Dear F&F, October 13th – 16th, 2011 (Eastern Hemisphere)
Of all the places I\’ve visited in the Pacific, New Caledonia is perhaps the place I knew the least about.
It is an absolutely beautiful island, 300 miles long by 30 miles wide. Located about 900 miles East of the north central Australian Coast. The Western side of the island has classic barrier reefs replete with beautiful anchorages and surf spots. It would be our last stop before \”Beach House\” would spend the Austral Cyclone season in Brisbane.
The people of New Caledonia are called Kanaks. They are distinctly Melanesian like the Fijians and the Vanuatuans.
For a condensed history, about the geography and land of New Caledonia, copy and paste this link into your browser:
What we discovered and did not realize before our arrival is the recent history of New Caledonia has been quite tempestuous. The French, much like all Colonial nations from the age of discovery simply \”took over\” without much regard to the local peoples direct interests. Tourism at one point was the primary industry here but that has now been well surpassed by the local nickel mines. New Caledonia has 1/3rd of the world\’s proven nickel reserves and as such, the companies and first world nations involved have made the Global Financial crisis a non event here. Unless….you\’re a local. The local people are not so much suffering as not really participating in the wealth of their nation. A brief history can be seen at the absolutely gorgeous Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center. (See the photo gallery of New Caledonia from the home page).
Copy and paste this link in your browser to see about the center: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Marie_Tjibaou_Cultural_Centre
For information on the Independence movement in New Caledonia, copy and paste this link into your browser: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Marie_Tjibaou
At the Tjibaou Cultural center we learned of the many diverse tribes on New Caledonia and the 28 separate languages that are spoken here.
Tjibaou in many ways is the Father of his country. Trying to arrange a path to Independence, he was sadly assassinated by one of his own countryman for being to yielding to French interests in 1989. This was right on the heals of a massacre reportedly carried out by French authorities of 29 locals. At first, the locals kidnapped several French Policeman and civilians but then thought better of it and were going to surrender. Whether things went wrong by design was largely proved and enmity has remained between the locals and the local French ever since.
Noumea is strictly \”first world\”; a mini French Riviera. Prices are quite European and this is where the problem arises for the locals. They\’re on the outside, looking in. Tourism has suffered during the Global Financial Crisis and Noumea does not seem overly crowded. This too is not helping local interests get ahead.
We were also able to recieve great insight from Nathalie of s/v \”Na Maka\”. Nathalie spent 14 years here and was intimately familiar with the politics of the island. In a few years, there will be a vote again on Independence, but like many such events, the politics and economics are fraught with inner workings that will have to play out.
Despite the difficulties, foreigners, including the French (from France) are well received. The local French and the Kanak\’s of New Caledonia still have a bit of a distance that will need to be overcome…..
Enjoy the photo gallery. Our next and last stops will be the Baie de Prony en route to the magical Isle of Pines…
Stay tuned, Scott with Kay