International Dateline to Chuuk, Micronesia

Second Segment

 

We continued our "Love Boat" cruise on the Pacific Princess in the Southern Hemisphere of the  Pacific Ocean.    We learned about life in the islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia and made exceptional ports visits in New Zealand and Australia.     We also had an opportunity to see the reality of WWII in places like Papua New Guinea and the islands of Micronesia. 

 

International Dateline

 

The International Date Line sits on the 180º line of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is the imaginary line that separates two consecutive calendar days.  dotIt is not a perfectly straight line and has been moved over the years to accommodate needs of varied countries in the Pacific Ocean.  It bends to include all of island of Kiribati in the Eastern Hemisphere.


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dotImmediately to the left of the International Date Line (the date) is always one day ahead of the date (or day) immediately to the right of the International Date Line in the Western Hemisphere.   dotFor example, Tonga and Samoa have the same time but are one day apart, as Samoa is in the Western Hemisphere, on the opposite side of the International Dateline from Tonga.      


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dotAs you travel further west, Fiji is one hour earlier than Tonga. Hawaii, further to the east of Samoa, is one hour later in time.   dotSo, travel east across the International Date Line results in a day, or 24 hours being subtracted. As you travel west across the International Date Line it results in a day being added.

Map of the International Date Line

(showing the modifications for certain countries)

Global View of the International Date Line

(separates the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere, with the Prime Meridian on the other side of the globe)

 

Suva, Fiji

 

A funny thing happened on the way to Suva, Fiji….an earthquake occurred just off the coast of Chile that caused a tsunami that was traveling across the Pacific Ocean.  The energy wave was travelling at 550 miles per hour and was to have reached Fiji early morning just as we would be docking and walking ashore.

The Captain anchored in the bay on the lee side of the island as we waited for the effects of the tsunami.   As with the other islands in this part of the world, coastal regions were evacuated as a precaution.  Just the day before we had a lecture on the ship about tsunamis and this became a reality event for all of us.   In the end the tsunami did not arrive to the bay we were in and the ship continued to the pier where we went ashore three hours later. 

Suva is the capital city of Fiji, properly known as the Republic of Fiji, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga.   Fiji is comprised of 322 islands of which 106 are inhabited and two major islands,  Viti Levu and Vanua Levu which account for 87% of the population.

We visited the Suva museum during our tour and Lila posed between carved totem poles.

Map of the Fiji Harbor With Rain in the Mountains

First visited by a Dutch sailor, Abel Tasman in the 1640s, Fiji was settled by the English as a colony in the 1870s and given its independence in 1970.    Captain Bligh, who was removed from his mutinous ship with eighteen other sailors, sailed 4,000 miles to Fiji based solely on his recollection of its location.   Since its independence Fiji has gone through three military takeovers the latest in 2006, which have been the result of unrest between the indigenous Fijians and the Indians who had been brought to this island many years ago to provide a work force.  A military leader continues to rule this country and political issues still remain as there was a constitutional crisis most recently in 2009.  

Suva, Fiji’s main port city is the commercial and political centre of Fiji, though not necessarily its cultural centre, and is the largest urban area in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand with a population of over 160,000 people.  Fiji has a population of 945,000 made up of fifty percent of Fijians and forty percent are Indian people.   Suva is noted for its considerable rainfall during the wet season. 

Suva is a multi-racial city, where the Indians are indentified as being very industrious and the Fijians as being less productive with an overall unemployment rate at forty percent at this time.   We did see some upscale homes in the area where the military leader lives as does many of the ambassadors, but overall the country is economically poor.   Education is not compulsory and it is expensive.   There are very few social benefits so if you do not have a job, there is also no money from unemployment or welfare.  

Pictures from above left, clockwise is as follows:

Parliament House that is not used as there is no Parliament,

Honor Guard in front of their White House (which is empty as there is no elected President)

and the White House Grounds.

 

Vila, Vanuatu

 

The Republic of Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy of eighty three islands in the South Pacific.  Vanuatu  includes  Efate Island, one of the larger Islands and home to Vila, the capital city.  Vanuatu is an extremely poor country with about 50% unemployment and lacks many infrastructure capabilities and has almost no social support services.   The people are friendly and they smile and wave to us as we pass them on the street.

