the Bounty.
Capt. Bligh’s orders were to take breadfruit from Tahiti to be transplanted in the West Indies to feed the plantation slaves.

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Painting by Thomas Gosse of Captain Bligh transplanting breadfruit.

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Breadfruit

Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward Groupe of islands of the Society Islands and now the citizens of the islands are considered French citizens.

Soc Is

Our agent booked me in to a hotel near the capital, which is called Pape’ete (Papeete ). It was a very nice hotel, and the views were spectacular.

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Two views depending on whether you looked right or left or just right ahead. I took the above two from the hotel.

As you see the sand was a different colour than the normal yellow sand, because the island was formed by a volcano. The dark sand had the same consistency as yellow sand, and you did not get any dirtier than you do on a ‘yellow’ beach. 

black sand Tahiti also has black sand beaches.

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View from my room area.

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The following morning, I was picked up from my hotel and taken to our agent’s office.
He was also the agent for Blue Star, Nedlloyd Shipping, China Nav. Co, Mitsue OSK Shipping, Nippon Yusen, Holland America Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Crystal Cruises, BHP, American Bureau of Shipping and a few that I cannot make out on the list on the left side of the main door. At least the company that I represented stood out on the right side of the main door.

Downtown

Downtown Papeete in 1991

Our agent was the perfect host, as soon as business was over, he took me to Le Retro in the heart of Papeete for coffee and a chat about life away from the office. I checked on the restaurant and it is still going strong thirty years later.

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Our agent is the gentleman in the centre, near the pillar.

There are experiences that stick in one’s mind for ever. During my stay in Tahiti, I was taken to a restaurant a short drive from Papeete . It was a fish restaurant called Restaurant Bar du Musee Gauguin – the restaurant is right on the water and outside one can see fish swimming in pens – all raw fish scraps are fed to these fish and they grow quite large before being added to the menu. The restaurant has been in business since 1968.

restaurant The above is the restaurant and you can just see the pens for the live fish – the food was excellent and ambiance just right with a cool breeze flowing through the restaurant creating a perfect tropical lunch. 

On my return to my hotel, I received an invitation from the hotel to attend a beachside evening dinner …. the hotel gave its guests the choice of dinner in the hotel or on the beach with a show.

Dance

Three guesses which one I picked . . 

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I was impressed with the way the dancers moved, it was if they had ball bearings for Hips . .click for an example of what I mean. The beat of the drums and the warm evening was a real pleasure to watch the skill of the dancers.

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Unlike Captain Bligh (Trever Howard) I was not asked to join the dancers. 

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The show was not all dancing, they had a fire ‘eater’ as well.

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Daylight after the beach show – you can see the stage and the foot lights. 

The following day would be my last day in Tahiti so our agent took me for a sightseeing tour of the island and later asked if I would like to have a look around the Wind Song, because he was the agent for Windstar Cruises and the Wind Song was in port. 

WindSong I jumped at the idea of having a look around MSY Wind Song 
MSY = Motor Sailing Yacht.

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She was larger than I expected.

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and the controls on the bridge were very impressive. The sails were all computer controlled for hauling and changing the angle to catch the best of the wind.

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Perhaps the climbing of a mast would no longer be required.

The Wind Song was launched in 1987, but in 2002 she had a fire in the engine room, which required the passengers to take to the lifeboats at 3.15 one morning.
At 5.00 am they heard an explosion from the forward area of the ship and the captain order all of the crew to the lifeboats.

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If you wish to read an eyewitness account of the evacuation (with pictures) click on this link. https://sites.google.com/site/windsongfire

The French navy towed the Wind Song to Papeete, but the damage to the ship was so bad that they realised that repairing the ship was greater than the ship’s value, plus the cost of towing her overseas to be scrapped was also too expensive.

In January 2003 on the orders of the President of the Territorial Government of French Polynesia the Wind Song was towed to a spot between Tahiti and the island of Moorea and scuttled, and she is still there today at a depth of 9,843 feet (3,000 mtrs or 1640 fathoms).

The ship was owned by Holland America Cruise Line, which in turn is owned by Carnival Corporation.

The following day I flew back to Sydney with a promise to myself to return one day with Maureen. After all she likes fish restaurants.

Farewell

My final photograph as I left for the airport.

18,953 flying hours . .

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Eventually I was back at Funafuti airport waiting for the plane to Suva, which is the capital of Fiji.
Large international airlines use Nadi, but as my aircraft would be a propeller aircraft our destination would be Suva.

The airline that was supposed to fly us (fourteen passengers) failed to arrive, so a substitute had to be found –

A couple of things went through my mind when I saw the aircraft, such as Biggles & Indiana Jones.

Jones

The aircraft was built in 1956, 31 years before I was asked to board for a long flight over water to Fiji.
In 1957 this aircraft was flying for the Luftwaffe of West Germany, supposedly flying Chancellor Conrad Adenauer within West Germany.  

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The above photograph is thanks to Robin Walker 

In 1963 it was returned to the UK, and in 1964 was sold to Portugal to operate in Portuguese Guinea as part of their national airline. 

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From Portuguese Guinea it was sold in 1970 to Connellan Airways of Alice Springs in Australia. It was registered to Connair after a company name change.

VH-CLW

In 1976 the aircrafts went to Kendell Airlines of Australia . . .

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In 1980 it was leased to Executive Air Services of Australia

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and in 1981 it was sold to Air Tungaru of Kiribati

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and later, in 1984, sold to Sunflower Airlines of Fiji – the aircraft was named Belo Vula (White Heron) by Sunflower Airlines.
By this time the aircraft had flown for 18,953 hours and I was wondering if it was perhaps just a little too tired for the next leg of the journey.

