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Further Afield's Journal

The Antarctic Ocean and Continent. The Last Wilderness.

Entry By: 
Joe F.

When visiting the Antarctic, you’re in fact in the ‘Last Wilderness’, an area of incredible beauty, unspoiled landscapes, and wildlife that only dreams are made of. Conservationists are playing a huge role in the protection of the ocean, the whales, penguins, seals, seabirds, the krill and the single cell algae that’s the stable diet for sea life, the various species of whales are humpback, killer, and blue whales. 

These migrate to Hawaii and other winter breeding grounds in the tropics and subtropics to give birth to their calves, the waters are more shallow and warmer, providing a safe and protected environment to nurture their young. 

Studying geography in my school days I was always fascinated by the place name ‘Tierra del Fuego’ the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the ‘End of the World’. The flight from Toronto takes you to São Paulo, Brazil. After a short stop then it’s on to Buenos Aires, Spanish for “fair winds” or “good airs” the capital of Argentina that’s situated on the shore of Rio de La Plata. An opportunity of staying here for a night or two would not be wasted. You’re in a city that’s recovering from years of economic stagnation. This is a vibrant city with a population of 15 million people. The city has matured through one financial crisis after another, the International Monetary Fund had to rescue them from figures of inflation that were at 100% at one stage. 

Spending a day in the city that’s alive with activity, students always bring life into an area as do the office staff that are employed in the banking, financial services industry, the technology sector, and so many other employment areas throughout the city. Visit the restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, and bistros that have menus to suit all palates. Going through the galleries and museums telling the history of the city and the nation, listen to the music steal through your mind ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ taking you back to the story of Eva Peron, the wife of the president Juan, the revered First Lady who championed workers rights, support for the poor and the downtrodden, the rights of women in politics and in education. She died way too prematurely at the tender age of 33 years. In the movie Evita, Madonna played the leading role.

Flying into Ushuaia, there’s a shuttle bus to transfer passengers to the cruise ship. On board instructions and introductions are carried out by staff members. Cruising to the last of the Seven continents, one cannot but be transported back to those explorers and adventurers that have gone before us. James Cooke crossed the Antarctic Circle in 1773, the Magellan Straits, Sir Francis Drake who circumnavigated the world in 1577-80, Wendell Sea and Ross Sea. Two days into the cruise and we arrive at the Drake Passage and an awesome body of water to go across. 

The ship uses an innovative hydro-jet propulsion system to allow the purpose-built World Traveller ship to maintain location without the need to drop anchor. This allows you to get closer to the environment and wildlife without disturbing their habitat. We transfer to the zodiacs, small rubber boats that can get up close and personal to the shore. Here is where the action is happening, penguins with their chicks, protecting them and then baling away from them, into the water like a torpedo in search of food. There are seals basking on the beaches, birds trying to get their share of the spoils. Whichever of the species that are there we are cautious not to disturb or distract them in any way from their activities. Their lives are precious and we have a duty as visitors to protect the environment and everything associated with that.

Lectures on board the ships, tells us about the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’, the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s saw a terrific upsurge of exploration in Antarctica. The challenge was, who would reach the South Pole first? Men like the British seaman Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Thomas Crean, Roald Amundsen and Sir Edmund Hillary. The stories of these explorers will capture the imagination. The world’s last frontier, that moment when for a person or a nation that flag or marker says I am the first person to have arrived here. You’ll hear the tales of ships stranded in ice, starvation and lives lost. The greatest race of all in my opinion is that of Amundsen the Norwegian and Scott the English man. Different methods and modes of transportation were used. Scott brought ponies, dogs and two tractors. He had a team of about 90 people, Scott’s expedition was financed by the British government , the Admiralty and others, there were scientists, teachers, botanists, and tradesmen. Amundsen took a smaller party, using dogs only. He had with him the Norwegian champion skier who proved to be the ace in the hold. Having arrived at the final camp before the South Pole, Amundsen and five others went on with the dogs and three sleighs. Bjaaland the skier was invaluable as a team member, he trimmed the sleighs down to the thinnest for the purpose of weight. With the skier out in front the dogs had a target and a leader to follow. Amundsen and his team were the first people to reach the South Pole in December 1911. The expedition team made it back safely to their base and to Norway having left supplies for Scott and his team. Scott and his team did arrive at the South Pole a month after Amundsen in January 1912. Sadly on their return back to base camp they all perished.