The people in Vanuatu are descendants of Melanesia, as are the people in Fiji and New Caledonia which we will visit next.  They are black skinned people from a sub region of Oceania which extends from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji.  The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia. The name Melanesia was first used to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands that are distinct from Polynesia and Micronesia.

Vanuatu’s population is 200,000 with the majority residing in Port Vila.  The Vanuatu islands consist of lush, untouched rainforests, coconut plantations, cattle farms and traditional Vanuatu villages. Some of the islands are volcanic.

Their economy  is primarily based on agriculture with an increasing tourist trade from Australia, New Zealand and cruise ships. The city of Vila has many stores but many are duty free shops, restaurants and casinos that serve the tourist customers.  There is also a small Chinese community that was brought in to support infrastructure and business development. 

The first island in the Vanuatu group, Espiritu Santo was discovered by Europeans in 1606.  Europeans did not return until 1768, when the French rediscovered the islands.  In 1774, Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides, a name that lasted until their independence.

Village Shore A Local Village Craft Painting

It was in the 19th century that both Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived on the islands even as cannibalism existed here as it did on Fiji and New Caledonia as well.  Missionaries were often the meal in this case and we were told that cannibalism was still practiced in some rural villages as late as the 1970s.     

In 1906, France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly.  Called the British-French Condominium, it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems that came together only in a joint court.  Melanesians were barred from acquiring the citizenship of either country.   Challenges to this form of government began in the early 1940s, with the arrival of Americans during World War II resulting in the rise of nationalism in the islands.

The belief in a mythical American soldier from WWII named John Frum was the basis for an indigenous belief that promised Melanesian deliverance. Today, John Frum is both a religion and a political party with a member in Parliament.  The first political party was established in the early 1970s and originally was called the New Hebrides National Party.   In 1974, the party pushed for independence; in 1980, amidst the brief Coconut War, the Republic of Vanuatu was created.

Vanuatu was the site for some episodes of the show “Survivor” some years ago…..a dubious claim to fame.    The movie South Pacific was filmed here as well.  

Totem Poles in Vila Museum

Women Cooking in a Village (Our guide is in the red shirt) Harbor View in Vila

 

Noumea, New Caledonia

 
Cruising Among the Islands into New Caledonia Effects of Nickel Mining

Our transit in to Nouméa, New Caledonia was an especially beautiful experience as we threaded our way through mountain covered islands into what is called the world’s largest lagoon.   New Caledonia is a French island with a population of 228,000 of which 100,000 live in Nouméa and our initial impression is that this island is totally unlike either Fiji or Vanuatu.   New Caledonia is a prosperous country with tall buildings and lots of fancy yachts and boats in the harbor.   New Caledonia is one of the primary produces of Nickel in the world and also has considerable tourism business from New Zealand and Australia and other countries.  

New Caledonia was made a French possession in late 1853, a part of an attempt by Napoleon III to rival the British colonies in Australia and New Zealand.   Following the example set by the United Kingdom in parts of nearby Australia, France sent a total of 22,000 regular criminals as well as political prisoners to penal colonies along the south-west coast of New Caledonia between 1864 and 1922.  The indigenous Kanak population declined drastically in that same period due to introduced diseases and an apartheid-like system which imposed severe restrictions on their livelihood, freedom of movement and land ownership.

During World War II, the French South Pacific colonies of New Caledonia, French Polynesia and the New Hebrides joined the Free French Forces.  It became a vital Allied base in the Pacific Ocean, as American Allied forces built up a major naval base in New Caledonia to combat the advance of Japan toward Australia, New Zealand, and the Solomon Islands.  Nouméa served as a headquarters of the United States Navy and Army in the South Pacific.  Nouméa declined in importance as a naval and military base as the American and Allied offensive rapidly moved north and over the Equator

The "World's Largest Lagoon" Nouméa and the Magnificent Harbor

New Caledonia has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1986.   Agitation for independence began in 1985 and the troubles culminated in 1988 with a bloody hostage taking. The unrest led to agreement on increased autonomy and provided for  local Caledonian citizenship, separate official symbols of Caledonian identity (such as a "national" flag), as well as mandating a referendum on the contentious issue of independence from the French Republic sometime after 2014.  New Caledonia currently has a unique status between that of an independent country and a normal overseas department of France.

