Catch Up

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March 31st 2020
Published: March 31st 2020
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Catch up

As you can see from date I’m a bit behind with blog. Still finding lots to do despite being 20th consecutive day at sea. No excursions to tell you about but our cultural and maritime historical knowledge is getting a massive boost! Hope you find it as interesting as we do. Will update some more in a few days. I am receiving responses from folks replying to the blog, great hearing from you, especially Kathy. Thanks. I go on the internet every 3 days or so, ma have to more as get closer to home to check arrangements. The world situation is totally unbelievable, and we feel so remote from everything. All onboard facing an unknown world when we disembark. We pray you all keep safe, wherever you are.

Day 39

Friday 20th March, 2020

What’s on today? No speakers this morning, or this afternoon, but the film is Strictly Ballroom. Although we’ve both seen it, we’ll enjoy it again. Oh, and there’s a jumble sale in the shop - well, big reductions, £19.99 t-shirts of world cruise now £2.99 for example.

We went to have a look and all I can say is that some of these folks must have an awful lot of grandkids or big kids as they had armfuls of ‘stuff’! There was no children’s gear at all. Roger did find a waterproof that was good value but it was more interesting people watching.

Strictly ballroom was fun and the sun on our balcony in the afternoon was very nice.

One of the Theatre company girls was the evening entertainment singing songs from the 60’s, her renditions of Cilla pretty good in particular.

Day 40 - Saturday 21st March, 2020

Today’s entertainment? John re Papua New Guinea, Further Adventuress in the Jungle and Geoff Peters with Vasco de Gama and the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Then later there’s a Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies and a show this evening by the Ship’s Theatre Group, Mr Tickerton’s Clockwork Circus. A busy day ahead.

John’s talk was titled ‘Patrolling the Jungle, The Hard Slog. There were few roads in the jungle, remembering the island is 5 or 6 times the size of Great Britain. The only way to get around was to walk, fly or jump in a canoe. He was expected to be out on patrol at least 15 days out of each month, his longest patrol lasting 70 days. He had to take everything he may need with him, and would take 20 - 100 carriers to carry the gear. He needed to take provisions, although could occasionally pick up something fresh in the villages. Basic staples were tins of Luncheon Meat, Corned Beef and Sausage and Veg.

Each village had a house for the patrol officer with a little kitchen to one side. Sometimes there would be another little house for his helper/deputy.

They needed to take kerosine lamps and the kerosine. Everything was carried in boxes on poles, made of saplings. The poles were used in the villages to make a stretcher bed, using sails to ties between to lie on.

It could be anything from 6 to 13 hours walk between each village, so you were pretty hot and sweaty by the time you get there and so you’d need a shower, that you would have to take with you. Water would be heated in 5 gallon buckets, poured into a shower bucket with holes that you could open and close.

Although you have images of hacking though a jungle the canopy was quite high and so not much grew on the ground under and tracks between villages were fairly obvious. Sometimes it was even open savannah although here the cunae grass, about 2 or 3 feet high, could be sharp and give a nasty cut.

The carriers came from the villages, so the carriers would only walk half way to the next village where they would wait for that villages carriers to turn up, with hopefully not too long a wait.

Occasionally the only way through the jungle was by canoe along the rivers. The sago palms, for example, were very dense. They had to use canoes, and manpower which was very peaceful and idyllic although you had to look out for crocodiles. Leeches were also a work-place hazard! If there was a river crossing they would sent the dog across first. They could be 300 miles inland up river. Every patrol took a box of 12 SG cartridges as each village had a shotgun. A 12 foot Lang crocodile was shot in one village.

John had pictures of his adventures to go with the narrative and we continued to be spell bound with his adventures.

After lunch Geoff didn’t disappoint with the tales of the Portuguese sailors. He introduced Henry the Navigator, born 1394, the 4th child of King John of Portugal and Philippa, sister of Henry IV of England.

At the age of 21 he was given command of a fleet of ships and went out along the Portuguese coast and n coast of Africa to sort out the pirates that were pillaging their way along these coasts. He beat the pirates and took over their trade! He was responsible for the early development of Portuguese exploration and trade and the exploration of West Africa’s Atlantic coast in the search for new routes. He introduced Navigation schools.