The story of Ernest Shackleton and his ship the Endurance with a crew of 28 has been published in several publications. Films have been made of how their ship got stuck on an ice bank, for days they struggled to get free. As the ship groaned and twisted in the grasp of the sea ice, the sailors emptied whatever they could onto the packed ice. Finally when the vessel surrendered to the crushing, freezing ice they watched the ship crack and deliver its fractured remains over the frozen snow or swallowed it into the ocean, the crew just watched in awe for over a period of months as this took place. Shackleton, Crean, and Mosley the ship’s captain had left the area to find help, crossing South Georgia they reached the Norwegian whaling village. After 497 days the crew who had set up shelters and living quarters beside their ruined ship were rescued.

As you cruise through the ice and floating glaciers and land on the continent of Antarctica you will notice that there are mountains and hills there. The highest peak is Mount Vinson, it rises to 4,892 metres. Since 1966 approximately 1,200 people have climbed it. Depending how quickly one acclimatized to the conditions it takes 5 - 9 days to complete the climb. 

What’s the difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic, the Arctic is an Ocean while the Antarctic is a Continent. Both have magnetic fields, the inclination of the Earth’s field is 90° downwards at the north magnetic field and 90° upwards at the south magnetic field. 

Even though we all know that penguins love the cold there have never been any found in the Arctic. At the Antarctic there are an estimated 44,000,000 penguins, that’s a lot of poop on a white background, a trivia question true or false, can penguin poop be seen from outer space. Wait for a drum roll, Yes it Can.

In 1959 the Antarctic Treaty was signed by twelve countries, banning any military activities in the region. The area is preserved for the fish and sea mammals that are found there plus the penguins, seals and birds. Scientists, botanists, geologists, biologists, mathematicians and international naval personnel have a right to inspect what’s going on. Numbers are curtailed when visiting Antarctica, only one ship can visit a site at any one time. Vessels with more than 500 passengers shall not make landings in Antarctica. A maximum of 100 passengers may be ashore at any one time.

For peace and tranquility, an area that’s untouched, protected and preserved, heavenly and out worldly there are few to compare.






Costa Rica

Central America
Entry By: 
Joe F.

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America. It’s bordered to the north by Nicaragua, Panama to the south, to the east the Caribbean Sea and west is the Pacific Ocean. The landmass is just 20,000 sq. miles with a population of about 5.25 million people. 

Tourism has a big role to play in the economy with 3 million people visiting there in 2023. When one considers the support industries involved and the numbers they employ in hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, visitor centres, foodstuff manufacturing facilities, maintenance crews, transportation, staff at various sites, the construction industry, finance and insurance companies, it has a major impact on the economy of the country. A small number of cruise ships dock there. The languages spoken are Spanish, English and many languages of the indigenous people.

The Industrial sector is attracting some worldwide companies, Intel, the semiconductor chip manufacturers employ 2,000 personnel, Proctor and Gamble the health and hygiene products company, and Baxter Health equipment, are opening up avenues for graduates from universities.


Farming and agriculture production accounts for 9% of GNP. Bananas, and pineapples that are the most traded fruits in the world and are grown in abundance in Costa Rica, coffee is also a major crop. Natural resources are Hydroelectric power, forestry, and fisheries.


The district is famous for its biodiversity, there are 30 national parks, with the tropical and volcanic influences on the climate of the region hundreds of different species of animals and birds, flora and fauna, plants and fungi and other microorganisms working together in ecosystems to maintain balance and support life. There are 5 Blue Zones in the world and Costa Rica has been recognized as 1. A blue zone is an area of extreme longevity, in the Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica we have the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians. The Blue Zones are areas where people live longer but they are the healthiest, happiest and fittest of people. Have a purpose to live, be it light work, friendships, rest regularly, and diet. That was the sound advice from one centenarian recently.


