Thursday 7th October 1610 Local 0510
Having self diagnosed my partial insanity from a
confirmed case of the "channels" I am now able to function sensibly again
and "normal" service is resumed.
Our passage to Mackay has so far been uneventful.
The winds started near to 30 knots and decreased steadily over the first two
days. By 0330 today they were 8 knots directly behind us - hopeless for us and
regrettably I reached for the engine in the middle of the night and have been
motoring ever since. The forecast is for even lighter and variable winds for the
next 24 hours but we will take an update soon and hope for some
The passage west to Australia from New Caledonia is
studded with various mid ocean reefs which I have carefully studied on paper and
electrinic charts and maintain a 4 hour plot on the paper charts from my 4
hourly log book entries. It is my regular practice to maintain a log while on
major passages logging all the normal information. These past couple of days
with a steady high over us it has been incredible to note the perfect daily
symetry of the diurnal variation in barometric pressure.
The only other thing of note on the passage has
been the incredible rise of the sea mounts from over two kilometers deep right
to the surface in the case of the Lord Howe Seamounts which we passed through
last night, leaving 30 miles between us and the reefs.
This is of course an extremely conservative margin
in the benign conditions we were in. However almost 200 miles to the east
lies a seamount which comes up to 69 metres from over a 1000 metres that lay
right on our track. The sea was slight with the lightning winds and the 69
metres was a peak, so I was not overly concerned about passing near by it, so I
held my course, deep down the light ESE wind which would have taken us
several miles to the south of the submerged 1000 metre mountain
peak, according to the charts. I was also plotting on the paper chart. However
we passed right over the top of it. Even though it is well charted and I would
always doubt the position, I wouldn't doubt the depth so was not overly
concerned but noted that it was actually about three miles out of position
according to where GPS placed me on the paper chart and the electronic chart.
Later I took some other readings of depth contours on other banks and found the
differential to be over four miles in one case!
So those who wish to pass near by reefs and islands
in the black of night in mid Pacific be warned - the half mile margin that some
people think is OK is absolutely not enough. If you are not certain give these
reefs a ten mile berth at least.
Now a little more about New Caledonia. All across
the Pacific I have been trying to understand what is going on with the French
holding these overseas territories and the political and cultural factors at
play in the various islands. Obviously they (the French) originally wanted, like
all other colonists, strategic territories and additional resources for the
empire building phase of their own countries evolution. Nobody was more guilty
of this behaviour than Britain, or was it England?
In modern times it was handy to have a bunch of
atolls exactly on the other side of the world from ones own back yard, to
experimentally blow up with atomic bombs. But other than that I don't understand
why the French are all over the Pacific. In each place we have been there
is no doubt that there is an independence movement by "indigenous" people to
take back their islands. When I speak with my French friends about
this however, they offer a surprising take on things. They invariably
consider all these territories to be France and some have asserted that the
people are therefor French. But from my limited survey most have surprised me by
saying it is the obligation of France to remain in these territories, whether
they like it or not, to support the people who would otherwise for now be
unable to support themeselves economically. France are still in their colonies
in the Caribean too. They have the Crozen Islands, the Kerguelen Islands and
Reunion in the Indian Ocean. However they seem to think they are doing the right
thing by standing by these posessions rather than, as Britain did, just up and
leave (albeit mostly at the behest of the indigenous population). What is the
right thing to do? I see there are merits in both points of view. However
if the majority of people now classed as citizens want autonomy or
independence in a country that at one time was a separate cultural and political
entity then the colonist certainly has no right to remain, though I think
it has an obligation to maintain financial support in an agreed reducing
In New Caledonia which apparently is the largest
source of Nickel in the world (OK that explains something...) the Kanaks are the
indigenous Melanesian people. They number only about 30% of the population and
of course consider the island theirs. The "indigenous" white Europeans, called
"Caldoches", who have been there for many generations and have built the
industry and wealth of the island, seem also to consider the island theirs
and don't really consider themselves French. Then there are the "Metros" that's
people recently or temporarily living there, and generally are from France, and
not appreciated by the other two main population groups.
Now there is a debate and political move to
independence, which if there is one person one vote cannot satisfy the Kanaks.
This is of course a similar political dilema as existed in South Africa,
Northern Ireland, North America, Australia and New Zealand to name but a few
countries. Whose country is it now? And how can the country stand on it's
own two feet economically when under the suppression, intentional or otherwise
of the colonists, they have never had the chance to evolve their own economic,
administrative, educational, social and political systems? In addition
the indigenous culture has been suppressed. Pride in ones own history and
culture is a neccessary foundation for the confidence required for independent
self determination. But in many islands we have seen a "renaissance" of
indigenous culture. Ring any bells?
Finally a bit of trivia. The Great Barrier Reef of
Australia if the longest barrier reef in the world, the Great Sea Reef in Fiji
the third and the reef round New caledonia is the second longest in the