Category: Travel


Rockingham Penguin Island

I’m proud to be able to boast that our little city of Rockingham, Western Australia, is home to a race of adorable tiny little creatures. These are the Little Penguins, so-called for their small stature.

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The Little Penguin, or Fairy Penguin (I love that name!), is the world’s smallest species of penguins. They stand little more than a foot high. End to end, one would fit nicely from the crook of your elbow to your fingertips, that’s how tiny they are. They can be found along the coastlines of southern Australia. In New Zealand they are called Blue Penguins. Rockingham, Western Australia is about the furthest north these little critters go, and we are all the better for that. Penguin Island hosts the largest colony of Little Penguins in Western Australia.

image View showing Penguin Island in the forefront, and the Rockingham mainland in the background.

imageShowing Penguin Island and behind it, Seal Island. The large island with a causeway is Garden Island, Western Australia’s largest Naval base.

Penguin Island is called that because…well, obviously because it’s where the colony of penguins live. But not just penguins call the island home – on Penguin Island itself, and on its neighbouring islands are large colonies of pelicans, seagulls and seals. You can take a tour in a glassbottomed boat further out to sea and see playful dolphins, and even swim with them. On Penguin Island there are several nature walks (watch out for raucous seagulls guarding their nests, eggs and young!), a picnic area (bring your own food and drink), caves you can explore, even the occasional basking sealion on the beach!

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For both the ferry to Penguin Island and dolphin tours around the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park area, Rockingham Wild Encounters is the sole operator.

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There is a tidal bar or sandbar from Rockingham across to Penguin Island, and people were allowed to walk across until recently…the sandbar unfortunately does not go out in a straight line, like a bridge, but curves and zig-zags underwater, and is extremely difficult to see underfoot when the tide is rising or in strong winds. Step off the sandbar and you would plunge into the sea, or worse, be swept by strong currents onto jagged rocks.

I recall reading about an unfortunate family from India who had just had a picnic on Penguin Island on 28th December 2010. They, along with around 10 other tourists, had either missed the ferry or wanted to experience walking on the sandbar. The tide started coming in, so they quickened their pace to get back to the Rockingham shore. Unfortunately, the 2 Indian wives were swept off the sand bar into the sea, and their husbands jumped in to save them. The women and other tourists were subsequently rescued, but the men drowned. These days, there is a huge sign on the beach strongly discouraging anyone from using the sand bar.

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So, please, if you are planning to visit Penguin Island, do it safely. Take the ferry. The cost of it covers you to and from the island, and you can also combine it with the cost of the Penguin Island Discovery Centre Show aka feeding time for the Little Penguins. You can see them up close and learn about their habits, watch them swim, play and eat. They really are the sweetest little things.

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Penguin Island is closed to the public during the penguins’ winter nesting period, from June til mid-September each year. But the wildlife cruises are still operational all year round. During the breeding season, there are up to 1000 pairs of Little Penguins on or around Penguin Island. The penguins that you see on show are either orphaned or rejected and rescued and are now permanent residents of the Centre, or those found injured and nursed back to health.

Where I live, each morning at sunrise, large flocks of wild birds fly over my house: seagulls, pelicans, cockatoos of all colours – white, pink and white, green, black. The cacophony is unbelievable and enough to wake the dead! And the same happens at sunset each day. I absolutely love it.

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(All photos courtesy of Google images).

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Alexander Semenov is a marine biologist with a wonderful sideline in undersea photography. You may recall recently that I posted up some images of jellyfish in a previous post. Some of those images may well be by Alexander Semenov. This young man is no landlubber, preferring a life on the high seas!

In Alexander’s own words:

In 2007, I graduated from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University in the department of Zoology. I specialized in the study of invertebrate animals, with an emphasis on squid brains. Soon after, I began working at the White Sea Biological Station (WSBS) as a senior laborer. WSBS has a dive station, which is great for all sorts of underwater scientific needs, and after 4 years working there, I became chief of our diving team. I now organize all WSBS underwater projects and dive by myself with a great pleasure and always with a camera.

When I first began to experiment with sea life photography I tried shooting small invertebrates for fun with my own old dslr camera and without any professional lights or lenses. I collected the invertebrates under water and then I’ve shot them in the lab. After two or three months of failure after failure I ended up with a few good pictures, which I’ve showed to the crew. It has inspired us to buy a semi-professional camera complete with underwater housing and strobes. Thus I’ve spent the following field season trying to shoot the same creatures, but this time in their environment. It was much more difficult, and I spent another two months without any significant results. But when you’re working at something every day, you inevitably get a lot of experience. Eventually I began to get interesting photos — one or two from each dive. Now after four years of practice I get a few good shots almost every time I dive but I still have a lot of things that need to be mastered in underwater photography.

