Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Somewhere in the South Pacific

The most remote place on earth is the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.  I've flown over it and traveled to some of its remote islands.  The first adventure was to visit a friend who had signed onto the Peace Corps and was posted Fiji and the Bikini Atoll.  The second was to the Bikini Atoll to return with my Dad 60 years after he had been stationed there as US Navy Corpsman as part of Operation Crossroads--the test of two Atomic bombs. Bikini was the most remote place I've been on earth.  One plane a week that island hopped from a series of other remote islands.  The remoteness felt like a physical presence hanging over your shoulder.  Here's my short collection on the Pacific Ocean. 

1.  A Pattern of Islands, Arthur Grimble (1952).   Grimble started his career as an official in the British Colonial Service posted to small British possessions in the Pacific.  He collected his stories of life among local fisherman, tribal chiefs, and tribal groups on the Gilbert and Ellis Islands between the world wars.  Bought used at the State Department books store.


2.  The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equitorial Pacific, J. Maarten Troost (2004).    Troost was a restless academic who went looking for paradise on the South Pacific island of Tarawa.  His story becomes one of finding anti-paradise aggravated by  a series of mishaps.  Bought new on Amazon.


3.  Dark Islands, John W. Vondercook (1937).  Vandercook seeks out the most remote places:  New Guinea, the Soloman Islands and Fiji.  Most fascinating are his encounters with near Stone Age tribes in New Guinea.  Black and white photos.  Inscription: To Mrs. L.A. McCall one of the apolostic christians From Mary and Redd Turner, July 16th, 1944.  (Missionaries?)  Bought used State Department Bookstore.   

4.  Cruise of the Snark, Jack London (1911).  After Jack London achieved success as an author, he used his money to buy a sail boat and set off as an adventurer in the Pacific.  The book contains his illustrations and first-hand accounts of his travels to Hawaii and the Soloman Islands.  Bought used at the State Department Bookstore. 


5.  South Pacific Handbook, David Stanley and Bill Dalton (1980).  A guide book to South Pacific Islands with maps, illustrations and short narratives of each island.  Bought who knows where. 

6.  For the Good of Mankind: A History of the People of Bikini and their Islands, Jack Niedenthal (2001).   Niedenthal was a Peace Corps volunteer to the Marshall Islands.  He tells the history of the Bikinians and how they were removed from the island in advance of Operation Crossroads in 1946.

7.  See also The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling in the Pacific, in the Paul Theroux entry

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