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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Samoa and Flying to Cairns, Australia
Samoa is the only one night stay on this trip and is essentially a technical stop, meaning that rules governing how long pilots can fly for necessitate that we touch down before heading to Australia. Nonetheless, we did see a few sights here on this very friendly island. By the way, the locals pronuounce the name of their nation as SAM-o-ah, and not sam-O-a.
The Scotish-born author Robert Louise Stevenson spent the last four years of his life here on the island of Upolu. His home is now a museum that is revered by the Samoan people.
The entrance to the property was called the Road of Loving Hearts by Stevenson
Plague at the entrance
Cyclone Evan hit Samoa on December 13, 2012 and caused much damage to the island. Many trees were evidently damaged and visible on our excursion around the island. There were dozens of them on the museum grounds lying prone. Radio Australia had a great summary of the cyclone which can be read here.
The leaves are just starting to grow back now after two months time
Here is the first view of the home called Vailima
A closer look of the house. After Stevenson died at the age of 44 in 1894, a German bought the house (Germany claimed the island until 1914). It then went through a series of owners and was in decline for many years. In the 1990's Rex Maughn of Phoenix, Arizona signed a lease with the Samoan government to refurbish and operate it as a museum and sort of shrine to the Samoan people. (Maughn is the owner of Forever Resorts, a concessionaire in many US national parks).
From the front porch that faces the Pacific
And upstairs in the breezeway. Samoa is a tropical island and has much humidity and heat. But the home has an open design that allows air to circulate freely and seems cool even on a hot day.
Like many historic homes, RLS's wife sold all of the interior furniture when her husband died. So the furnishings for the most part are representations of the period. Reminds me of the Kolb Studio at Grand Canyon as we try to find pieces of original furniture to come back home.
A portrait of Stevenson hangs in the living room. You can read more about him and his life here.
Here is the beach view from in front of our resort. Oh how my wife Helen would love to lay here and read a book!
Swimming pool and ocean all at once
At our farewell lunch we had a fantastic drum and flaming dance show. Here is one of the performers with authentic Polynesian tatoos.
Ready for take-off to Australia! Our jet is chartered from Thomson Airways (the former Britannia Airways), a sister company of TCS & Starquest Expeditions.
The coral lagoon fringing the island of Upolu. Once we were airborne, I gave my third lecture called "Geological Evidence for Past Climate Change". It was very well received!
Five and half hours later we approached the eastern shore of Queensland, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Here are a few cays of the reef.
Our pilots were not satisfied with just a quick flyover, so it was time to do some sightseeing with our Explorer jet. There is a great description of the geology of the reef here.
We circled around for perhaps 30 minutes on this one flying north past Port Douglas on the mainland. The reef lies about 30 miles offshore and we had tremendous views of it. The entire reef is over 1,600 miles long but has numerous opening into it and it is not one solid wall of coral. It is one of the original Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
The east coast of the island continent of Australia looking south
Here is the Lead Captain of our jet, Peter Whittick from Scotland. He along with Captain Ben Lovering and First Officer Shane Jackson are the ones who go out of their way to give up such fantastic sights from the air. They give us great commentary about what we are seeing from the air and how the aircraft works. On take off, they often tell us what they are doing in the cockpit to make the aircraft fly. Captain Whittick and his entire crew are dedicated to making sure that we have the best possible flying experience. My hat is off to all of them - thank you for letting us have such a great ride on the jet!