Saturday, January 25, 2014


Pacific Sculptures

The islands of the South Pacific are home to some of the strangest sculptures in the world. They are like a mix of human and monster. Lots of the earliest statues, both stone and wood, were destroyed by missionaries. I like them a lot (the statues that is) and always get photos of any we find. Here are four of the ones that we saw on last year's cruise. The white guy is a new one, made from concrete. I found him at a shop door in Port Denarau, Fiji. He seems to be a mix between the Polynesian Tiki style and the Melanesian style. The red one and the grey two-headed one are in parks near the docks in Papeete, Tahiti. They are carved from local rock and are very old. The red one is the oldest of these four, and is female, The double-header is definitely male. Note the islander asleep in the background. Papeete has lots of people "busy doing nothing" in the public areas and I didn't like the feel of the town much. The fourth statue is made from wood. Actually, there are a pair of these, one mail and one female, guarding the doorway of a shop in the main street of Vaitape, Bora Bora. Most Polynesian sculptures are wooden, but they don't last as long as the stone ones do. Of course, lots of small statues are still being carved for the tourist trade, but I am not allowed to bring any wooden stuff home because of the Australian Customs laws. Maybe that's just as well because I would be competing for space with Mum's Egyptian statues.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Cruising Across the Equator

We left Hawaii on November 2 last year and cruised back to Australia on the "Celebrity Millenium". It wasn't a completely successful cruise, due to some of the passengers bringing a vicious strain of 'flu aboard, but there were some great times along the way. One of them was the night we crossed the Equator, November 5. Of course we have crossed the Equator many times in aircraft, but it is a special event when you cross it for the first time in a ship. Before your first crossing you are a Pollywog, not a real sailor. After you cross you are a genuine Shellback and can hold your head up high whenever voyages are mentioned. On the crossing night King Neptune and his royal minions came on board to christen the new Shellbacks. The Pollywogs among the crew were bought before him in chains and were ceremoniously slimed, kissed the royal fish and were tossed in the pool. Then it was the turn of any passengers game enough to go through the ritual. Dad has been a Shellback since 1984 but this was Mum's upgrade-of-status. She got a certificate to prove it. Us small critters didn't. We were a bit disappointed until Neptune appointed us official Soft-shellbacks, tasked with the protection of the Oldies whenever we sail through his realms. By the way, do you know that at the Equator you are actually further away from the centre of the Earth than you are at the top of Mt Everest? Small bears know these things, just check it out if you don't believe me :)

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The Mighty Mo

Moored near the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour is the largest and last battleship, the USS Missouri. She was commissioned in 1944 and fought at the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa during WW2. She also fought in the Korean War (1950-53) and Desert Storm in 1991. She was decommissioned in 1992 and donated as a museum ship at Pearl in 1998. When you visit Pearl you can climb over most of the ship. Actually, when we were there it was so very hot that Mum only saw the stuff on the main deck and rooms off it before finding shade to wait in. Dad set off to see as much of the upper decks as he could, but only managed to get to the open bridge area about half-way up the superstructure. It is a massive vessel and you need hours to see it all. The most impressive things are the nine 16" (41 cm) main guns. These can send a shell the weight of a VW Beetle 32km and are accurate enough to "park the Beetle" in a spot the size of a single-car garage. Very impressive. There are lots of smaller guns, twenty 5" in twin turrets, and lots of smaller machine guns. She also has anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile systems. Naturally, all of these weapons were deactivated when she became a museum, but they are still impressive to see. The most historic part of the ship is the deck where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in September 1945. Why is there a screen around the gadget at the bow? It is a radar antenna that is supposedly secret, but is visible through the screen and is present on the latest models of the ship. Speaking of models, I have to hassle Dad about building one.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014


A Very Special Place

To anybody with an interest in history this is a special and solemn place. It is the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. It commemorates 1,102 sailors and marines who went down with the ship during the Japanese surprise attack on Dec 7, 1941. You can only visit the memorial by Navy shuttle-boats, so visitor numbers are controlled. The memorial hall is built above the remains of the battleship and you can see some of it from the open windows of the hall. At the far end of the hall is a shrine with a large marble wall containing the names of those who died during the attack, and a  small plaque with the names of crew members who survived the attack and chose to have their ashes placed in the wreck after they died. When we were there the tide was low enough for us to see the bases of some gun turrets and part of the main deck. A small oil slick was being washed away. On both sides of the memorial you can see rows of floating white markers with ships' names on them. These mark the spots where other ships were destroyed during the raid. Pearl Harbour is a very moving place to visit and everyone who gets the chance to go there should do it. There are other things to see at Pearl and images will be posted here soon.

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Sunday, January 05, 2014


What a Series !!!!

Whew! I have just finished watching the finish of a fantastic cricket series, the Ashes Down Under. For those who don't know much about cricket, it is (in the opinion of this small bear and his Oldies) the most skillful game in the world, and the Ashes tests between Australia and England are the games that generate the most fanatical excitement. The Ashes are supposed to be in an Urn containing the burnt remains of the stumps used in the first test series between the two countries, but that is not so. In fact the Ashes Urn is more of a notional prize. For a good story on how a joke by a newspaper reporter in 1882 has generated the most contested prize in cricket, just Google "the Ashes". Anyhow, since 1882 there have been 69 test series (a test is a 5-day game), each test series being 3 or 5 games. Australia has won 33 series, England 31, and 5 have been drawn. Last year our team did very badly in a short Ashes series held in England, beaten 3 to 0. The English press has been giving Australian cricket a bad time ever since. Now justice has triumphed and the Ashes have returned to Australia. The series that finished this afternoon was a complete whitewash of the English team. We thumped them 5 to 0 !!! Aussie cricket is back on top. Any team that is supported by small bears just has to be No.1. And I have my own Bart-size replica of that famous Urn. Now I can get away from the TV and get back to preparing more posts about last year's travels.


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