In 1488 Bartolomme Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope into Mosel Bay. He was the first European in S Africa at Kwalhoek. He built a Stone Cross. He found winds off the eastern cape having sailed out to sea,which caught him and sent him East. His vessel had a different kind of sail, a triangular one, which was more easily manageable n the winds. H3 was heading firIndia but his crew refused and he had to turn back. He named the cape Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms), due to the weather he came across there, butKing John II renamed it Cape of Good Hope representing a route to the East. He realised the ships were too small.

Now, Pope Alex 6th didn’t wNt rivalry between the Portuguese and Spanish, the two great powers at the time, and so created the Treaty of Tordecilla which split the seas, to the east he gave to Portugal, to the west Spain. The dividing line went through the west of what is now Brazil, a reason for it being the only country in S America speaking Portuguese.

Along comes Vasco De Gama. In 1497 he sailed from Lisbon with 4 ships and 170 men in the Sao Gabriel, a 27 m carrack. His brother, Paul de Gama was in the Sao Rafael, there was also the Sao Miguel Berrio a slightly smaller carrel, and a stores ship.

They sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean along the African coast, and east and passed where Dias he’d turned round. They landed on a coast they called Natal, as it was Christmas Day 1497, the birth of Christ. They had had bad weather and ended up burning the stores ship after they had redistributed the stores left. They were fishing around Durban when a big storm sent them out to sea and they found themselves on Mozambique on 2 nd March where they stayed until 29th.

Now, many of these lands that were now being discovered by the Europeans were Moslem and tradition was that you should take trade goods with you if you visited. The Europeans were unaware of this, which was the beginning of their problems.

As they were unable to provide gifts they sent the pilots ashore impersonating Moslems. They were trying to get the ruler to provide a guide to India but were kidnapped as they saw through the disguise. Da Gama was not best pleased and so he bombarded to city, pirated supplies and sailed on to Mombasa.

This time the sultan gave them a good welcome, they went ashore, but emissaries were tortured and boiled in oil, as the sultan had heard about Mozambique. Da Gama bombarded Mombasa.

He sailed on to Calicut, in India where he arrived on the 20th May, 1498. The Zamora of Calicut welcomed them with a grand procession and they tried to trade with trivial goods,( cloaks, hats, sugar, oil, honey) but there was hostility from the Moslem merchants. They wanted to charge customs duty, the Portuguese wanted to have exclusive trade rights for the spices, but it was refused.

They kidnapped some fishermen to help them pilot away, but the fishermen said not to leave because of the monsoon winds. It had taken them 23 days to get to Calicut but 132 days to return. They landed at Malindi on 7th January 1499, with 30 crew dead, lots ill, where they built a stone cross. Because of the lack of crew now they burnt the Sao Raphael and sailed on to the Azores with only 2 ships.

Vasco left his brother in the Azores under the care of the nuns as he was so ill, where he later died. ( we saw his statue there 2 years ago!)

On the 29th August 1499 they returned to Lisbon and were initially acclaimed as heroes, although having set out with 4 ships and 170 men only 2 ships and 44 men returned. Later it was felt the mission was a failure as they had failed to to secure a treaty for the spices.

Spices were more valuable than gold, pepper was priced per unit( can’t remember what it was,) 4.64 ducats in Calicut, in Venice, 56 ducats and in Lisbon 180 ducats, 17x its original value

In 1500 Pedro Alvarez Cabral set out to make a treaty wit the Zamorin of Calaicut. He took 13 ships, 1500 men, valuable gifts, and Christian missionaries.

On the way he bumped into Brazil where he was east of the line of Tordesillas, and on 26 th April 1500 on Easter Day held the first Christian Mass. Cabral set out east but rounding Cape of Good Hope lost 6 ships. Word was sent back to King Manuel 1 st.

On 13th September 1500 Cabral arrived in Calicut and signed a treaty with the new Zamorin of Calicut. He set us a trading factory on the docks, but within 2 months there was conflict as the Arab merchants were better treated than the Portuguese. Cabral was not happy, and the outcome was that Cabral completely ran amok, raiding a Muslim ship, raided and burnt 10 Arab ships, killed 70 in the port and bombarded the city of Calicut, then sailed back to Portugal. His mission was seen as a failure there.