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My chariot to Fiji.

The passengers seating was seven down the port side and seven down the starboard side with a small aisle in the middle. The crew consisted of a pilot and a co-pilot.
Forget the idea of any cabin crew, and the rear toilet was out of bounds due to access to the cubical being blocked by cargo and passenger bags.
The above picture shows the aircraft at Suva airport in Fiji, not the grass strip in Funafuti.

Once all on board we taxied out to the end of the grass runway. The door between the two pilots on the ‘flight deck’ and the passengers would not close and banged and banged as we trundled along the runway in the hope of gaining enough speed to lift off the ground. At last I felt the plane rise in to the clear blue sky.

The distance to Suva was 915 miles and our top speed was around 183 mph according to the manufacturer in 1956 . . . so we had five hours in hope that nothing would go wrong.

The noise of the engines killed all hope of conversation across the aisle, so I watched the pilots manhandling the joystick to keep the aircraft level in a slow climb. We never did get too high, and I found it fascinating to watch the ocean waves break the surface of the ocean not all that far below.
I believe the maximum height for this aircraft to fly at was 9000 feet when it was new- a normal jet flies at 36,000 feet, and I doubt that we reached our maximum 9000 feet on the way to Fiji.
The view below was something one did not normally see unless you were coming into land over water. The breaking waves accompanied us all the way to Fiji.

Two hours in to the flight the co-pilot came out of the flight deck and shouted that it is lunch time, and bends down to pull a cardboard box from under the seat of the first passenger. He then walks slowly down the aisle and hands to each passenger either a coca cola or a lemonade. None of the passengers were offered a choice.
I was handed a lemonade and was about to open it when the passenger across the aisle spoke to the co-pilot stating that he didn’t like coca cola. Immediately my lemonade was whisked from my grasp and replaced with a coca cola – the guy across aisle received my lemonade.

The co-pilot returned to the front of the plane and brought out another box from under the first seat on the other side of the aircraft. This was our lunch – plastic wrapped sandwiches – and he was not going to get into a conversation about likes or dislikes, because the sandwiches came through the air and the passenger who he was aiming at was expected to catch his lunch.

It was fortunate that we were only given one small drink because there was no way we could have climbed over the cargo to get to the lavatory.

In 1995 Sunflower Airlines became Sun Air & then Pacific Sun Airlines, and in the same year the aircraft was sold to Heron Airlines of Australia.

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Once in Australia it never flew again, and I found the above photograph of Belo Vula (White Heron) at Bankstown Airport not too far from where I live.
Later it was donated to the Australian Aviation Museum of Bankstown who later donated it to the Central Australian Aviation Museum in Alice Spring. The aircraft did not fly there but went on the back of a truck.
The above picture was taken in 2004.

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After two years of restoration the aircraft is a now a museum piece in the hanger from where she flew when owned by Connellan Airways of Alice Springs.
She is in the colours of Connair of the 1970’s.

The above photograph is from the web site of the Central Australian Aviation Museum in Alice Spring.

I wonder if Harrison Ford picked up a few ideas from a certain airline . . . fortunately we did not require a life raft.

Indiana . . . .

Ellice Island

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Ellice Is. gained independence from the UK on the 1st of October 1978 and anew country called Tuvalu was born.  Tuvalu means ‘eight standing together’ meaning the eight island & atolls that make up the country. There are nine islands, but at the time of independence, only eight islands were inhabited.

Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, the population of the island when I visited in 1987 was about 8,500, and the land mass of all of the islands is 26 sq Km (10 sq miles). They are a member of the Commonwealth and recognise Queen Elizabeth as the Queen of Tuvalu.

They do not have a military only a police force and a maritime surveillance vessel.
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    Guardian-class HMTSS Te Mataili II (Her/ His Majesty’s Tuvaluan State Ship) for search and rescue, a gift from Australia in 2019.

Funafuti is an atoll, and the capital of Tuvalu, and of the population 2000 of the 8500 live on this atoll. The country is not as wealthy as Kiribati.

I flew from Tarawa to Funafuti with Airline of the Marshall Island.

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I took the above picture after I left the aircraft after a three-and-a-half hour flight from Tarawa.
The aircraft is a HS748, which first flew in June 1960!
It was a memorable flight because as we approached Funafuti to land the door between the flight deck and the passengers flew open. From my seat I was able to watch a very low island come clearer.
It was then that I realised that we were going to land on a grass strip, which at the time was being used as a football pitch by two teams and a large number of spectators.
As we got closer, I saw one of the players pick up the ball and run to the touchline to watch us land.

The aircraft came to a halt near a concrete structure – the arrival terminus.

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Local people milled around on both sides of the ‘security area’, some helping to unload the cargo from the plane, others had just come to see what was happening as part of the day’s entertainment. The sun was hot and nobody moved at any great pace – I was on island time, and I should relax.003

I was the only passenger to leave the aircraft, so I had the undivided attention of everyone.
An officer, in traditional island dress of sandals, and lungi tied at the waist, and a uniform shirt stood waiting at one side of a concrete table with a stamp and an ink pad. I was welcomed to Tuvalu and my passport was stamped.

Customs asked if I had anything to declare – I said No and was waved through the concrete area to a grass patch outside the open walled government building.