And the most important thing — I love Sea.

Some images of Alexander’s amazing sea creatures, courtesy of Google Images:

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And here are a couple of photos I found of Alexander Semenov himself, one as he is, and one with his underwater photography and diving gear:

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Alexander Semenov’s underwater photography can also be found on these sites:

https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/a_semenov/

We owe a debt to Alexander and other photographers of his mien, who constantly work tirelessly to bring us images of deep sea creatures that we would otherwise never encounter in our daily lives. Maybe “work” is not the right word for what Alexander does, it is clearly his passion and more a way of life than a hobby.  It is his calling.  He’s one of the lucky ones who actually does what he loves for a living. Thank you, Alexander Semenov!

Postscript: Alexander replied to my email enquiry and provided some further insight to his aspirations. His newest and most ambitious project is Aquatilis, a 3-year expedition on the high seas to capture images of deep sea creatures. This will be an epic, scientifically important project. Please show your support if you can!

Aquatilis TV

Aquatilis Indiegogo Crowdfunding

Aquatilis Flickr

You and I
We are like Water and Oil
We meet, we exchange pleasantries
We may even like each other
Or even fall in Love
And delude ourselves into believing
That our Souls may co-mingle

But in truth
We are like Water and Oil
We are two Oceans
Two Seas
Two Rivers
That meet but do not mix

We are too different
We are like Water and Oil
Put us together
Shake us together
- we may give the impression
That we are together
But ultimately
We will go our separate ways

You and I
We are like Water and Oil
The one Ingredient that
Could have forged us together
with strong bonds
- the Emulsifier -
Or call it Love
That is the one thing that we lost
Along the way
- You threw it to the winds on a whim
With someone else

You and I
We are like Water and Oil.

Poem by AlyZen Moonshadow

I was inspired to write this poem by personal circumstances and by these images, which show where bodies of water meet but do not mix. Scroll down to the bottom image for an explanation of this natural phenomenon.

imageRhone River meets Arve River in Geneva, Switzerland.

imageCaribbean Sea meets Atlantic Ocean

imageWhere the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean at Cape Leeuwin, Augusta, Western Australia.

imageJialing meets Yangtze in Chongqing, China

imageThe Rio River meets the Amazon River in Manaus, Brazil

imageGulf of Alaska

And the most famous one, perhaps, of the Gulf of Alaska (the one that went viral):
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I found the following excerpt from this site: http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/7748/is-there-a-place-in-the-world-where-two-oceans-meet-and-they-dont-mix

Kent Smith, a.k.a Flickr user kentsmith9 claims to be the original photographer of this image.

He writes:

I thought this was the most unusual thing I saw on the Alaskan cruise in the water. These two bodies of water were merging in the middle of the Alaskan gulf and there was a foam developing only at their junction.

I thought this was an example of a Halocline described on Wikipedia. A few people have commented that a Halocline is more of a horizontal phenomenon and this is more vertically oriented.

I am pretty confident that what you are seeing is a result of the melting glaciers being composed of fresh water and the ocean has a higher percentage of salt causing the two bodies of water to have different densities and therefore makes it more difficult to mix. I’m told they will eventually mix given enough time.

People have asked me if I just happened to look out over the edge of the ship deck and see this. Actually I had been on the deck for quite some time when I noticed what appeared to be a shadow cast by clouds over the ocean about 5 miles in front of the ship. As we approached the shadow I realized it was something different. I took many shots up to the point I shot this one, but never posted them until a year after this image went viral. I really posted them to convince people I did not Photoshop this image.

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The future is here. The future is now.

http://m.1mpics.com/en/Article/Welcome-to-the-flying-car

The Terrafugia is real. http://www.terrafugia.com

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Watch the Terrafugia Transition in action:
http://youtu.be/KSpvw5PbMj8

Production is not due to start til at least 2015/2016. But remember those little space modules you saw on Star Wars, Star Trek, etc…

imagePhoto from Google images.

…well, there may well be one coming to a store near you sooner than you think!

imageTerrafugia’s TF-XTM is the company’s next project, currently in prototype stage.