Costa Rica is one of the top 3 destinations in the world for surfing. For recreational activities it was here that zip lining was first introduced. The term Adventure Tourism was conceived here, with the water activity, hiking trails, mountain climbing and the occasional camping and food cooking. San Jose is the capital city with an international airport, there are two other international and 14 domestic airports. Most international airports are flying directly to Costa Rica.


In 1502 Christopher Columbus landed in this area, it was his fourth and last voyage to the Americas. Costa Rica was populated by the Spanish in 1522. For three centuries Spain ruled the area. The countries sought independence in the 1820s, Costa Rica was granted sovereignty in the 1830s. The country is a democratic republic, with a president as head of government and a constitution that was drawn up in 1949. A civil war had broken out earlier and when it ended a decision was made to abolish the military. The country has a Public Force, it’s the Costa Rican national law enforcement force which performs policing and border patrol functions.


The economy is in reasonably good shape. Unemployment is at 6.5% and inflation at 9%. Education is very highly rated having a literacy rate of 97%. Education is free from kindergarten to the end of high school, with students receiving free books and supplies. Health care is free for Costa Rican citizens who are most financially most in need. Visitors should have health insurance cover. There is no minimum wage. There is social security and pensions for people who have been working in the country and paid a subscription towards their social security.


The Costa Rican culture is a vibrant blend of indigenous heritage with a Spanish colonial influence, mix a dash of Jamaican, some Chinese and other cultures combined with festivals galore, plenty of beer, a horseback riding parade and a bloodless bull fight. Now you know you’re in Costa Rica. October 12th is Columbus Day and a cause for celebration. 


With the Spanish influence here for so long, the main religion is Catholicism. The particular days through the child to adult stages are celebrated, Baptism of a baby, Penance and Eucharist meaning thanksgiving, Confirmation coming of age, Weddings, Holy Orders the ordination of a priest and Funerals. Each festival or Sacrament marks the stages of life. Read the book “Twenty Years A-Growing” by the Irish author Maurice O’Sullivan. When life expectancy was not as long, an old man declared your life is twenty years in bloom, twenty years stooping and twenty years declining.













The Great Migration

Entry By: 
Joe F.

The first time I had the privilege of going to Africa and experiencing a Game Drive, I was intoxicated by the sheer beauty and wonderment of such a spectacle. 

Lions, elephants, hippopotamus, rhinos, hyenas, leopards, giraffes, zebras, these are the few that come to mind on this wild life encounter, but take a look at the smaller creatures and the amount of different species of birds that do their part, breaking up droppings and eating carcasses to prevent any diseases from spreading and so on.

It’s a lesson in science to learn how this conveyor belt effect works, you’ll be surprised by how many contributors add to this environment. I was with a group, touring Africa, not game hunters in case you get the wrong impression. 

Nature is an educational lesson when we can experience it up close and personal. The wilderness can be heartbreaking in its cruelty and rawness for the act of survival and yet it’s enchanting when you encounter its effectiveness for the protection of the continuous support and existence of the herd.

If any of you are into music, there’s a song recorded by a group called Toto. “I bless the rains down in Africa”. One wonderful piece that keeps spinning in my head, “I know I must do what’s right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”. As the rains stream down to the music one can appreciate how valuable water is to life. As you’re watching the migration, of hundreds of thousands of animals leaving the area in search of grasses, herbs, water and sustenance, you cannot but think that this is the ‘greatest show on earth’, and can be seen on the African plains. The wildebeests lead the charge, followed by the zebras, gazelles and other herbivores that follow the food trail. Crossing the Serengeti in Tanzania and then the Masai Mara in Kenya, the migration travels in a clockwise direction. The journey covers over 2,500 kilometres. Recognized as one of the new seven wonders of the world, when millions of animals cross the Serengeti National Park and plunge into the Grumeti and Mara River. This migration is the highlight of the trip for many travellers. The wildebeests don’t just keep galloping up and into the river, they recognize the danger. Approaching the banks they pause, withdraw, for hours or maybe a day, braying and restless, then in an overpowering moment of madness or a flush of adrenaline or enthusiasm some decide to jump. There are no false starts called in this race, as one or more moves, then the avalanche has started, crocodiles in the water take their required quota, many animals are hurt and lost trying to get across the river. This crossing is the most unforgiving part of the journey. The crocodiles in the water, the predators on the river banks and the treacherous currents all take their toll. Annually it’s estimated that 200,000 animals are lost. Their demise on the journey is not in vain, the corpses contribute to the rivers ecosystem by adding 1,000 tons of biomass to feed the Serengeti Plains. 