I anticipated that my business would not take more than a few hours, but due to flight schedules I was going to be ‘island bound’ over the weekend. I’d arrived on a Saturday and booked my onward ticket to Fiji for Monday.
I looked around for an airline employee to confirm my onward flight and found a young lady in a island skirt and an airline type blouse. I asked her if I could confirm my flight for Monday – she looked at me and asked if I was Woodland, the business man from Sydney?
I confirmed that I was, and she then told me that as I was the only person who wished to go to Fiji on Monday, they were not going to bring a plane in just for me – I was told to come back on Wednesday!

Tuvalu did not have a taxi service, so I started to walk to the hotel, which fortunately was only a couple of minutes from the ‘airport’.

vl2bThe Vaiaku Lagi Hotel, was government run and the only hotel on the island so I checked-in and was given a room overlooking the lagoon; it was air-conditioned!

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I doubt that this view would have changed much – this the view is across the lagoon from my room.

Later I found out that most of the rooms did not have air-conditioning, which would be a problem for Europeans.
The only other guest was a Japanese merchant seaman waiting for his ship to return. He’d been put ashore for medical treatment.
He couldn’t speak English, and most of my Japanese, picked up during my time on the Japanese coast, had faded into history. He did teach me how to play Othello and I liked it so much that I bought the game for my children on my return to Sydney.

Othello

The person I was to meet was on another island and would not be back until the following morning.

After unpacking my few things I made my way to the bar and asked the barman, who was also the  check-in / doorman / waiter and I am not sure what else, what type of cold beer did the hotel stock. ‘We have Fosters’ was the reply – ‘What other kind of beer?’ I asked not being a great fan of Fosters beer.jpg – ‘We have Fosters’ was his reply at which point he opened the door of a very large walk-in fridge behind the counter, allowing me to see that the fridge was stacked high with cartons of Fosters beer and nothing else. ‘I’ll have a Fosters!’ I said with a smile on my face.
‘Supply ship just unloaded the other day, plenty of Fosters’ was his comment while pouring the glass of cold beer. At times like this, Foster’s was the nectar of the Gods.

In the evening I decided to stay in the hotel for my evening meal. The hotel didn’t have a menu, the Japanese and I were asked what we would like to eat.

I asked what the choice was and was told fish or meat. I asked if the fish was fresh and was told that it had arrived in the morning, so I chose the fish. The meat on offer was a mixture of chicken (locally grown) and meat from Australia, which was expensive.

I asked for salad with the fish and was told that they didn’t have any, just vegetables – so I ordered the vegetables which, when they arrived turned out to be from a tin – I was hoping in such a lush climate to have fresh vegetables. Let’s say it was a disappointment.
I asked if they had any cold white wine to go with the fish – ‘We have Fosters’ was the reply.

Later in the evening while listening to the radio in the bar, I heard the news, and included in the news was the fact that a businessman from Sydney had arrived that afternoon. Was this my fifteen minutes of fame, or was the radio station hard up to fill broadcasting time?

I completed my business the following morning and decided after lunch to have a look around Funafuti.

Knowing that there wouldn’t be any aircraft landing between Saturday afternoon and Wednesday and noticing that the immigration and customs posted had been abandoned, I walked across the football pitch, come runway, to the other side of the island. I passed huts inside a fenced area and wondered what this area was because the gate was wide open.

prison

It was later when I found out that the gated area was the local prison. The above picture is a recent photograph. I did ask why the gate was open and was told – ‘Where are the prisoners going to escape to?’. . .

On reaching the water’s edge (the opposite side of the island from the lagoon) I watched Pacific Ocean rollers charging towards the little island and smashing their way on to huge man-made blocks, which dissipated their energy. I was grateful for the blocks, because the highest point on the island was only 4.5 mtrs (15 feet) above sea level.

sea

Everything shut down late Saturday and the only entertainment for me was sitting in the hotel bar with a book and the occasional game of Othello. Trying to get through to Sydney by phone, to keep them informed of my movements, helped pass the time. The fact that they had no idea that I was not lying on a beach in a fancy beach side resort somewhere in the tropics, didn’t help matters.

Sunday was a drag but there was a small distraction when the flight that I had arrived on transited Funafuti (the airline code being FUN!) on its way back to the Marshall Islands. The travel shop was open as was the basket shop for transit passengers . . . . I borrowed an umbrella due to the heavy rain any distraction was valuable.
Monday arrived and the post office opened at 10.00 am because I was interested in stamps, and at that time I collected stamps from certain Pacific Islands. It turned out that philatelists are one of the best contributors to the Tuvaluan economy, along with cash sent home by Tuvaluan seaman working on foreign ships.
The next thing I did was join the Tuvaluan library, and I think I might still be a member

stamps

The enforced rest can be a strain knowing that all your plans have been shot to pieces and communication with the outside world was difficult.
E-mailing was still in the future, as was the mobile phone.

But overall I enjoyed my enforced rest in Tuvalu, because it was completely different place than anywhere else that I had visited.

Tarawa

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Two days after Pearl Harbour the Japanese attacked and captured Tarawa in December 1941.