On 12th February 1502 Vasco Da Gama set of with the 4th Indian armada of 20 ships and 800 men around the Cape of Good Hope on a military mission to the east to get Calicut etc, to submit to Portugal. Basically he now ran amok in the Indian Ocean, killing Muslims, pilgrims, attacking Calicut, and then established a base at Colchis, near Calicut.

Dante Pacheco Pereira who had explored the west coast of Africa was sent to command Cochin. From March to July in 1504 he held the city against the superior forces of Calicut .

He was actually a very clever chap, as he was the first to document the intelligence of chimpanzees, he discovered the relationship between the tides and the moon, and realised the meridian arc. His genius was compared to da Vinci.

The war went on for more than 10 years. In the Battle of Diu 3rd February 1509 the Portuguese empire battled against the combined fleet of the Sultan of Gujarat, the Sultan of Egypt, Zamorin of Calicut, and the republic of Venice to take control of the Indian Ocean. This was all to control the spice trade. At one point it seemed that Islam was about to dominate the world, but from now on until WW2 Europeans held dominance over the Asian seas.

Despite all this success Vasco Da Gama for 2 decades was unwelcome in court of King Manuel 1st but eventually he was reinstated and named the Admiral of the Indies, the First Count Vidigueira. He was the first Portuguese count not born of royal blood and was called The Admiral Count.

He was buried in a casket covered in jewels, which Is now in Lisbon. He was called Padrao dos Descombobres, Man of Discoveries. There are operas, coins, stamps with his name, a port city in India, the Vasco Da Gama ridg in Portugal, the 2nd longest bridge in Europe12 and a half miles long and a class of warship.

I hope you found this bit of history as fascinating as we did!

Day 41 - Sunday 22nd March, 2020

Opening the curtains this morning we could see land! We were parked outside Durban. However news from the captain was the we would have to wait for all our formalities to be completed before we could enter port. He was working on it. We had also received a letter the previous eve explaining the new social distancing restrictions that were to be carried out on the ship. No more than 2 to a table on sun decks, sun beds further apart, 2 to a table in bars, spacing in the theatre, keeping at least a metre apart from other passengers, partners excepted, only 4 to a lift. Only 4 to a table of 6 or 8 in dining room. These seemed a little ridiculous after being with each other since leaving Freemantle but I guess he was just following instructions too.

Several activities were suspended, including the bridge groups and ballroom dancing, and the evening theatre presentations were to be reduced.

What’s on today? Morag is talking about the challenges she face in PNG, The Blind Side is the film in the cinema, and a film called Hacker in the Theatre in the evening. We’ll go for the film in the cinema, even though we’ve seen it but give the other a miss. Morag sounds interesting too.

So, Morag’s Cultutal experiences - As John was out on patrol from 15 days at a time Morag needed to find something to do. Although she had no problem with doing her own housework it was not the done thing and they always had at least house staff and a garden boy. When they lived in Saidor on the coast there was a community of perhaps 100 expats and a trade store , but up country in Tari and Komo, although there was a hospital were only 3 houses.

The houses were built in a similar style, with Louvre windows, verandas and huge gardens. It was colder in the highlands than down on the coast. However the furniture was similar, standard government issue, so once curtains and cushion covers etc had been made they were easily transferable.

She needed to be organised with the larder, especially in the highlands and used to bulk buy, often making up orders with the other families for the charter plane to bring in. There were markets in the highlands where she could get local produce, fruit and vegetables she had to learn how to prepare, and the occasional chicken. Her pidgin language skills improved by learning from her mistakes, needing to be very clear in her instructions as they were followed exactly - the house boy did as she told him with the chicken she got, plucked it and put it in the fridge. There was just the small matter of killing it too when she found a shivering live chicken in the fridge, which she just assumed he would do!

Her dad had died and she invited her mum to come out to stay with them.....she was on the next plane, practically, and stayed for the next 25 years! However mum was really helpful and helped make a vegetable garden, and then was a fount of knowledge to make the pickles chutney etc from all the produce. As mum had also run a B & B for many years she was also helpful in catering for unexpected guests, for example film crews, the Governor General or the British High Commissioner and his wife who would occasionally arrive to stay.

At one point there was a 3 month stint of catering for an oil company. When she lived at the coast she could order meat in but up country she used to get together with other families and they would have a cattle killed and then divide the meat between them, learning how to butcher the beach and what all the different cuts were.