The temperature and climate dictate the movement in different areas, hence the reason why the migration happens throughout the year. These animals complement each other on their journey, some animals are not capable of digesting the various grasses along the trail, so with the different taste buds, nothing goes to waste. This is particularly true of the wildebeests and zebras. With this volume of animals moving, there are a number of unwanted animals within their midst, they are the predators lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, crocodiles, eagles and vultures. This is nature’s circle of life, only the strong survive. You may witness a kill but you’ll certainly see the new born calves, foals, fawns etc. 

You’ve seen the migration on the discovery channel and TV but being up close and personal is something like watching a video on your hand held phone and then going to a cinema and watching it on Mega Screen. Many people travel for different reasons, it may be for sun, beaches or the fun of seeing someplace. The Great Migration is a destination tour that will have an overwhelming impact on your impression on nature, why the climate needs to be protected, why the Plains of Africa are the most beautiful and enticing destinations for that small group tour that’s not rushed, not invasive to the area. The drivers and guides involved in the promotion of their habitat are interlinked to the region and terrain. Like the rulers of these areas that have gone before them, they are leaving their mark here, declaring that not only are they the Masters of the land, but also its Servant.






America's Rich Musical Tapestry

Entry By: 
Joe F

The USA, a melting pot of music with Country and Western, Gospel, Rock ‘N’ Roll some of the main ingredients. Nashville Tennessee is the home of country music, where you can walk in the footsteps of giants such as Garth Brooks, Chris Young, Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, and so on with other great artists. 

With the avalanche of people that migrated to the US in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from Europe especially English, Scottish and Irish to Massachusetts, Pennsylvanian and New York State, they brought with them their songs and music. These migrants moved down to the Appalachian region, which encroaches on 13 US states. The songs were ballads, telling stories of wars and struggles or of missing home and families. When the country and western music came into being the lyrics now extended to poverty, bereft lovers, tragedies and cowboys singing to their horses while strumming their guitars, a typical artist was Gene Autry, humming “Home on the Range” or Loretta Lynn singing “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Country music tells so many stories of the Wild-West, of young men risking their lives over a woman or a card game. 

Musical halls opened up broadcasting shows on radio, “The Grand Ole Opry” in Nashville, Tennessee was by far to become the most popular. If you were to be invited to perform there, then you have been recognized as a talented artist in the country music world. Rhythm and Blues has its origin in African American music. Bluegrass is intertwined with country, as is Honky-tonk. The Country Music Hall of Fame is a museum with fascinating information on artists, musicians, songwriters and individuals of the music world.

The steel guitar was invented by a teenager Joseph Kekuku from Hawaii in the 1890s. When touring America, his audiences became captivated by the tropical rhythm and beat. His ingenuity resulted in a transformation of country music, making it acceptable to Rock ‘n’ Roll and Blues. 