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The island became a fortress, buildings were knocked down and all the palm trees removed. The local population became slaves and were forced to create bunkers, an airstrip and concrete structures with metal spikes concreted into the coral reefs around the atoll, all fishing boats were destroyed along with any other form of boat or canoe etc .
Once everything was completed the local population were forced to leave the atoll and they had to walk up to 25 miles across coral reefs to the northern area of the atoll.
During my trip to Tarawa in the 1980’s I saw eight-inch guns still point out to sea. I was told (not by locals) that the guns had been removed from Singapore, after the fall of that island, and transported to the Pacific to defend Tarawa. Later I read that the Imperial War Museum in London stated that Singapore didn’t have any eight inch guns for the Japanese to capture, so they couldn’t have been transferred to Tarawa from Singapore.
They were in fact manufactured in Britain for a contract to supply eight inch and twelve inch guns to the Japanese navy for the Japan – Russian war of 1904-1905.
The Tarawa defensive guns appear to have been part of this contract.

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The Japanese airstrip when I visited Tarawa. The trees had returned, but the actual landing strip was causing problems for even the grass to grow.

Tarawa was the most heavily defended atoll that the Americans would attack in WW2.
The Americans had to estimate how many troops were defending the atoll. The best guess was about 3100 men, which was reasonably accurate, considering that they were unable to send in reconnaissance units to obtain a more accurate number. The Americans realised from aerial photographs, that the Japanese built their latrines over water, in multi-holed wooden buildings. By counting the number of latrines, they worked out the relationship between the number of backsides to a latrine and estimated 3100 troops!

The Japanese commander (Admiral Shibazaki) said that the Americans could not take Tarawa with a million men in a hundred years.
With 100 pillboxes, concrete bunkers, anti-aircraft guns, coral shallow reefs ring with barbed wire and mines plus entrenched machine guns manned by 4500 Japanese troops, it is not surprising that the Japanese commander made such a comment.

Shibazaki

Rear Admiral Keiji Shibazaki (9th April 1894-20 November 1943)  

When the Americans arrived off Tarawa and sent off the first wave of troops there were problems – the tide was lower than expected and some of the landing craft and amphibious tanks became stuck on coral reefs within range of the Japanese’s guns. Some of the invading troops left the ‘security’ of the landing craft and waded hundreds of yards to the beach under constant fire from the Japanese. 

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As I walked along the shoreline, I could see the remains of landing craft and aircraft at low tide. It was during the 20th to the 23rd of November 1943 that the Battle of Tarawa was fought between the Americans and the Japanese.

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I walked out to the remains and looking back at the beach and thought  is it any wonder the Americans lost so many. On the third day of the battle the tide was higher, which allowed destroyers to get close in and pinpoint the enemy.

The battle lasted 76 hours and in the final hours the Japanese launched a banzai attack. When the battle finished of the 4500 Japanese defenders only 17 remained alive.

The Americans lost more than 1113 dead and 2290 wounded of their 18,000 attacking force in the three day-battle.
They lost nearly as many killed-in-action during the three days of the battle for Tarawa, as they lost in six months when taking Guadalcanal Island. 

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Inside a Japanese pillbox near the beach.

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Japanese HQ

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The above pictures show the Japanese HQ building with shell and machine gun damage, which when I visited was being used a simple squash court.

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What the area looked like on the 24th of November 1943, the day after the battle.
I walked along the same beach 44 years later – Tarawa Atoll (the area in question) is 3.2 km (2 miles) long and the narrow bit is 730 mts (800 yards) at the widest point.  
The link below is a six-minute piece of colour film of the landing.

The landing





Gilbert Islands

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In 1788 Thomas Gilbert was the Captain of the Charlotte, which had sailed to Australia as part of the first fleet carrying convicts.
After discharging his convict passengers Captain Gilbert sailed for China and passed through a group of islands that we now know as The Gilbert Islands.
He made sketches of the islands and named Tarawa (marked with green above), Mathew Island after the owner of his ship. He also named the large lagoon Charlotte Bay after his ship. Fortunately his sketches have survived.

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The lagoon . . .a beautiful spot.


He did obtain a cargo for the East India Company and sailed back to England.

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South of Nauru you can see an island called Kiribati, which is the new name for Gilbert Island. Kiribati (pro Ki-ri-bass), which is how they pronounced Gilbert in their own language (Gilbertese). 

Kiribati consists of a thirty-three islands with a land mass of 803 sq km (310 sq miles) but spread across 5,180,000 sq km (2million square miles) of ocean. Tarawa, the atoll where I landed, is 208 km (80 miles) north of the Equator, which was home to about 2000 people, or one third of the total population of Kiribati.
Of this total, about 300 were Europeans mainly British, Australian & Kiwis mostly employed as ‘advisors’.
The people were big in to ‘Manyana’, but done very politely.  

The height of the land above the sea was about 2.5 mtrs (8 feet), fortunately the weather was fine.   

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Tarawa airport 001

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Tarawa arrival Hall was quiet . . . 

The flight from Nauru was not a long flight but when I stepped out of the aircraft the heat hit me. Above is the passenger terminal and arrival hall, where I was met by our agent Kenton, who was the British Government advisor to the Kiribati Co-Op Wholesale Society, thankfully shortened to KCWS, but known locally as K-C.
He took me to a hotel in Batio, (pro Bay-she-oh), which is the capital on the main atoll of Tarawa.

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My hotel is the green building.

Room

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After the empty suite in Nauru my room in Batio was small . . . . the white door with the red knob was the bathroom door.

I switched on the air-conditioning unit in the hope that it would cool the place down – the agent and I had agreed that he would show me around in the morning – he said that it would be cooler. I only hoped that I would not fade away with heat stroke in the meantime.

I tried to cool off in the shower, but the water pressure was not all the at good, so I sat in the bar, which was the coolest place in the hotel. At that time, they did not have their own beer but imported Australian beer, I did not care as long as it was cold.