On the one hand, both a Territorial Congress (Congress of New Caledonia) and government have been established, and are increasingly empowered via the gradual implementation of a devolution of powers from France in favor of New Caledonia, pursuant to the 1998 Nouméa Accord.  Taxation, labor law, health and hygiene, foreign trade, and others are already in the hands of the Territorial Congress and government with further authority to be given to the Territorial Congress in the near future. Ultimately, the French Republic would only remain in charge of foreign affairs, justice, defense, public order, and the treasury.

On the other hand, New Caledonia remains a part of the French Republic. The inhabitants of New Caledonia are French citizens, carry French passports and take part in the legislative and presidential French elections.

Great Scenery Everywhere Coconut Park (New Caledonia's Central Park)

 

Bay Of Isles, New Zealand

 
Sailboats in Bay Near Russell Hole in the Rock

The Bay of Islands is in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, an area of over 144 islands and bays with miles of sandy beaches. It is a popular fishing and sailing destination and is known for big game fishing.   Marine life which includes dolphins, can be found near the islands especially the most famous island which is the Hole in the Rock.

There are historical sites throughout the region especially Waitangi, where the founding document of New Zealand was signed in 1840 by Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown.  We tendered into Waitangi, from the Pacific Princess which was anchored in the bay.  Then we took a shuttle into Paihia which is the tourist hub in the Bay of Islands and is where New Zealand’s first game of cricket was held.   Great restaurants and shops in the area cater to an ever growing tourist trade.   We then hopped a ferry across the bay to Russell which was the first permanent European settlement and one of New Zealand’s oldest sea ports.   In Russell we rode a bus around the island and had some of the greatest views in every direction.  

We were in Paihia and Russell on a rainy and overcast day, but the locals were thrilled as they have not had rain for months and were seriously running out of water.   The Bay of Islands depends on rain for their source of water. 

The first European to visit the Bay of Islands was Captain Cook, who named the region in 1769 and was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. Whalers arrived towards the end of the 18th century, while the first missionaries settled in 1814. The first full-blooded European child recorded as being born in the country, Thomas King, was born in 1815 in the Bay of Islands.

Fire Station in Paihia Rock Formations
Overcast Sky at the Bay of Islands Paihia Harbor

 

Auckland, New Zealand

 

After visiting Auckland I was not ready to get back on the ship even though we have visited here before, I loved our time in this city.   The weather was just perfect and we had a wonderful experience traveling throughout the city on our own, especially going up to the top of the sky tower.   It is the highest building in New Zealand at 722 feet with the most beautiful views of two harbors and we watched jumpers fall to the ground in eleven seconds at fifty miles per hour.    

Auckland has a most beautiful harbor downtown with many restaurants located just where the Pacific Princess was docked and we sat outside watching the sail boats as we were drinking beer and eating.    This city has more boats than any other big city has on a per capita basis.   The Auckland Bridge, which is a very unique symbol of the city skyline, along with Mt. Eden, the museum, the Parnell neighborhood with its beautiful shops and restaurants make this city a fabulous place to live.  New Zealanders place a very high significance on personal fitness and they are out in the parks and streets bike riding, jogging, running and doing everything physical which keeps them healthy.

Auckland Skyline Auckland Bay Bridge

The Auckland metropolitan area is on the North Island of New Zealand and is the largest city in the country with a population approaching 1.4 million residents, thirty one percent of the country's population.  Increasingly multi-ethnic, Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world, and has seen many people of Asian ethnicity move there in the last two decades.

In recent years Auckland has been ranked high among the best places in the world to live.   Auckland occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbor on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbor on the Pacific Ocean.  It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbors on two separate major bodies of water.

The isthmus was settled by Maori around 1350 and was valued for its rich and fertile land. Many villages were created, mainly on the volcanic peaks. Maori population in the area is estimated at about 20,000 people before the arrival of Europeans.  The subsequent introduction of firearms, which began in Northland, upset the balance of power and led to devastating inter-tribal warfare, causing Maori who lacked the new weapons to seek refuge in areas less exposed to coastal raids. As a result, the region had relatively low numbers of Maori when European settlement of New Zealand began.