Wonderful performers like Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline, June Carter Cash, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Pride, John Prime and hundreds more, came on the scene after WWII and their repertoires are still in demand today. Johnny Cash who seems to have been there forever was very popular in the 1960s, then he seemed to have gone off the boil in the early 70s, having had some great hits. A younger guy who was making a name for himself in music and film was Kris Kristofferson. For various reasons he was looking for something different, he and Cash joined up with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. People on the music circuit would have classed the latter three as the elder statesmen of American music. As individuals, their music and performances differed greatly, getting together as a group they were outstanding. Trials and tribulations in their former years have been well documented. With a reference to their vintage and naming themselves “The Highwaymen”, they released four albums as a group and proved to be unique. Cash and Jennings died over twenty years ago, Willie Nelson is still preforming and has appeared with stars like Bono, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, and Julio Iglesias, with a phenomenal rendition of ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before’. Kris Kristofferson has appeared in several movies and has spent three decades performing concerts all over the world. He’s won three Grammy awards. In interviews done by TV talk show hosts with the Highwaymen’s families and friends, it has been agreed that the four men were more friends and colleagues than workers eking out a living. The respect they had for each other and the chemistry that bonded them, was evident in their success.
Memphis Tennessee, what can we think when we hear this city’s name mentioned, it’s home to The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. He was born in Mississippi in 1935, the family moved to Memphis when he was 13 years old. He revolutionized music with his electrifying performances, remember the Film he starred ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and the song of the same name in 1957. After military training he served in Germany from October 1958 to March 1960. Brylcreem was a hair styling product that came on the market in the 1930s, it started a fashion that men couldn’t get enough of and continued until the 1970s. It created that high shine sleek look, that a hurricane wouldn’t move. Elvis mastered it to perfection, and afterwards men would ask the barber for ‘the Elvis cut’ including the long wide side locks. It was fine asking for this if the guy cutting the hair was capable of doing that cut. Elvis purchased Graceland and 14 acres of land in 1957, he expanded the house to a mansion with 23 rooms. After his military service the construction was completed. It was his own home for over 20 years. Since his death in 1977, Graceland has become the Mecca of Memphis for Elvis fans. Worldwide a half a million visitors are welcomed each year. 

The beneficiaries were his father Vernon Presley, his grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley and his only child Lisa Marie. A stipulation in the will granted Vernon to provide funds to other members of the family as he deemed necessary. After the death of Vernon and Minnie, Lisa was the sole heir but the will had a clause that her inheritance was to be held in trust until her twenty-fifth birthday. The trustees were the National Bank of Commerce in Memphis, Priscilla Presley, his former wife who had divorced Elvis in 1973 and was Lisa’s legal guardian. When Lisa’s inheritance became legal she continued to expand the Elvis Presley Trust. With the opening of Graceland in 1982 the facility has grown into the financial icon that it is today. Memphis would have been another city on the USA road map, but for the Elvis Trust. It has become a major employer. The tourism attraction has developed a Museum of American Soul Music, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Beale Street entertainment district, the Presley Automobile and Aircraft Museum, combining these attractions with the International airport, banks, insurance and financial services, transportation, hotels, bars, restaurants, memorabilia stores etc, it’s estimated that the total spend in the Memphis area is $150 million dollars. Taking into consideration that most of the visitors are from out of state or overseas these are new dollars for the area. The employment rate here is such that anyone that wants to work has an opportunity. The educational facilities in the greater Memphis area has 18 public schools over 100 private schools with more than 250,000 students. 