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Burning Man

(Excerpt taken from the website of the Burning Man):

What is Burning Man?
Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Burning Man is also an ever-expanding year-round culture based on the Ten Principles.

What Isn’t Burning Man?
Burning Man isn’t your usual festival, with big acts booked to play on massive stages. In fact, it’s more of a city than a festival, wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the event.

This year’s Burning Man is from August 25 – Sept 1, 2014

I came across this video which captures the spirit and principles of Burning Man accurately: it’s by
KQED and it won an Emmy award recently. Here it is:

<a href="http://youtu.be/DHW8zydRV4M“>http://youtu.be/DHW8zydRV4M

I want to be a Flaming Lotus Girl, and I want to go to the Burning Man so badly! But it would cost me thousands of dollars, which I don’t have. It will also be a trip halfway round the world, and I’ll have to get (child+pet+house)sitters in, more expenses I just cannot afford. SIGH. So, I’ll have to contend with living the festival vicariously through videos and photos shared by the lucky, lucky ones who get to go. If you DO go, feel free to post me some photos and I will add them here.

Watching videos of previous Burning Man festivals, out there in the desert with the strange lights, music and people in out-of-this-world costumes doing fantastically weird things, I’m reminded of the time I took my son to Disneyland Paris. One evening, at dusk, there was a musical troupe playing near the spaceship ride. They were dressed in layered burlap, and the instruments they played were modified saxophones or similar. On their heads they wore strange miner’s hardhats with attached (literally) overhead lights that moved as they played. The headgear was strangely reminiscent of angler fish. As it was dusk and the natural light was failing, I didn’t get any decent photos of them. But I remember that experience as if it was yesterday and not 6 years ago; the images are indelibly etched into my mind. It was, to put it simply, a magical experience.

It felt like a scene out of Star Wars, and I was transported to dusty Tatooine amongst its unwashed Jawas and Tusken Raiders. The musicians could have been a cross between the two races.

That is the sort of feeling I believe I would experience at the Burning Man festival.

Burning Man leans strongly on 10 Principles (excerpt taken from this link):

Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regionals Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Participation
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediacy
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Anything goes at Burning Man. I recall Episode 1, Season 7 of my favourite comedy series, Malcolm in the Middle, where the entire family go to the festival in an RV. Each member of the family has their own epiphany whilst there. Malcolm, for one, gets born again…literally passing through an obstacle course simulating the contractions of a womb, complete with pink jelly.

Some Google images of past Burning Man (Men??):

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So, today the Kid and I saddled up our bags and headed up to town (Perth, Western Australia), to abandon some Art.

This is my very 1st foray, by the way.  I chose today as this week and the next, during the school holidays, Perth has an outdoor ice skating rink and a snow dome, and there will be plenty of people around. All the better Not to notice 2 people leaving Art behind here and there.

I’d put the canvasses and cards in IKEA Ziploc bags, in case they weren’t picked up immediately and had to be protected from the elements. It has been very rainy lately, but luckily today was a cool but sunny day. Perfect weather!

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We left one on a bench in Murray Street.
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Hardly a minute later, this guy came along, picked it up, looked around him surreptitiously, read the Art Abandonment tag on the artwork, pocketed it and casually strolled off into a menswear shop.

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Another we left literally at the feet of a sculpture near the museum.

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A woman came along soon after and again, the surreptitious look around, followed by a careful read of the tag, (just making sure it was kosher!), then off she went with it.

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I passed by a really happy looking woman, we exchanged “Good Mornings”, and I explained what Art Abandonment was and gave her one of the artworks. And off she went on her happy way. Another I discretely placed in a baby stroller while no one was looking.

Here are other spots where we abandoned my Art today:

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And, talk about serendipity, we were down to the last artwork and walking up the road to Chinatown, when who should I meet but my own Uncle and Aunt! So, as the Heavens had decreed, I gifted that last piece to them with my blessings. I only see them once a year, so this meeting was not by accident but destined to be.

How did it feel to be abandoning art? My son summed it up very well, by saying it was “Like shoplifting or pickpocketing in reverse”. Yes, it was rather thrilling, wondering if anyone would notice or question our motives. But no one did, so we gleefully scampered away.

Here are some pics from the outdoor ice skating rink:

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Onwards to Art Abandonment Project #2!