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840, the new Governor of New Zealand, chose the area as his new capital, and named it after George Eden, Earl of Auckland.   Auckland was officially declared New Zealand's capital in 1841, and the transfer of the administration from Russell in the Bay of Islands was completed in 1842. However, even in 1840 Wellington was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island, which was being settled much more rapidly, and Wellington became the capital in 1865.

Jumper Waving just before the Fall Sky Tower
Church Site of the Funeral for Sir Edmund Hillary Auckland Harbor off the South Pacific Ocean

 

Picton, New Zealand

 
Queen Charlotte Sound Beautiful Shorelines

Picton is situated in-between the hills and the sea at the top of the South Island and is the ferry port for the trip to Wellington on the North Island.    It is a picturesque community at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton is not only a gateway to the South Island, but is also a renowned tourist destination.  We arrived in Picton by sailing through Cook's Strait which separates the North and South islands and which joins the South Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.  The ship then sailed to Picton passing Ship’s Cove which was a favorite anchorage used by Captain James Cook when he chartered New Zealand. 

The Marlborough region, which includes Picton, is well known for its vineyards where they cultivate the Sauvignon Blanc grapes for their award winning wines and actually produces over forty percent of all New Zealand wines.   This region is also unique for their green shell mussels which are farmed in the town of Havelock and sold all over the world.    We booked a trip on a boat that took us around Queen Charlotte Sound giving us insight to some of the distinctive features of that area….mussels growing on the shore, birds and some extraordinary scenery. 

Green Mussels Sunset over the Sound

After the boat tour, we drove through local communities where we had an opportunity to see vineyards, mussel harvesting facilities and charming parks.  Later we had lunch in Picton and walked along their main street checking out the shops.   The Marlborough government in this area is currently working vigilantly to eradicate trees and fauna that are not native to the area and to bring the region back to the way it was before the European people came and introduced foreign trees and plants. 

The area offers exceptional boating and fishing facilities, dolphin and seal watching and the opportunity to visit natural wilderness by ship and walking trails.   Picton has a population of about 4,000 people and is a tourist location that has many waterfront cafes, great restaurants and art and craft centers.   It was named for General Picton who fought with General Wellington in the battle of Waterloo. 

Pollard Gardens in Blenheim Rock Formations along the Sound

 

Sydney, Australia

 
Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay Ferries Sydney Harbour Bridge

It is so hard to put words to define this great city….our ship is docked next to Sydney’s two iconic symbols …they are known around the world...the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.    We are berthed in the Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) adjacent to the ferry terminal, with the opera house on one side and the bridge on the other side of the ship.   We are downtown, but this city of four million people seems to just have one great neighborhood after another.   Its beaches are excellent and also recognized internationally…Bondi and Manly, both on the Tasman Sea; each has wonderful residential neighborhoods and excellent recreational activities.

What makes Sydney so special is its harbor and it is often called "the Harbor City" as it offers such fantastic views of the city.  It is the largest city in Australia and is the state capital of New South Wales.   Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants to Australia.   The metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and contains many bays, rivers and inlets that make up this extraordinary harbor the perfect place for sailing and boating.

Sky Tower View Sky Tower Walk Looking over Darling Harbor

The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove, named after Lord Sydney.  Its first settlers were the convicts sent from Great Britain and Sydney has carried that heritage in its friendly competition with the city of Melbourne.   The city was first built on hills surrounding the Harbor – an inlet off the Tasman Sea on Australia's south-east coast.  The city is also home to many prominent parks, such as Hyde Park, Royal Botanical Gardens and national parks. This is a major factor, along with Sydney Harbor, that has led to the city’s reputation as one of the most beautiful in the world.

Sydney is a major player in international finance and stands with the top global financial cities of the world.    In its early years the new colony depended on sheep-shearing, but which soon gave way to gold seekers and today it is a major player in the high tech industry and the international fashion industry. 

We had visited Australia and Sydney before and had visited all the great sites.   This time we went to the Sky Tower where I walked outside on top of the observation deck.   We also attended a classical concert at the Sydney Opera House and were treated to the works of Ravel and Berlioz.   We toured the city, visited Bondi beach and walked the downtown areas as well as the district known as The Rocks where the first settlements of convicts lived when they came to this new land.  