On April 4th 1968 Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a Christian Minister and an American civil rights activist, promoting equal rights for African Americans through nonviolent protests. He was in Memphis in support of the Sanitation Workers Strike and spoke at the Mason Temple, giving his famous ‘Mountaintop’ address, which turned out to be his last, he was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel the following day. The convicted assassin was an escaped convict named James Earl Ray. He managed to get out of Memphis after the shooting, witnesses described a man driving a white Mustang. He drove this to Atlanta. Abandoning the car he took a bus to Detroit on April 6th, then he crossed into Canada by taxi. The FBI had found his rifle and other belongings in Memphis and his fingerprints that were matched to Earl Ray. He fled Canada for London, having gotten a passport in Toronto under the assumed name of Sneyd. His ultimate destination was Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, that had no extradition agreement with the US. The FBI made the connection between Sneyd and Ray. Through Interpol he was arrested in Brussels in June 1968 after being two months on the run. He pleaded guilty to the charges and avoided the death penalty in exchange for 99 years in prison. There have been numerous books written on the assassination of Martin Luther King, with countless conspiracy theories. Whether it was a contract killing or not will never be known from Ray who died in 1998.
Clarksdale, Mississippi the home of the Blues, with legends such as Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke. The Delta Blues Museum brings to life the guys that gave their souls to music, Robert Nighthawk, that fantastic blues guitarist, Charley Patton and Frank Frost musicians that were the embodiment of the Mississippi. Listen to the lyrics of Paul Simon’s song ‘Graceland’ when he describes the Mississippi Delta shining like a National Guitar, imagine the sun reflecting off the waters in the delta. One of the best known actors to have been born in Mississippi is Morgan Freeman he has starred in over 100 movies, remarkable performances that come to mind are ‘The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Glory, and March of the Penguins’, although Freeman is only narrating about the mating rituals of Antarctic penguins, it’s his voice, mixed with humour and humanity that makes it worth watching.
Greenwood, the Cotton capital of Mississippi that served as the shipping point for New Orleans. The city was alive with cotton factories and all the supporting businesses that were associated with them. The Tallahatchie river joins the Yalobusha to form the Yahoo river, Bobbie Gentry sang “Ode to Billie Joe” in her debut single about Billie and his girlfriend throwing something off the Tallahatchie bridge. The B.B.King museum in Indianola, Mississippi tells the story of “The King of the Blues” and his influence on the blues for nearly a half a century to a worldwide audience. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. His legacy makes for great reading, from two marriages which ended in divorce he had no children, yet both wives had children with other partners afterwards. 15 women claimed to have 15 children fathered by King. A huge number of claims for child support were lodged by lawyers keeping the law courts busy and a lot of money being made in the process. Some books have claimed that King could not have fathered any children due to infertility issues. B.B.King died at the age of 87 and his final resting place is in the grounds of the Museum.
Natchez city, Mississippi named after the famous Southeastern Indian Nation Tribe. Their culture is reflected in their dwellings that were made of Clay and Wattles, built in precise rows around common ground, their religious beliefs were centred around the Sun, with fire being central to their existence. As a result of various wars with the French the tribe was decimated and survivors had to move Westwards. While the Civil War had a huge impact in most parts of Mississippi, Natchez was largely undamaged. The Delta Music Museum has a history of Conway Twitty, Gerry Lee Lewis and the other famous legendary artists from the region. 
Lafayette, Louisiana is in the southern part of the state, this is where you can experience Cajun and Creole music with Zydeco added to the mix. When you add a blend of Cajun, Creole, European and Native American to the mix, you have the accordions and washboards giving the unique sound of Zydeco. The dancing is electric, energetic and is as much fun to watch as it is to take part in, it’s all in the footwork. The people in Louisiana originated from Canada, the Acadians were originally from France, Acadia is part of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. After the British and French wars ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 the treaty terms allowed an eighteen months unrestrained emigration. Many Acadians moved to present-day Louisiana, that had been colonized by the French in 1682, others moved to the French Polynesian Islands. Read the book the Acadian Expulsion (the great Upheaval).
The city of New Orleans. The home of Jazz and they do it so well. When I hear of New Orleans, I’m immediately transported back to their celebrations of funerals. The deceased is taken from the church or funeral home. The master of ceremonies leads a slow procession of gallantly dressed band members in Tuxedos, swaying to the sound of a heavy and sad lament for the departed. Sympathizers lining the sidewalks wait in anticipation, the hearse and chief mourners remove themselves to the burial ground, the jazz band breaks out into a crescendo of music, everyone is invited to join in, singing, dancing and that person who brought along an instrument whether he can play it or not, he won’t be noticed in his miming movements, and just maybe he might get in the photographs.

The parades and festivals begin on the Twelfth night, that’s January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany in the Christian calendar, it’s believed that this is the day that the Three Wise Men came to visit the Christ child, who had been born in Bethlehem 12 days earlier, Christmas Day. In the French quarter a parade is held on January 6th to celebrate the patron Saint of France’s day ‘Joan of Ark’ a peasant girl who had led the French army to a momentous victory at Orleans over a British attempt to conquer France in 1429. 