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…got your attention, didn’t I? ;)

When I lived in Spain, a few years ago, I fell in love with the “Hand of Fatima” door knockers. This type of door knocker is commonly seen in Portugal too. I believe the origins are Moorish, or Islamic, and adopted by the Catholics in neighbouring countries. With the rise of online sales and auction sites like eBay and Etsy etc, and global delivery becoming the norm, you can pretty much see these hand-type knockers in every corner of the world nowadays. That’s because they are just so darn elegant and pretty.

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I was going to find further information about the “Hand of Fatima” knockers, but then I found someone else who’d already blogged about it. So instead I’ll share this fellow blogger’s post here:

http://wereallmadinhere.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/hand-shaped-door-knockers-a-short-history/

Which, in turn, gives a link to a Turkish photographer with a passion for these knockers:

http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/a8cb3/

Knock yourselves out! (Sorry 😆).

Door knockers, in my opinion, are the thing that creates the first impression in your mind when you see a door. You might notice that the door is shoddy but wow! what a knocker! Or, the door itself might be wonderfully made and designed…but the knocker is commonplace or even lacking altogether. I love ornate door knockers, where you feel like you’re announcing a grand entrance. Even a shabby door can be elevated to achieve a certain romance and mystique, with a fantastic knocker.

Knockers come in all shapes and sizes, as you know (!). Even pop culture has added its mark to door knockers – see the Labyrinth-inspired knocker below. Knockers can be beautiful, whimsical, comical, romantic, inspirational, eccentric, or perhaps just plain bizarre. A bit like people, don’t you think?

Here are some of my favourite knockers that I’ve seen on my Pinterest travels:

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A’Shop (pronounced A la Shop) first came onto my radar via Pinterest. (Many things come to me via Pinterest, it really is the font of all things interesting!). As is the case with all Pinterest pins, it was an image that got my attention first.

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I read that it was not one graffiti artist, but rather a collective of graffiti artists. Intrigued, I looked A’Shop up on good old Google:

A’Shop [À la shop] is an artist-run production company specialized in graffiti murals, street art and urban aesthetics. Our team started during the birth of Montreal’s graffiti scene in the early 90s, with some of our members acting as pioneers of the movement. We decided to officially associate as of 2009 in order to offer the most professional and efficient visual art service in the province. Equipped with 4000 square feet of studio and office space, we offer a wide range of creative resources and solutions, such as large-scale murals, live performances, decor, canvas art and custom design work for both commercial and private clients. Innovative ideas, authentic creations and street credibility are our signature style. We are the reference.

I love the idea of a group of artists getting together to collaborate on a large-scale mural covering an entire wall, rather than doing “their own thing”. The cohesiveness of the design makes the art preservable, you really want to keep it unsullied rather than call in the Graffiti Removals Police. Self-respecting graffiti artists will hopefully honour the sanctity of those walls and refrain from adding their own artwork to it. The completed graffiti artwork doesn’t have “tags” (signatures) of any individual graffiti artist, just a simple “A’Shop CA” signature. I have seen graffiti murals around where I live in Perth, Western Australia, that would have been wonderful if not for being desecrated by ignorant, egoistical hooligans. Some municipal councils here have started paying graffiti artists to decorate walls formally, to deter unsightly graffiti; these are largely successful, but sometimes some idiot with a can of spraypaint just can’t help making his own mark over it. I’ve read of some private homeowners who have commissioned graffiti artists to paint on their outer walls, with the hope it is appreciated as Art and doesn’t get destroyed by someone on an ego trip.

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(Excerpt from the A’Shop website):

When it comes to murals, whether it be large or small scale, nobody does it better than A’shop. We have mastered many styles, from the gritty street aesthetic to beautiful, photorealistic portraits. We are equipped to handle your project like no other company can. We have at our disposal 2000 square feet of studio space, a full graphics team for design and mock-ups, our A’shop van, paint guns, scaffolding, compressors, a complete inventory of the best paint on the market as well as in-depth knowledge regarding permits and municipal procedures across Canada. We provide more than just answers to your questions. We work with you throughout the project, starting from the initial consultation all the way up to documentation of the final product. We can also incorporate a mural into interior design projects or commercial settings.

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(Excerpt from the A’Shop website):

Some things look better framed, but at times you just want to break the boundaries. Our resident artists can paint custom artwork on any surface, from canvas to car, while bringing their unique flavor to each commissioned piece. Our team will assist you throughout your project starting at the initial consultation to the delivery of your personalized masterpiece. Equipped with 2000 square feet of studio space and our own loading dock, we can accommodate all of your project needs no matter the size or quantity. Our in-depth knowledge of paints, stains and finishes will ensure that you get a high quality product no matter what materials you provide us with.