Bondi Beach The Rocks

 

Cairns, Australia

 

Complicating our visit to Cairns was the cyclone Ului approaching from the Solomon Islands.  High winds and choppy water cancelled many of the tours and keeping passengers in Cairns and even impacting the ship’s motion as we proceeded on to our next port of call.    Interestingly, we avoided cyclone Tomas which devastated Fiji only about two weeks after our visit there.   And even then, as we approached Fiji we were concerned with the tsunami that was headed our way as a result of the earthquake in Chile. 

Cairns, which is located in North Queensland, Australia was founded in 1876 and was named after William Wellington Cairns, the then Governor of Queensland.  It was first established to serve miners, but underwent a decline when an easier route was discovered from Port Douglas.  Cairns later developed into a railhead and major port for exporting sugar cane, gold, metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding coastal area, but today is a major tourist port.  The city is rapidly expanding, with a population of 150,000; with tourism being the largest income producer for the region, closely followed by the sugar industry.

Storm Brewing over the Harbor Harbor Boardwalk

It is a popular travel destination for foreign tourists because of its tropical climate and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef that can readily be reached by boat.   Also, the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns, is a popular area for experiencing a tropical rainforest.  The city has used its natural surroundings to its advantage, with the construction of several small theme parks designed for tourists. Among them are the Rainforestation Nature Park, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, and Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which extends for 4.7 mi over the World Heritage rainforest.

A notable feature of the downtown Cairns esplanade is a swimming lagoon with adjoining barbecue areas. In May 2003, the then Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne declared that topless sunbathing is permitted, and the area is a gathering point for people from around the world.   A boardwalk enables pedestrians and cyclists to tour the harbor shore from the lagoon along the esplanade.

Esplanade Along the Shore Swimming Lagoon Pool

During World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces as a staging base for operations in the Pacific, with US Army Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force operational bases.  Combat missions were flown out of Cairns in support of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.

After World War II, Cairns gradually developed into a center for tourism. The opening of the Cairns International Airport in 1984, and the building of the Cairns Convention Centre established the city's overseas reputation as a desirable destination for tourism and business conference markets.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981.  There are nine hundred islands over 1600 miles and is one of the wonders of the natural world.  

Cairns as the Pacific Princess was leaving with the Pilot Boat Downtown Cairns Shopping District

 

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

 

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea is the poorest country that I have ever visited.  There is essentially no industry supporting the people who live there …they depend on what they grow, raise and cultivate on their own.   And yet the people seem happy to see visitors for as we pass, they are smiling and waving as if we were foreign dignitaries.  

Papua New Guinea is located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean between Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, and is in what is defined as Melanesia (black skinned people that I had talked about earlier in my discussion about Fiji and Vanuatu).  Its capital is Port Moresby and the country has about seven million people, who speak in 850 indigenous languages and few, only twenty percent live in urban areas.  

Little is known about the country as it has not been entirely explored and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are known to be native to the interior of Papua New Guinea.  There have been limited ecological surveys into extinct volcanoes that have uncovered numerous types of birds, land and marine animals that are not found anywhere else.   

Active Volcanoes in Simpson Harbor in Early Morning Native Dancer at Kokopo War and Cultural Museum

The country had been ruled by outside powers since 1884 until Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia in 1975 and now remains part of the realm of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Papua New Guinea.

Our visit to Papua New Guinea takes us to the city of Rabaul, located in Simpson Harbor at the east end of New Britain Island and later Kokopo and which is surrounded by numerous smoking volcanoes that are located throughout the region.   This territory is part of  the “Ring Of Fire” describing the fault lines that run through this area and all around the Pacific Ocean to areas including Chile and Haiti which have recently suffered severe earthquakes. 

Originally, Rabaul was held by the Germans, but a small Australian force ended German control of the area in the early part of the twentieth century and the League of Nations granted Australia a mandate to administer the country.  Early in WWII the Japanese captured the area from Australian forces and made Rabaul one of their most essential military bases.   It was the site of many airfields, a submarine base, a seaplane base and home to almost 200,000 Japanese military personnel.   From Rabaul, the Japanese resupplied its other bases in Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and other bases in the Pacific Ocean via what was called the “Tokyo Express”. 