Festivities and parades go on until Shrove, Pancake or Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, marking the 40 days of fasting and penance before Good Friday and the Easter holiday. Mardi Gras is the French for Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, for days prior to Lent, floats are driven through the streets. People parade with bunting, balloons and banners. All types of costumes and masks are acceptable. The amount of luxury cuisine on offer in cafes, bakeries, restaurants not to mention sweet shops is staggering. The famous music halls to go to in the city are, for Jazz The Preservation Hall, Street revelry of all sorts is Bourbon Street, entertainment The Mother-in-Law, Rock- N -Bowl, Frenchmen St, Toulouse Theatre, and a great music venue the Balcony Music Club.



The Islands of Hawaii

Entry By: 
Joe F.

The Hawaiian Islands, situated in the central Pacific Ocean, roughly 3,000 kilometres from San Francisco and 8,480 kilometres from Manila, in the Philippines. These islands are the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions of years ago. 

The result is the formation of hills, mountains or islands as in the case of Hawaii, depending on the pressure of the eruption. These islands were first inhabited in the 900s by the Polynesians, these were settlers coming from another remote group of islands in the South Pacific. These are Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia. The islands existed in splendid isolation for over 500 years. The men were wonderful shipbuilders, navigators and sailors who followed the stars at night, ocean currents and sea birds in daylight, setting out to explore the oceans. The women on the other hand were highly respected and played a significant role in society as healers, priests, and political advisers to the chiefs of the islands. Men and women ate separately and often had no communication for days because of different problems that had to be dealt with. Hawaii is located close to the Tropic of Cancer. There are about 130 islands in total. For generations these people continued to move with their extended families. 

Carrying with them pigs, chickens, some livestock and a wide variety of plants, fruit trees, seeds and vegetables. In preparation for wherever they might reach land. Arriving on the Hawaiian Islands the climate was excellent for growing bananas, coconuts, pineapples, apples, potatoes, and a plethora of trees. The animals and birds thrived on the fertile soil. Culture and traditions of the Polynesian islands were upheld for generations but eventually adventurers started to move in. 

The island of Oahu, or the ‘Gathering Place’ so called because of the diverse people that populated this island from east and west, their cultures and traditions are a joy to observe and discover when you visit. Oahu has become a destination wedding venue. Having the license arranged, ministers or civil administrators booked, one can tie the knot on a beach with a romantic hut on a carpet of white sand, or why not balance yourself on a surfboard while exchanging vows with the celebrant asking you to repeat after me. 

Honolulu is the state capital, the closest city to Pearl Harbour, there’s a fantastic visitors centre here commemorating that fateful day in December 1941 when its Naval Base was targeted by the Japanese. The stories of this surprise attack are superbly illustrated and documented. Plaques and memorials with the names of personnel who lost their lives. This attack marks the date when the USA declared war on Japan bringing America into WWII. 

Hilo, the island that has 140 inches of rain annually. Hiking through 240 kilometres of rainforest with waterfalls cascading down, two active volcanoes, experience tracking on volcanic craters as you go through the Volcanoes National Park. In 2018 Kilauea last erupted, it is the world’s most studied volcano. Insects are plentiful because of the climate, and as an addition to this a variety of birds are plentiful because of the insects. 

Maui, this is without fear of contradiction, the best of the Hawaiian Islands to visit. A crystal clear ocean, beaches with black and white sands, that are a result of volcanic activity. The variety of marine species is delightful, when one is snorkeling the colours are a world of beauty. The cuisine that’s on offer is a gift for the palate.

Kauai, ‘The Garden Isle’, another of the islands that owes its variety of plants, trees and flowers to the rainfalls, most of the island can be described as a rainforest. The dramatic cliffs and mountains are a canvas for Hollywood filmmakers, names like South Pacific, Pirates of the Caribbean, Blue Hawaii, and Jurassic Park, just to mention a few.