 

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(Excerpt from the A’Shop website):

Family and community values have always been at the core of what we do as artists, and as a company. We now pride ourselves in being able to give opportunities and mentorship to the upcoming artists of the future. It is a privilege for us to pass along our knowledge in workshops aimed at helping youths gain confidence and hone their artistic abilities. We offer guidance for community services and schools looking to develop art programs, as well as participative mural projects that will inspire the whole neighborhood. We also offer unique team building experiences for companies looking to strengthen their troops, and seminars for scholars interested in the cultural history of street art and the graffiti movement.

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A’Shop’s Mission Statement:

At A’shop our goal is not only to provide a sustainable environment for our artists, but also to bring about positive change to our community through art. We seek to educate and uplift through the poetry of paint and we hope to drive a domino effect of change by inspiring the artist that resides in the hearts of every citizen, young or old. By enhancing the value of our urban architecture we aim to improve the cultural standing of our city as well as providing beautiful public art that is accessible for all to enjoy.  

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For more examples of A’Shop’s incredible works of art, and a Who’s Who of the collective, head on over to their website.

https://m.facebook.com/ashopcrew?_rdr

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Every year in March for the last 15 years, Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia, plays host to the “Sculpture by the Sea” exhibition. This is a competition which attracts entries by international artists, with big prizes for the winners. More information about “Sculpture by the Sea” here. I recently wrote about this event in a previous post.

Just a little further south of Perth, not many miles away, in May each year since 2008, the city of Rockingham, Western Australia, hosts its own sculpture exhibition on its foreshore. It’s called “Castaways”, and, as the name suggests, it revolves around the theme of recycling and repurposing of materials. For more information, click this link.

In conjunction with the event, Rockingham City Council also runs a photography contest and a poetry competition – details here.

Castaways may as yet not be as well publicised as its sister event in Cottesloe, but it is rapidly garnering more fans and participants, and each year there are more and more members of the public making the (short) trip down to sleepy Rockingham for the event, which spans 2 weekends.

Here are some photos from this year’s Castaways.

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I for one am very proud to call Rockingham home.

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FSM

Early this morning, my radar picked up an unusual signal. It emanated from a place called the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). What an intriguing, exotic name! (No, NOT the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Why had I never heard of it before?

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Ever since I started my blog a year ago, I’ve been watching my Statistics page and keeping track of where my readers are from. Whenever I see a new country, I make sure to add it to my growing list in my post on Statistics.

As I said, I’d never heard of the Federated States of Micronesia until this morning. Being naturally curious, and the armchair anthropologist that I am, I promptly consulted the almighty Google.

Wow, what an amazing geography, history, people and culture! ❤❤❤
All photos courtesy of Google images.

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The following information has been taken from the official “Visit Micronesia” website: FSM

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Geography

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a grouping of 607 small islands in the Western Pacific about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, lying just above the Equator. Generally speaking, the FSM comprises what is known as the Western and Eastern Caroline Islands.
While the country’s total land area amounts to only 270.8 square miles, it occupies more than one million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, and ranges 1,700 miles from West (Yap) to East (Kosrae) . Each of the four States centers around one or more “high islands,” and all but Kosrae include numerous atolls.
Yap State is made up of 4 large islands, 7 small islands and 134 atolls, with a total land area of 45.6 square miles. Chuuk State has a total land area of 49.2 square miles and includes seven major island groups. Pohnpei State has 133.4 square miles of land area, of which 130 is accounted for by Pohnpei island, the largest in FSM. Kosrae is essentially one high island of 42.3 square miles.
The islands of the FSM are the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago resulting in islands and atolls of incredible variety. Some are tips of mountain peaks thrust above the surface and now surrounded by fringing reefs. Others are atolls — islands that have sunk beneath the surface, leaving a ring of coral barrier reef and tiny island islets encircling a coral and sand lagoon. And, still others, are mixtures of atolls and high rigged islands within a lagoon.