Reception 001

The drinks were cold, and the people were friendly, and the tuna fish was fresh.
During one conversation when ordering a beer I did ask about the strange patterns on the wooden floor. Apparently, they were ‘argument’ patterns – a few beers and a wrong word and it was fight time with bottles and knives.

They did not have TV and the radio only broadcast for three hours a day.

I went to bed early.

Next morning at breakfast I picked up the menu – it was the same one from the previous evening. I realised that the menu was not for choosing anything, but to read and be aware of what you might not receive, because the food was reliant on what had arrived from Australia or New Zealand in the last week or so. The one thing that was super fresh was the fish, all locally caught, but most other foods came from overseas.

I commented to the young lady who wanted to know what I wanted for breakfast, that the pattern had changed on the floorboards. She shrugged and said, ‘They fight’, and then asked what I would like for breakfast as if the blood stains were normal, which I suppose they were.

I asked for black coffee, toast, and marmalade.
‘Marmalade is Off’ she said.
‘What kind of jam do you have’, I asked.
‘We have jam jam and we have marmalade jam.’
‘I would like toast and marmalade jam, please.’
‘OK’ she said, everything was very proper and it was hard to keep a straight face.

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Kenton arrived on time and I was given the Cook’s tour of the atoll.

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It was a mixture of traditional and modern, but interesting and as English is the national language I could ask as many questions as I liked.

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Near the old WW2 airstrip, I was shown a local cemetery. The depth of the soil is very shallow and to mark a grave they would use old beer bottles.
beer bottlesAbove is a closeup of one of the graves. office

KC imported basic foods and general items, mainly by sea, and then they would supply the various shop who were members of the Co-Operative.  

I knew that our agent would not survive on our traffic alone – it was just a sideline for him – but it was a pleasure to see our company name SKYPAK displayed prominently, and he wanted more stickers & signs.
The people in the above picture worked for KC.

The main problem that I had was communicating with Kiribati from Sydney – Kiribati was not linked via ISD so if I wished to speak to Kenton I had to go through an operator. . . which sometimes was very time consuming. 

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The flag of Kiribati

The flag of Kiribati is red in the upper half with a gold frigate flying over a gold rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean and the three island groups, Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands.
The 17 rays of the sun represent the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba Island, which used to be called Ocean Island.

Next stop Ellice Is. now called Tuvalu = Eight standing together . . . 

 

Nauru

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The red symbol is Nauru

Air Nauru

My next trip was to review our delivery agency in Nauru and two other Pacific Islands.

To get to the other two islands I had to travel via Nauru, which under normal circumstances would not be a problem except that the Air Nauru service from Australia to Nauru was ‘intermittent’.
One of the problems being that if the President of Nauru wished to visit another country he would ‘borrow’ an Air Nauru aircraft, which was a problem for the airline because they only had three B737/200’s with the capacity to fly to Australia. Allowing for maintenance and the service to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney the removal of an aircraft to satisfy the President created a huge problem.
In 1983 they had two B727s and five B737/200’s so Air Nauru at that time, had enough seating capacity to carry 10% of the total population of Nauru.
The size of the population at the time was about 8000, living on an island that is 21 sq km (eight square miles).

Nauru-map

The country of Nauru became the 187th member of the UN in 1999 and is the smallest island nation in the world and the third smallest country, after the Vatican & Monaco. Nauru is also in the Commonwealth.

The country has been inhabited for about 3000 years, the people arriving from Polynesia and Micronesia.

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There are three main cultural areas in the Pacific – Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia.  

Nauru’s first contact with Europeans was in 1798 when the British whaling vessel Hunter called at the island and the captain of the Hunter was so impressed with the natives and the island that he named the island Pleasant Island. The island retained this name for ninety years until the Germans arrived and annexed the island in 1888.

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The flag of Nauru and the star has twelve points represent the original 12 tribes who lived on Pleasant Island.

The island was incorporated into German New Guinea and renamed Nawodo or Onawero. The island was a lush paradise at the time.

During a visit to the island by a cargo ship in 1896, the cargo officer found a strange looking rock that he thought was petrified wood. He picked up the rock and took it back to Sydney and used it as a door stop.

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The actual door stop

In 1899 Albert Ellis, who worked for the phosphate division of the same
company as the cargo officer, was visiting the Sydney office and saw the door stop and commented that it was phosphate, but the cargo officer insisted that it was wood.

Some weeks later Albert Ellis tested the ‘wooden’ rock and found that it was high grade phosphate. The discovery generated great interest and a company called Pacific Phosphate was created.

In 1906 the right to mine was obtained and after WW1 the right to mine was obtained by the British Phosphate Commission, which was created by the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

During WW1 Australia captured Nauru from Germany and mechanized the mining. 

The Japanese captured the island in WW2 and at the end of WW2 the UN put the island under trustee of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

In 1968 Nauru gained independence and by 1968 one third of Nauru had been stripped mined.
The mining of phosphate by 1975 made the Nauruan people extraordinarily rich and only the people of Saudi Arabia were richer. The Royalties Trust for the Nauru people was worth over one Billion USD.
The government did not levy income tax, education was free, as was the health care and most people worked for the government – immigrants worked the mines.

The profits from the mining went into a trust fund for the people and they did invest profitably at times. In 1988 the Trust bought 600 acres (2.4 sq km) of land near Portland, Oregon and sold allotments to the locals to build their homes, once 75% of the allotments had been sold the homeowners took over control.

In 1977 Nauru Trust built Nauru House in Melbourne, 52 floors and 183 mtrs (600 feet) tall.