The islands of Hawaii were all independent until in 1795, Kamehameha I conquered and unified the entire islands.

Captain James Cook, an English surveyor had led many expeditions to the South Pacific. Having been to Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti, he arrived on the island of O’ahu in Hawaii in January 1778, with two ships, the H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery. He was the first European to have been there. The islanders were fascinated by the iron ships and treated these visitors as some Gods that had arrived among them. Celebrations went on for weeks. Trading was done, with iron and metals being introduced for use as tools, there were goats, pigs and different species of seeds swapped, the natives had plenty of fish and fruit. The Hawaiians would have new items for themselves and in time to come, to trade with future visitors. Captain Cook and his ships sailed away but a tremendous storm did severe damage to the mast of his ship and he had to return to the island. This was a reality shock for the natives, after all the sailors had been treated as Gods yet the elements were able to subdue these deities. As the ships sailed towards the islands trouble began between both parties almost immediately. Captain Cook was armed with a pistol and tried to calm the situation by firing a shot, unfortunately this only increased the tension. The natives overpowered the captain and some of the crew. Captain Cook was killed in 1779 along with a good number of his crew. The ships did make it back to England some months later. Studies have shown that the population of the entire islands would have been half a million people back then. The census of 2019 showed the number is approximately 1.4 million.

The Pioneer Company of American Protestant Missionaries arrived in 1820, the first of such orders to arrive. Examples of Christianity had found their way here since the arrival of various explorers namely James Cook, but now there was a community arriving and intending to stay.

Cattle had been introduced in 1793 by a Californian farmer, the slaughter of livestock was not approved of and so nothing was done with this herd. The Parker Ranch was started in 1809, this guy was a sailor from Massachusetts who, when he arrived, met and married a beautiful Hawaiian princess. They began domesticating cattle and wild horses, the dairy and beef farming became a thriving business, horses were used to cultivate the arable lands and crops were grown. Farm labourers came to Hawaii from Japan, China, and the Philippines. When the Gold Rush began in California in 1849 agricultural products from Hawaii were in high demand, some of the workforce also left in the hope of striking it rich. 

The coffee growing that began in 1813 led to the island of Kona becoming the finest coffee producer in the world. Farmers came to Hawaii and got involved in growing sugar cane, mango-trees, and most importantly of all, pineapples. This fruit was an astronomical success, machines to harvest the crops were purchased and in 1911, Hawaii was producing 80% of the world’s total consumption of pineapples. Due to the growth in production worldwide and competition costs with labour disputes and strikes over wages, the pineapple industry had come to an end by 2006 when the then owners ‘Del Monte’ closed their factories. Some pineapples are still grown locally for the home market. Rice, Macadamia nuts and other fruits are still produced.

The Robinson family purchased the island of Niihau, (no nothing to do with the family featured in the novel of 1812 by Johann Wyss: ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’, this family having been shipwrecked on an island of the coast of Australia had to adapt to island life), that island was New Guinea. The Forbidden Island is strictly private and off limits, it’s used for the preservation of traditional culture and language, the plantation of woodland and taking care of animals that may be in danger of extinction. Some invited guests, geologists and the US Navy Personnel have the right to dock and check on any unwelcome visitors that may have dropped in.

In 1959, Alaska became the 49 State of the USA. This territory had been purchased from Russia in 1867 marking the end of Russia’s efforts of expansion to the Pacific coast of North America. Some months later Hawaii became the 50 state of the US. Hence the term Hawaii 50. The US had annexed Hawaii in 1898 and it was adapted as a territory in 1900. 

The tourism industry is today the largest employer. Accounting for over 20% of the country’s workforce, the service sector, transportation within the country, not to mention airlines and airports staff. The support industries such as the agricultural sector, the construction sector to provide accommodation for visitors, the financial and insurance providers. In 2022 almost 10 million people visited the islands with a total spend of $20 Billion. 

In 2009, Barack Obama, who was born in Honolulu, became the 44th president of the USA. He has the distinction of being the first president of colour in the USA.