She worked in the station office at times doing secretarial work, such as recording the weather (having to learn the cloud formations etc,) assisting with census analysis, administration work typing, looking after the bank/ PO and send records back to Port Moresby.

In her free time there was mini golf, in the garden!, movies which they would order in, reel to reel, tennis, and she would also work with local women with handicrafts. She learned to make string out of billum, and use this to learn macramé.

When she became pregnant she had to go to Mendi to the hospital for checkups and when she had her baby she was delivered by a doctor of tropical medicine and a trainee nurse who only knew how to do blood pressure! ( instead of going back to the mainland like most expats!).the billum string bags she had learned to make with her macramé skills came in useful for weighing the children, as she joined in the local clinics with the women of the villages, who came to weigh not only their babies but also their pigs in the billum bags!

When they eventually moved from PNG they went to the Northern Territory where they were working with the aboriginal communities and their 2 boys became part of the tribe.

We did enjoy the film again, about a young black teenager who was ‘adopted’ by a white family who was an amazing American football player. Worth seeing if you haven’t already.

We were still at anchor outside Durban with no news about entry.

Day 42 - Monday 23 rd March, 2020

Social distancing in place, reinforced and reminded by the captain in his morning address, who said still waiting to hear from port authorities. During the day he informed us that a helicopter would be bringing a medic out to check the people who were in sick bay, the captain happy we have no infections onboard. He was winched down complete in his protective clothing and then left again after checks. We were informed all was fine, but we were still held up here. Captain began to sound more and more exasperated every time he spoke. He wasn’t happy about sitting at anchor and so going to take the ship to sea for awhile. He thought we had completed all checks necessary and we were just being kept hanging around.

What did we do today? John and more PNG stories this morning, and Geoff with another explorer, Lapérouse this afternoon. This evening the Ship’s Theatre Company has a show, Magic Moments about Burt Bacharach songs. Sounds promising.

Vibrant Traditions in PNG

Very special Headdresses could be 20 ft tall and decorated with all manner of things. Eg., shells, feathers, beatlenuts seeds dogs feet, chicken feathers, birds paradise, carvings, phallic symbols

The dancing was a secret, men’s business except for visiting white women who might be allowed in to hut to see preparations.

Guys had to leap over women prostrate in front of him

Bamboo flutes controlled air pressure and had just 3 notes.

Ceremony something like harvest festival going on for years,, a hut would be full of local fruit and veg. There were 850 diff tribes, and they would all have different masks, etc.

One decoration was tiny shells. To get these the locals would cut a branch off a palm tree, attach a rope and a stone to it and take it out into sea in the lagoon. He would drop the stone to anchor the branch. After a while the tiny shellfish would come and attach themselves to leaves on branch moored out at sea. In time they would come and collect branch, take it back to village, have a super cook up of a shellfish supper and have new shells for their masks.

Dogs teeth decorations? There was a trade in dogs teeth for cowrie shells between highlands and coastal tribes. There was a 20x more population highlands of dogs than there were at the coast.

The tribes had no writing and had to pass on information somehow over their 70,000 years of existence. This would be done visually with their traditions. One example - Normally only the women would wear a grass skirt.

The number of layers on the skirt would indicate the number of children.

Headdresses change from tribe to tribe. A woman will marry out to another tribe, take a bit of her culture, add to new family.

In the old German area, locals copied feathers in hats German officers. There were similarities in the headdresses around the area.

A most well known headdress was the Huli wig man. Normally 8 to 10 in a group but more sometimes. They had yellow faces and would often greet visitors arriving at the coast. The dance was to jump up and down in time to the beat of the drums.

The feathers in the headdresses are the most spectacular parts very often. The are birds of paradise feathers, eg. Ribbon tail, yellow, lesser tail, Sickle bill, Lesser b of p., King of saxony. John showed us videos of the birds and their courtship rituals and their displays, and then the ‘dances’ of the tribes rituals were just about identical, the bobbing up and down, or throwing the head back, etc. All the birds and creatures that were found on the island would find parts of their plumage, fur, skin, etc used in the headdresses.

Geoff’s offering today was Jean-Francois La Pérouse, The Man, The Mission, Hero of France. It was as interesting as usual, I’ve found I’ve got 8 pages of notes! Wo was he? In Geoff’s opinion the most famous of all Pacific explorers, more than Cook in all his voyages.