800px-Nauru_house     Nauru House, or 80 Collins Street Melbourne, which is still owned by the people of Nauru. It was the tallest building in Melbourne at the time, but only for a year.

When I arrived in Nauru in the 1980’s I was met by our agent who had booked me in to the best hotel, or so he said, and I had a suite.

540171_388089211216388_120484265_n

It was called Menen Hotel and at the time I think it was the only hotel, so the agent was not lying.

menen-hotel-pool

The above two pictures are off the internet and were taken recently, but I do not see any change than when I was there 35 years ago – the pool is still empty.

st 01

Part of my suite – the shirt over the stool is mine and the stools are at the bar.

st02The bar was dry as a bone, and you can just see the bedroom on the right.

During the night I was woken by a strange sound as if someone were scratching on the main door of the suite.
I went to investigate only to find large crabs in the hallway and a couple were scratching at my door trying to get in . . . I kicked them back from the door and saw quite a few ‘walking’ down the corridor. I shut the suite door quickly and tried to get back to sleep-crabs are not my favourite idea of a pet or as a meal. Continue reading “Nauru”

Coffee Country

Flag

Papua New Guinea’s flag.

After my trip to Singapore and the other Asian offices I was asked to visit our next-door neighbour Papua New Guinea, because TNT had offices in this country and we planned to use these inter-company connections as our agent for courier traffic.
This was the start of my Pacific Island-hopping time.

australia-oceania-map

The map shows Australia and Papua New Guinea – the red dot on the Australia is Sydney and the red dot on the yellow area, which is PNG, is the capital Port Moresby.

It is thought that people have lived in PNG for over 60,000 years and it was not until the Portuguese and Spanish arrived in the 16th century that the first Europeans took notice of the area around PNG.

Jorge de Menezes, a Portuguese explorer arrived in about 1526 and is thought to have named the people ‘Papua’, which is a Malay word for frizzy hair of the local people.

Later, about 1545 the Spanish arrived and named the area New Guinea because they considered that the locals reminded them of the natives of West Africa around Guinea.

Over the years various Europeans have navigated around what we now know as PNG and in the 1870’s a Russian Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai arrived and lived with the locals for some years.

Miklukho-Maklai

Nicholai Miklukho-Maklai

He does not look all that happy, perhaps he is thinking of returning to a Russian winter.

In 1883 the colony of Queensland tried to annex part of PNG, but the British Government did not approve until Germany took an interest and started settlements in the northern areas of PNG, at which time the British, in 1884, declared the southern area of Papua New Guinea a British protectorate.
It was called British New Guinea, which, in 1902 was placed under the control of Australia, and remained so until independent in 1975, except for four years when the northern part was under the control of the Japanese (1941 -45).

At the beginning of WW1 Australian troops took control of German New Guinea until the end of the war.
In 1921 the League of Nations gave Australia a mandate to govern the ex- German territory and Australia did so until independence.

I found PNG to be a fascinating place and the staff at the main TNT office in Port Moresby were very hospitable and full of local knowledge.

I love odd bits of trivia – such as – in PNG until 1933 seashells were used as the local currency.

hooded-pitohui

PNG has the only poisonous bird in the world – the   Hooded Pitohui

Port Moresby_article

and on a brighter note – Port Moresby the capital, I know it has had troubles in the recent past but in the late 1980’s it was peaceful and a friendly place.

I was only in POM (the code for Port Moresby airport) for a couple of days and it was a ‘getting to know’ you trip, rather than a hard business trip of negotiations for maximising profit.

On leaving I was presented with a large carton of Papua New Guinea coffee. In the carton were small solid bricks of vacuumed packed ground coffee, and until I visited Papua New Guinea I had not tried PNG coffee.

From memory I am sure it was Goroka coffee, but the packaging was not as fancy in the late 80’s. Goroka is an area in the Eastern Highlands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Try this link for Black Coffee if you like

Black coffee

 A blast from the past . .

Fly Me To The Moon

 

courier

Life had become busy busy busy after I settled into working at Head Office in Sydney.

The onboard courier system had expanded greatly. Each courier was obliged to collect their courier bags on arrival at the destination airport, and the bags were getting heavier as business expanded. Bags used to be around 10 to 15 kilos each, so the bags could be handled – to a point. 

Company staff were not allowed into the arrival hall to help the courier, so we had to be creative.   

As the business grew so the weight of the courier bags grew to around 20 to 30 kilos each. The courier was only allowed hand baggage for their personal needs because the Company used all the weight allocated to the ticket, plus a great deal more, which was classed as excess baggage.
To travel as a courier the cost was of the ticket was about ten percent of the actual true cost – we were never short of couriers, particularly on the London or Los Angeles run.
In the above picture the lady in yellow is stowing a small courier satchel. This was everybody’s idea of an onboard courier. In the satchel would have been details of the courier bags in the aircraft hold. She would only have hand baggage.
bags

The size of the courier bag was more like the one being handled in the above advert, and it would weigh between 25 to 30 kilos.

I represented the Company as a member of the International Courier Association, which was created to represent all Australian international courier companies when dealing with the State or Federal Governments, and of course Customs.  

The ICA (International Courier Association) had many meetings with Qantas Cargo to create an express system through Sydney Airport for courier material, and to end the requirement for a courier to be on the aircraft.

It was an interesting time as the international courier industry matured and the likes of DHL Couriers began a regular evening service to New Zealand using their own B 727.

