Day 55–Sun., Nov. 20, 2011 – Nouméa, New Caledonia

     Nouméa is the capital city of the French territory of New Caledonia.  It is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia’s main island, Grande Terre.  British Captain James Cook sighted cigar-shaped Grand Terre in 1774 and anchored in what is now Baie de Balade off the east coast.  He chose the name New Caledonia because the landscape reminded him of the Scottish highlands.  Rugged beauty did not attract colonial British settlers, however.  Those who were willing to venture to far-flung lands needed far richer enticements.  French forces, vying for new lands, dispatched their own investigative voyages in the 1790’s, and began to establish missions throughout the South Pacific region.  In 1853, Admiral Fevrier-Despointes, claimed the archipelago for France.  The area served first as a penal colony and then Mineral deposits (nickel and gold) were soon discovered and thriving colonies were soon established.  Later, it served as the headquarters of the United States military in the Pacific during WWII.  After the war, the US military headquarters was taken over as the base for a new regional inter-governmental development organization:  the South Pacific Commission.  Even today the US wartime military influence lingers, both in the warmth that many New Caledonian people feel towards the US and experiencing the friendliness of American soldiers, and also in the names of several of the quarters in Nouméa.  Districts such as “Receiving” and “Robinson,” or even “Motor Pool,” strike the Anglophone ear strangely, util the historical context becomes clear.

     Being Sunday, all shops were closed but there was a Bush Fair at the Maritime Terminal.  There was an article in the local paper announcing that communities of Mont-Dore and Yaté would be at the terminal to welcome us with the authentic sights, sounds and savours of the bush.  There were booths in and outside of the terminal selling all kinds of things.

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     The gangway was raised at 3:30 and off we sailed.  Entertainment tonight was comic Paul Adams.  We heard his routine before, but we still laughed.  He’s good.

“I don’t pretend to understand the Universe – it’s a great deal bigger than I am.”  ~  Thomas Carlyle

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