He was born on 23 rd August, 1741 and at the age of 15 in 1756 joined the French Navy. He was involved in the 7 Years War in America, when he was wounded, captured, exchanged and had quite an eventful time.

During the Franco-American alliance in 1778 he was promoted to commodore after defeating and capturing the British frigate HMS Ariel.

He was involved in more sea action in the early 1780s around Hudson Bay and again defeated the British. He was an honourable man and having destroyed the British fort and taken all but one warehouse of goods left for local Indians and trappers to see them through the winter decided to take the British soldiers with him back to Europe or they would starve in the winter conditions.

When he got back he put all the British soldiers on one ship and sent then to England. Of the 500 men he had taken only 60 were fit on the return, 100 having succumbed to scurvy.

He had become a National Hero and Louis XVI wanted him to lead an expedition around the world and follow Cook, with scientists etc.

They knew Cook hadn’t lost any men to scurvy and that the Brits has the best navigational equipment and wanted some. They sent scientists to London to find out about all this and see Sir Joseph Banks, who later went to Australia. The French were gifted a reclining compass due to Banks.

It was a very prominent expedition and everyone wanted to go, including a very clever Second lieutenant Bonaparte who was a very capable mathematician. He didn’t make it to the journey however.

On August 1st 1785 La Boussole and L’Astrolobe sailed from Brest with a total of 220 men including 10 scientists. They sailed across the Atlantic, down to Rio and then around S America as far as Chile. They went to Easter island and measured the statues, noting the population there had no trees or much in the way to sustain themselves. They stopped in Maui, Hawaii, the first Europeans to go there, on May 29th, 1786. They sailed up to Alaska, looking for a NW passage , traded with the Indians there, giving them useful things like blades in exchange for pelts. Unfortunately 2 longboats were lost in exploration here with their crews of 22, amounting to 10% of his men.

He continued on to Macau and Hong n along the coast o Thailand and then to Vladivostok in Russia, naming the LaPereuse Straights. There he despatched one officer overland back to France with everything he had found so far. He had had orders from France to go and find out about the penal settlement in NSW. So off he went to Botany Bay, where he arrived on 26th January 1788, now celebrated as Australia Day.

Britain’s 1st Fleet had arrived only 2 days before, not liked the look of Botany Bay much and had set up camp at Port Jackson.. LaPereuse got on well with the Brits and met and ate with them often. He sent letters, etc., back to France via the British ships that departed.

He departed himself on 10 th March 1788/ July 1789 and that was the last anyone heard of him or his crew.

The officer LaPereuse had sent via land took a year to get back and was surprised to find that his captain had not returned.

There were several theories as to what could have happened to him

( My notes are a bit sketchy now as Geoff was talking so fast! He mentioned the following, can’t remember the link unless it was Vanikoro!)

In 1791, 3 years later HMS Pandora with Cpt Edward Edwards was sent to pick up Fletcher ( of the Bounty) and he arrested the 14 men he found although only 10 had been mutineers. They were imprisoned in an iron cage18 x 11 feet. Sailing past Vanikoro of the South Solomon Islands they saw smoke signals but didn’t stop. Later the ship hit part of the Great Barrier Reef in August 1791 and 35 men lost their lives, those in the age couldn’t get out. 134 men had set out, only 78 survived.

In September 1791Rear Admiral Brun sent d ‘Entrecasteau, La Recherch and L’Espérance to look for Pereuse and flow the reverse path.

In May 1793 they passed by Vanikoro and saw smoke signals but decided not to stop and went in to the Santa Cruz Islands SE of the Solomon Islands 2 weeks later because the Admiral had scurvy. They might have gone back but there was almost mutiny with the sailors and so they carried on to Batavia.

In 1826 Captain Peter Dillon in Nelson was involved in the Sri Lanka and Fuji sandalwood conflict and 13 years later in 1826 he captained a vessel to go to Tikopia, not far to the south of Vanikoro where he found locals had items of French manufacture they said they had found 30 years before. One survivor was mentioned, on Tikopia, and Dillon was proclaimed a hero, but I must research the details I missed. It’s frustrating to not get it right!

Day 42 - Tuesday 24th March, 2020

Next blog!


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