DHL

Finally, Qantas agreed to our suggestion if we would move our courier traffic from British Airways to Qantas.
Qantas had to obtain the agreement from customs for an express clearance for the express traffic. 

In the 1980’s it was easy for Qantas to deal with customs and the various governmental departments because they were a government owned airline.

In 1993 the Australian Government sold 25% of Qantas to British Airways, and in 1995 they sold the remaining 75% to the public, and Qantas became a public company listed on the Australian stock exchange. 

Qantas obtained agreement from all parties and the EHU was born (Express Handling Unit) with its own General Manager.
At last we (as an industry) could stop using onboard couriers but maintain express customs clearance.
The EHU would save us money in the purchase of the passenger tickets and the screening of couriers. The couriers that we used were no longer employees going on holiday, but ‘outsiders’ who had to be screened to be acceptable as couriers.

The revenue loss of the passenger tickets to Qantas was redistributed from Qantas passenger to Qantas freight, because Qantas charged a fee for the use of the EHU – but it was not as high as their passenger ticket.

Life was changing as Qantas Airlines realised that they had to pay attention to the ‘new’ international courier industry.

Now that the EHU was running smoothly I wanted to implement an idea I had once we had rid ourselves of the requirement for a body in a seat to obtain fast customs clearance.    

m-97

The inbound aircraft from the UK stopped at Singapore and I wanted our courier traffic to be split amongst the various daily Qantas services from Singapore to Australian capital cities, during the time that the London to Sydney aircraft was in transit in Singapore.
This would increase our service standard for our Australian consignees and British shippers.

During the creation of the OBC service all the traffic would arrive in Sydney where it was sorted into major Australian destinations and forwarded by air each afternoon. Only Melbourne would receive their traffic in time for an afternoon delivery, and occasionally, to a lesser extent, Brisbane.

By breaking the shipment in Singapore this would allow each major station to receive their traffic on the same day rather than wait for an overnight service from Sydney.
In addition to the enhanced service this would save us domestic linehaul costs (domestic airfreight charges) and increase our profit line.

Later we added Adelaide once Qantas introduced the SIN/ADL service.   

I was invited by our regional office in Singapore to visit Singapore to discuss the transit splitting with Qantas Singapore and how Singapore traffic could be added to the re-directed London origin traffic.

Singapore added on another ‘little’ requirement – they wanted ideas as to how to refine the Singapore pick-up/delivery services. 

While I was in Singapore I visited Jakarta for a day, Kuala Lumpur for a day and two days in Bangkok. It was a tiring time collecting stamps in my passport.

On my return to Sydney, I received a phone call from Singapore requesting recommendations for a manager to develop and expand the pick-up and delivery drivers in Singapore. 
Sydney lost their courier driver manager – he and his wife moved to Singapore and from memory lived there for about ten years before moving to Tasmania to open an up-market B & B.

Not long after the loss of Sydney’s Manager of couriers I was asked to suggest the right man for a manager to be seconded to the New Delhi office for about three months to train their operational staff.

Sydney lost one of their operational shift managers.

I was not popular with the NSW State Manager . . . . . .  

dip bag

 

TNT Skypak handled all of the non-sensitive diplomatic mail for the Australian Government, which is why I think we were asked to handle a special job.

The General Manager dropped the fax on my desk and said ‘fix this for Canberra  . . . ‘

The fax was from the Australian Government with a request to arrange a chartered aircraft to carry humanitarian goods to Bangladesh during the 1987 floods.

I did wonder why the Government did not use the Royal Australian Air Force, perhaps because they did not wish to be seen flying RAAF planes in a sensitive (politically speaking) area.  

DC 8

Australia sent food, water purification tablets, medicines etc. 
The above is a DC8 freighter (cargo plane), which I chartered. I found the picture on the internet and removed the company logo. I cannot remember the freighter company that I used, but I do remember that it was a DC8.

From an operational aspect I found the exercise challenging and interesting to organise the charter, the loading of the aircraft and export customs clearance, and not make a profit.JL

I titled this post Fly Me To The Moon due to the number of times I saw the moon in and out of Singapore, but Julie London sings it a lot better than me. 

 

A shot in the dark?

BBQ

The photograph was taken from within the Sydney building that I worked in the mid 1980’s.
On this particular day we were having a lunchtime BBQ, partly to farewell the person in the Arab costume, (he is at the BBQ), he was being transferred to the Middle East.

Between the building in which I worked, and the other building that can be seen was a public road – we were expanding fast.

mez01

The windows above the staff are part of the mezzanine floor, and this is where I worked. I was not responsible for the daily running of the Sydney operation, but I liked to watch the processing of the consignments. When the above was taken it was a presentation for a sales person’s birthday.

I had been working in Sydney for some months and had settled into my new position and was enjoying the whole experience and regional responsibility. 

I think it was a Thursday, which was pay day, that it happened. I was stretching my legs as I walked the length of the mezzanine floor and stopped in front of my desk.
I glanced down as the pay van was about to leave after handing over the staff wages to the paymaster. At that time, the nonmanagerial staff were paid in cash and the paymasters office was on the ground floor. All appeared in order, so I sat down at my desk. As soon as I sat down the robbery began.

To get everyone’s attention the robber fired a revolver, and the bullet went through the glass window in front of my desk, over my head and hit the air-conditioning pipes. The bullet drilled a hole through the glass window, which did not shatter.
The bullet bounced off the solid pipe and landed on my desk!
A few seconds earlier when I was looking down on to the operations floor the bullet would have hit me in the head.