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Climate

The FSM enjoys a tropical climate, with relatively even, warm temperatures throughout the year.
The climate in the FSM averages 80° F year round, with highs in the high 80s and lows in the high 70s. Rainfall is heaviest during the summer months. The rainfall on each island varies, however, so check with the local visitor authority for anticipated dry and wet seasons. Trade winds come mainly from the northeast from December through June. Light tropical clothing is the norm year ’round in the FSM.
Pohnpei reputedly is one of the wettest places on Earth, with some locations on the interior of the island receiving up to 330 inches of rain per year. The trade wind season generally occurs from December to March.

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Language

English is the official language of the government and of commerce.
Eight major indigenous languages spoken: Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaians, Chuukese, Pohnpeians, Kosraeans, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi.
Many elderly people are fluent in Japanese.

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People

The people of the FSM are classified as Micronesians, although some inhabitants of Pohnpei State are of Polynesian origin. They are actually a heterogeneous mixture with different customs and traditions bound together by recent history and common aspiration.
The cultural diversity is typified by the existence of eight major indigenous languages, although English remains the official language of commerce. The cultural similarities are indicated by the importance of traditional extended family and clan systems found on each island.
Each of the State has developed unique cultural characteristics which are important to the potential outsiders especially those interested in visiting or investing in the islands. In Kosrae State, the Congregational Church plays an extremely important role in everyday life while in Chuuk, clan relationships remain an important factor. Yap continues as the most traditional society in the FSM with a strong caste system.
Over the last 15 years Pohnpei has rapidly developed as the most westernized state in the nation. This results in large part because the national government is located here. At the same time, traditional leadership continues to play an important role.
Over much of the last 40 years, the growth rate of population in the FSM has exceeded 3% per annum and the current rate of national increase remains high. However, since the Compact of Free Association was signed out-migration of about 2% of the population occurs each year, effectively lowering the growth rate to about 1%.
The population structure is heavily weighted in favor of the youth, and it is expected that the 15-24 age group will account for 50% of the population increase in this decade.

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Culture

The people of the FSM are culturally and linguistically Micronesian, with a small number of Polynesians living primarily on Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi atolls of Pohnpei State. The influence of European and Japanese contacts is also seen.
It can be said that each of the four States exhibits its own distinct culture and tradition, but there are also common cultural and economic bonds that are centuries old. For example, cultural similarities are evidenced in the importance of the traditional extended family and clan systems found on each island.
Although united as a country, the people are actually a heterogeneous mixture with different customs and traditions bound together by recent history and common aspirations. The cultural diversity is typified by the existence of eight major indigenous languages, and its peoples continue to maintain strong traditions, folklore and legends.
The four states of the FSM are separated by large expanses of water. Prior to Western contact, this isolation led to the development of unique traditions, customs and language on each of the islands.
English is the official language, and there are eight major indigenous languages of the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic family spoken in the FSM: Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Chuukese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean, Nukuoro, and Kapingamarangi.
There is a rich oral history. Part of this history is a unique musical heritage. The traditional music is carried forward from generation to generation, although upon tuning into the local radio station the visitor is far more likely to hear the distinctive sounds of Micronesian pop music, which has also developed its own character from state to state. Influenced obviously by traditional music, the FSM’s pop music also draws from influences as diverse as American country and western, reggae, and modern europop.
The basic subsistence economy is based on cultivation of tree crops (primarily breadfruit, banana, coconut and citrus) and root crops (primarily taro and yam) supplemented by fishing. Small scale agriculture and various traditional fishing practices continue today.
Sharing, communal work, and the offering of tributes to the traditional leaders are fundamental to the subsistence economic system and the culture of the island societies of the FSM. The basic economic unit is the household, which consists primarily of extended families. Larger solitary social groups found on most of the FSM islands are matrilineal clans. Traditional political systems, such as the Nahmwarki Political System on Pohnpei and the Council of Pilung on Yap, continue to play an important role in the lives of the people of the FSM today.

