Solomons – November 10-12, 2014
While some of the Solomon islands are inhabited by groups of fairly primitive people (we were met by their dancers), we visited the Solomons and Guadalcanal to review the WWII sites. Pictures show Bloody Ridge and the WWII monument. The last pictures shows the four veterans who were with us who served in WWII. The American laid the wreath at the monument on Veterans’ Day.
Birds of Melanesia. We were surprised to learn there are 700 species of birds in PNG with 350 that are endemic. In the Solomon Islands there are 293 species with 85 endemic. And, in Vanuatu, there are 127 species with 11 species endemic. Essentially the further away from PNG to the east we go the fewer different species. Humming birds are only in the Western hemisphere. So for those of you bird lovers, PNG is definitely the place to go. The same diversity was also true with coral and fish as we cruised further west.
Geography lesson – The Pacific islanders are divided into three groups: Melanesia is the dark skinned people who live in PNG, Solomons, and Vanuatu. Micronesia includes the islands in the Carolinas, Marshalls, and Marinanas while Polynesia includes all the islands to the east of Vanuatu. There was heavy trading among the islands and villagers using trade winds and currents. So, islanders were often gone for a long time. Initially tightly woven baskets carried their food, but around 3500 years ago, clay pottery was fired and this provided a more diverse ability to trade—even liquids.
These Islands were under various colonizers: British, Dutch, Spanish, Germans, etc. But it all came to an end during the Second World War in 1941 when the Japanese island hopped down to PNG trying to find access to Australia and natural resources to support their war. However, the US, British and Australians worked very hard to keep the lanes open. Thus the first battles were fought on Coral Sea, around PNG, and the Solomons at Guadalcanal.
Yesterday was Veterans’ Day. At 11:11 on the 11th we held a ceremony for our veterans on board the ship. Veterans from New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. are on board with us. One man from our group fought here and gave a brief description of how it was with ships everywhere firing away, planes dropping bombs, screams of munitions surrounding his ship. He threw the flower wreath into the ocean at Iron Bottom Sound. In the afternoon we took a bus to the top of the hill overlooking “Bloody” Ridge where a memorial stands commemorating the heroic acts of the United States marines, navy and army. The port and capitol city is Honiara and also the site of Henderson field where both the Allied forces and the Japanese fought to maintain control of the field. From August of 1942 through spring of 1943 this was the site of heavy artillery bombardments on both sides, until the Japanese finally abandoned the islands. During this time, MacArthur was stationed in Brisbane and then withdrawn to Melbourne, Australia. Several museums on the island have gathered some of the most outstanding pieces of equipment from the war and brought it into a compound: artillery, planes, engines etc.
Owa Raha (Santa Ana) in Solomons is a small island supposedly with 6000 inhabitants who are well known for preserving the ancient traditions. To say they were ready for us is an understatement. Our arrival was marked with beautiful flower arrangements along the beach. Ladies lined the road with their art work (baskets, shell jewelry and carvings) and they presented an elaborate performance with music from the local band of bamboo drums and flutes. The ladies danced wearing their traditional grass skirts and colorful bras, and then another group of ladies came in representing the wheat followed by the mud men and the green men. The ladies’ dance was very suggestive, but with old women (not sexy young ladies) and the entire village watched and laughed. Following their dancing performance we walked across the island to another village and back while Chris Reiner gathered the youth to show them how to record stories from their elders. He brought recording equipment and cameras for the young men who will have a year to gather information. Chris is doing an extensive project with National Geographic to preserve traditional languages and stories.