Nobody was hurt during the robbery and the bandits escaped with the staff wages. 
The police arrived and took statements from everyone in the vicinity, including myself as the police removed the spent bullet. 
Some week later six or eight of us (I cannot remember the exact number) were required to attend court and testify against the accused – the police had caught the gunman and his accomplice. Of course, we made the newspapers, but the Company had already switched paying the staff via the banking system.  Paying in cash was a hangover from the origin of the Company when things were a lot smaller and easier to control.

 Sometime later I was asked to be in an advert for selling international newspapers – grey hair turning white opens a few doors.

newsfast

I do not know how many newspapers they sold using the above advert, in any . .

Reverse

Above is the reverse side of the advert explaining the details of Newsfast, basically whatever newspaper that you wished to receive Newsfast could supply.

This trip in to advertising caused a small demand. . . only from TNT Skypak of course . . . . 

advertadvertadvert01advert            advert02

Later the Company decided that they wanted a TV/cinema advert to illustrate transporting documents, via OBC, (On board courier) from London to Sydney.

There was a script of sorts, but the pleasant thing was that the Company had hired a professional film crew and we were out on the harbour in a large private ‘cruiser’, something like the one below, but not this one as it was about thirty years ago. 

Boat

There were four Company staff members, including myself and the film crew. I was to play the General Manager of the Sydney company, the Company’s financial controller played the finance man, and we had one of the female staff to play the secretary, but I cannot remember the fourth person’s position.
None of us had done any acting or film work in the past so to get us relaxed at 9.30 am the film ‘director’ opened a bottle of Champaign, and after a couple of glasses we were all relaxed!
We cruised around the harbour bridge area zig zagging in and out of the bridge’s shadow depending on the shot and the position of the sun.

www.rarehistoricalphotos.com

As the General Manager I was obliged to use the latest piece of executive equipment to show how important I was – a mobile phone like the one shown above. How things have changed.

A few weeks later we had the ‘Premier’ of the advert, which obviously concentrated on how TNT Skypak could satisfy the London client’s requirements.
With shots of the Sydney courier driving to the client’s office and the ‘Manager’ (me) asking for more speed of our cruiser (shots of the harbour bridge) as I had just received a telephone call (see above picture) that the urgent document had arrived early . . . also in the advert were shots of planes, and the processing system within the Company’s Sydney premises.

The four new acting sensations were just a flash in the pan, but the Champaign was very welcome.

I have never seen the advert since that ‘Premier’ showing, nor could I find it on the Internet. Perhaps it has been censored for being too corny.

A Shot In The Dark  

Have passport will travel

short

As soon as we had the required time living in Australia we applied for Australian citizenship in Melbourne.
It was planned for us to take the oath and to attend a citizen ceremony until Skypak asked me to move to Sydney, which put an end to our citizenship plans in Melbourne.
We had to start all over again in Sydney once we were settled into our own house, rather than the rented accommodation in which we lived for about six months. 

Maureen & I were interviewed to make sure we were suitable citizens and after the interview we were asked to swear allegiance to Australia, and to Queen Elizabeth the second of Australia. 
Being pedantic I could not help myself and said that Queen Elizabeth was Queen Elizabeth the first of Australia, not Queen Elizabeth the second, because Australia had not been discovered during Queen Elizabeth the first’s reign.
Being a smart alec at such a time, was not my best move – 

‘Do you wish to become an Australian?’ I was asked, which I answered,

‘Yes!’

‘Then swear the oath’ – I swore the oath.

The above picture is just the top part of my certificate there is more, but I just wanted the coat of arms and my name. 

All new citizens were ‘processed’ as detailed above, but it is not until Australia Day, 26th January, do we attend a ceremony to be presented with our certificate. This takes place in the applicant’s local area and the dignitary who officiates at the presentation might be the local Federal or State politician or in our case was our local President of our local Council (Mayor).
There were a lot of us who were becoming Australian citizens, from a mix of races and backgrounds. The Shire President (Mayor), who had a Scottish accent, gave a speech of welcome and Maureen and I had a problem understanding some of the President’s speech and when I looked around there were several blank faces, particularly amongst the Asian and African new Australians. The President’s accent was quite strong.

Bee

The family with the President of Sutherland Shire.

After the ceremony our native-born Australian friends had a party for us and presented us with a box of Australian items considering that we were now Australian.
Australian beer, Vegemite, Arnot’s biscuits, Koon cheese etc.    

cake

and of course, a homemade cake.

I had exchanged . . .

            UK passport

stamped

for

Oz passport

Oz stamped

nothing had changed because passport control love to use their stamps . . .

Both Australia and the UK have historically strong links so dual nationality is not a problem for both countries.
When I travel I always carry both passports because certain third countries favour Australia over the UK and visa-versa e.g a visa to visit Vietnam is free for a British passport holder, and about $70 to $90 for an Australian passport holder, so dual nationality has a cost benefit.
Before I became an Australian citizen I travelled around the Pacific Islands, Hong Kong & the United States on my British passport.
After I became an Australian I travelled as an Australian to the same destinations and many other destinations without a problem.
I must admit that arriving in the UK on a British is easier and quicker with a British passport than an Australian passport holder, all due to the UK being a member of the EEC. 
It will be interesting to see what happens now that the UK has left the EEC. 

I had hardly got my feet under the table at Skypak (now TNT Skypak) that I was offered the operations manager’s position running the UK.
I turned the job down because it had taken us two years to migrate, and I was happy with the Australian life style.

beach01

 

January 1986