Barge Tunnels Constructed by the Japanese to Escape Allied Bombing during WWII Ring of Fire Fault Lines Around the Pacific Ocean

As the Allied forces continued their surge toward Japan during WWII, they decided to not invade the island, but Papua New Guinea was subjected to massive bombing and air assaults.  To escape this intensive beating, the Japanese moved underground, building caves that honeycombed the hills around Rabaul.   They had miles of tunnels which housed hospitals, military facilities and barracks.   POWs and local people of Papua New Guinea suffered greatly when forced to build these tunnels.

Aside from these tunnels, there remains a large Japanese barge tunnel with many remnants of the destroyed Japanese and Allied war machine, the Kokopo War Museum and the Bitapaka War Cemetery (no doubt the best maintained part of the island as it is financially supported by a foundation).  But Papua New Guinea has also had to endure the effects of nature when volcanoes’ eruptions produced extensive devastation and damage to the country.   Most recently, a 1994 eruption buried Rabaul in tons of ash, leaving the roads and other basic services in extremely poor condition even as it exists today.  The port area has been rebuilt and there are some tourist hotels, but many government facilities have been moved to the neighboring town of Kokopo.  

Clockwise from Upper Left:    

Bitapaka War Cemetery Monument,

Active Volcano in Simpson Harbor (white sulpher deposits) and

WWII Airplane Relic at Kokopo War Museum

 

Chuuk, Micronesia

 

Chuuk is an island group in the south western part of the Pacific Ocean.  These islands are one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).   Chuuk is the most populous of the FSM's states and the Chuuk’s  main island of Weno is its capitol and commercial center.   Geographically, Chuuk is also part of the larger Caroline Islands group.   Chuuk means mountain in their native language and was known mainly as Truk (a German derived name) until 1990.  The main population center of Chuuk State is the Chuuk Lagoon, an archipelago (forty miles across) with (two hundred and forty-five islands) mountainous islands surrounded by a string of islets on a barrier reef. 

It is not known when the islands of Chuuk were first settled, but based on archaeological and scriptural evidence; these islands had originally been settled more than 2000 years ago.   As part of the colonial territory of the Caroline Islands, Truk was part of the Spanish, then German and then the Japanese empires.  Dublon Island (Tonoas) was the site of the former German and Japanese headquarters.

During World War II, Truk Lagoon was the Empire of Japan's major base in the South Pacific theatre.  A significant portion of the Japanese fleet was based there, with its administrative center on Tonoas (south of Weno).   Truk was the base for Japanese operations against Allied forces in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.   Due to heavy fortifications, both natural and manmade of the base at Truk, it was known to Allied forces as "the Gibraltar of the Pacific".

Operation Hailstone, executed by the United States in 1944, culminated in one of the most important naval battles of the war at Truk.   Twelve Japanese warships (the massive Musashi and Yamato battleships including aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, destroyers and supply ships, thirty-two merchant ships and 249 aircraft were destroyed, although some larger warships had received advance warning and were already at sea.

Many Japanese ships and aircraft lie at the bottom of the lagoon and serve as an underwater war museum that has been declared an historical park and can only be visited with a licensed guide.   These wrecks have become artificial reefs with brilliant colored corals and are a magnificent source of sea life.   There is also many caves from WWII, the Sapuk Lighthouse, remnants of the Japanese shore artillery and fortress like communication facilities. 

Clockwise from upper left:

Chuuk Islet in the Archipelago;

 Waiting on the Pier for the Pacific Princess;

Airport Runway Built by the Japanese and looks like an Aircraft Carrier;

Main Road in the Village at the Port and

Ship Wrecks at the Blue Lagoon Resort.

Blue Lagoon Resort Row Boats at the Blue Lagoon Resort

Chuuk was one of six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which were administered by the United States under charter from the United Nations from the end of the WWII to the early 1990s.

Most of the roads and transportation systems are in very poor condition or in utter disrepair.   Tourism, especially scuba diving among the many wrecks in Chuuk Lagoon, is the island's main industry.   Copra, dried coconut meat, is the only cash crop but output is relatively of no consequence.   Most of the inhabited outlying islands engage in subsistence activity only.

We drove through the village at the port…very decrepit and without any infrastructure services.  We rode to the Blue Lagoon Resort which was very beautiful and extremely upscale considering what was just outside the gates.    Tourists come there primarily for the diving among the ship wrecks that rest at the shore’s edge.