"Arctracer" Letters

Fiji to New Caledonia, Oct 2000

What a change New Caledonia is from Fiji! It's like being in civilization again. Everyone speaks French, but Jerry does fairly well communicating, and many people speak a little English. So far we've done lots of walking - visited the zoo and botanical garden and the cultural center and walked around to get acquainted with the area. We're enjoying really good baguettes, delicious cheeses, and cheap French wine. We also bought our tickets for the opening ceremonies of the Pacific Arts Festival on October 23rd. The marinas are already full, and the anchorages are nearly full with many more boats on their way here. We managed to get a great spot for our anchor which is an short row to the shore and halfway between the center of Noumea and the site of the Festival Village - both within walking distance (2 km).

It took us 5 days to get here from Fiji (we went 734 miles). For the first two days the seas were very lumpy and we didn't feel like eating very much, but then the wind lessened and the seas got smaller. So, we had a good trip. We arrived at New Caledonia on the 2nd but it was 5 o'clock and we had a long pass to go through. We decided to stay at sea for the night so that we wouldn't have to go through the pass in the dark. Now we are very glad we did this! A boat that left Fiji, called "Fly," one day after us arrived at New Caledonia one day after us and decided to go through the pass that evening. They hit a reef trying to anchor inside at night and damaged their rudder. We certainly are glad we didn't have that problem!

We just got an email from a man who was in WWII with my Dad (Nina's). Forster told us that he and Dad were in the town of Bouloupari, New Caledonia during WWII. It is 73 km north of Noumea (where we are anchored). When we rent a car we plan to visit that town while we are here. Our guidebook says that 40,000 soldiers were based here in March 1942 and Grande Terre became an important Allied base. It continues to say that the fleet turned back the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 and this fleet was based at Noumea. The guidebook says in the Pacific only San Francisco handled more wartime cargo and that the building which served as Allied South Pacific Command Headquarters still stands on Noumea's Anse Vata. They say that Admiral "Bull" Halsey directed the Solomon Islands campaign from his headquarters on Anse Vata. Presently the South Pacific Commission is housed in a building which served as the wartime headquarters of the Allied Sough Pacific Command and faces Anse Vata. We can go inside to see the didactic displays. Apparently there are WWII Quonset Huts in Poindimie which is about 300 km from Noumea on the east coast.

In case you're interested, New Caledonia is the 3rd largest island in the South Pacific - after New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. In 1853 Napoleon III claimed the island for France. They used it for a penal colony - just like Great Britain used Tasmania for a penal colony. The 1st shiploads of convicts arrived here in 1864. Just like Tasmania, New Caledonia is no longer used a a prison for convicts from Europe. Now, France wants to keep New Caledonia because they make a lot of money from the nickel mines here. Nickel is used to make various steel products.

The French and the Kanaks (the native Melanesians) are still having difficulties. The French treated the Kanaks like the Americans treated the Indians and put them on reservations. The last conflict here was in 1988-1989 and we have seen graffiti here that shows that some Kanaks still don't like the French. There are as many Europeans as Kanaks in New Caledonia. Many of the government workers are from France and receive high salaries. Things here are VERY expensive compared to New Zealand and Fiji, but most things are not too bad for us right now with the strength of the U.S. dollar.

We are mostly here because of the Pacific Arts Festival. Artists from 27 countries will be here from October 23rd until November 3rd. From a Fiji newspaper we learned that some of the events that Fiji is participating in are (1) Dance, (2) Music, (3) Visual Arts, (4) Crafts, (5) Philately which is postage stamps, (6) Canoes, and (7) Tattooing. We haven't found the tourist information place here to see what other events there are. It sounds as though there will be a lot going on and it also sounds like it will be a lot of fun.

Four years ago it was held in Western Samoa. Other countries that will have their artists here are: Australia, New Zealand, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, the Cook Islands, the Marianas, the Marshall Islands, Iles De Paque (Easter Island), the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia (of course, since the festival is here), Palau, Pitcairn Island, French Polynesia, Tonga, American Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu (where we will cruise next year, after Australia), and Wallis and Futuna.