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History

The FSM has a rich history dating back several thousand years. The islands were originally settled by ancient people sailing east from Asia and north from Polynesia. Later discoverers and settlers included the Spanish, Germans, and Japanese and evidence of their former presence is found throughout the islands. Following the trusteeship under U.S. administration after W.W. II, the FSM is now independent and self-governing.
Most linguistic and archaeological evidence indicates that the islands were first discovered and settled between two and three thousand years ago. The first settlers are often described as Austronesian speakers possessing horticultural skills and highly sophisticated maritime knowledge. These first settlers are thought to have migrated eastward from Southeast Asia to Yap. From there, some migrated south to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia, and later to Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.
The oral histories of the Micronesian people indicate close affiliations and interactions in the past among the members of the island societies comprising the present-day FSM. The Lelu ruins in Kosrae (1400 AD) and the Nan Madol ruins of Pohnpei (1000 AD) are impressive reminders of the accomplishments of these early people.
In 1525, Portuguese navigators in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) came upon Yap and Ulithi. Spanish expeditions later made the first European contact with the rest of the Caroline Islands. Spain established its colonial government on Yap and claimed sovereignty over the Caroline Islands until 1899. At that time, Spain withdrew from its Pacific insular areas and sold its interests to Germany, except for Guam which became a U.S. insular area.
German administration encouraged the development of trade and production of copra. In 1914 German administration ended when the Japanese navy took military possession of the Marshall, Caroline and Northern Mariana Islands.
Japan began its formal administration under a League of Nations mandated in 1920. During this period, extensive settlement resulted in a Japanese population of over 100,000 throughout Micronesia. The indigenous population was then about 40,000. Sugar cane, mining, fishing and tropical agriculture became the major industries.
World War II brought an abrupt end to the relative prosperity experienced during Japanese civil administration. By the War’s conclusion, most infrastructure had been laid waste by bombing and the islands and people had been exploited by the Japanese Military to the point of impoverishment.
The United Nations created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) in 1947. Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Kosrae (formerly Kusaie, and at the time a part of Pohnpei), Chuuk (formerly Truk), Yap, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, together constituted the TTPI. The United States accepted the role of Trustee of this, the only United Nations Trusteeship to be designated as a “Security Trusteeship,” whose ultimate disposition was to be determined by the UN Security Council. As Trustee, the U.S. was to “promote the economic advancement and self-sufficiency of the inhabitants.”
The President of the U.S. appointed a High Commissioner of the TTPI, and he, in turn, appointed an administrator for each of the “Districts” mentioned above. The TTPI remained under the civil administration of the U.S. Navy Department until 1951, when authority passed to the Department of the Interior.
On July 12, 1978, following a Constitutional Convention, the people of four of the former Districts of the Trust Territory, Truk (now Chuuk), Yap, Ponape (now Pohnpei) and Kusaie (now Kosrae) voted in a referendum to form a Federation under the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). United Nations observers certified this referendum as a legitimate act of self- determination. Thereby, the people reasserted their inherent sovereignty which had remained dormant but intact, throughout the years of stewardship by the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Upon implementation of the FSM Constitution on May 10, 1979, the former Districts became States of the Federation, and in due course adopted their own State constitutions. Nationwide democratic elections were held to elect officials of the National and four State governments. The Honorable Tosiwo Nakayama, the former President of the Congress of Micronesia, became the first President of the FSM and formed his Cabinet. The new Congress of the FSM convened, elected the Honorable Bethwel Henry as Speaker, and began to enact laws for the new Nation. A judicial system was established pursuant to the National and State constitutions. Thereupon, the United States entered upon a period (1979 86) of orderly transfer of governmental functions consistent with the terms and intent of the UN Trusteeship Agreement.
Upon implementation of the FSM Constitution, the U.S. recognized the establishment of the FSM national and state governments. The FSM, the republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau each negotiated a Compact of Free Association with the United States. The Compact was signed on October 1, 1982 and approved by voters in the FSM in 1983. After approval by the U.S. Congress, the Compact entered into force on November 3, 1986. On September 17, 1991, the FSM became a member of the United Nations.

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So, in a nutshell: A young, independent nation, consisting of hundreds of little and not-so-little islands spread over a million square miles. Influenced by the Spanish, Portuguese, Germans, Japanese and Americans. A thriving indigenous culture, as rich as it is diverse, yet united. A beautiful, rugged country, a magnet for Nature lovers and sun-n-surf thrillseekers.

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According to this travel blog, FSM garnered only 26000 visitors in a 2008 survey. But that’s simply because it’s in the middle of nowhere, literally, (not because of war, political instability or crime). FSM has so much to offer tourists, let’s all tell our family and friends about it, and put it on our bucket list of Must-See Places!

To see all of FSM is a hop, skip and a jump, literally. But oh, it’ll be such fun!! Come on, let’s go!

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(To my reader from FSM, I thank you for visiting my blog and for bringing your beautiful country to my attention. My life has been enriched by your kindness. Kammagar. Kinnisou. Kalangen en Komwi. Menlau. Nga kuna). ❤

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