Thursday 5 June 2014

Faces of Melanesia

Well it has been a busy first half of 2014...hence the lack of updates here.  So more recently I was on a trip from Auckland to Norfolk Island, then through Vanuatu, the Solomons and some of the outer islands of Papua New Guinea, ending in Cairns.  We left Auckland, after the inauguration of the ship as the MV National Geographic Orion, then spent a day in the Bay of Islands on 22 March, before a day at sea and arrival into Norfolk Island.  The day at sea was a little quiet, but netted within a few minutes in the early morning white-necked petrel, black-winged petrel, Kermadec petrel and red-tailed tropicbird - all within NZ waters!

Norfolk Island was great as usual, with lovely sunny weather and nice to catch up with some of the places I have spent a fair bit of time at over the years.  Got most of the land birds, but didn't see a parakeet.  As we left, we headed around Phillip Island and great to see the revegetation going on there and got great views of boobies, etc.

This was my first visit to Vanuatu, and wow what a place.  Of course with a few birds on the list to see at sea, we spent a lot of time on deck between islands.  Haven't yet really figured out if I saw any Vanuatu petrel, but I know we saw a number of white-naped types in Vanuatu, and I photographed a few, so need to go back through the images.  We had an awesome afternoon on Tanna - what an incredible experience looking down into that volcano!  Also saw land-diving on Pentecoste and wow - that just blew my mind.  We also got quite a few collared petrel, including a good number of magnificent petrel, but unfortunately none super close.  There was a small dark petrel seen and I got photographs, and at one stage it seemed it might be a Fiji petrel, but I need to do some more work on that one also.

Solomons were great - a few nice land birds like buff-headed coucal and midget flowerpecker, and we were so lucky to be in Honiara just a couple of days before the massive storms that really did some damage there.  Really felt for the people of Honiara.

On the way through from the Solomons towards Bougainville and Buka we had sightings of both Heinroth's shearwater and Beck's petrel.  Two mega birds that have been on my 'want to see' list for some time.  Reasonable views of both, but no really decent photos unfortunately.

That storm then built and built behind us as we headed south-west towards Cairns, and eventually formed into Cyclone Ita, which changed plans for us a little and we headed into Cairns a few days early.  Had some nice time around Cairns to get up to some of the rainforest and got reacquainted with a few Aussie birds, before I flew home, leaving Cairns just as the Cyclone hit.  The Cyclone then bounced across the Tasman and ended up making my first week at home, away on holiday, a very very damp one!  Oh well!

Immature masked booby as we approached Norfolk Island

Guess where?

Black-winged petrels were common off Norfolk Island

Wedge-tailed shearwater at sea

Collared petrel between Norfolk and Vanuatu

Providence petrel as we approached Tanna, Vanuatu

Cute little girl taking photos with a cellphone on Tanna

This little guy was happily running along until he looked up and saw me with my big lens...
What the!


The beautiful people of Tanna

The kids are just so friendly and photogenic, beautiful people

The chief on Pentecoste

The group that chanted on the land-divers

The youngest of the group that dived, aged roughly six years old

Jumping from part way up the tower

Sorting out the vines that are tied to the ankles of the jumpers

Chanting and giving encouragement to the jumpers

One of the real showmen who did a dive from most of the way up the tower

Jumping out...

And down...

At the bottom of the jump as the vines arrested his fall

Another jumper...

Clearly a lot of effort and concentration and bracing for the vines to pull tight

Another of the young guys who jumped from near the top, clearly having fun and anticipating the jump

On his way

Not quite the top, but about 22m off the ground...

Too late to pull out...

The top jumper, who wore one of the ships GoPros on his chest...

The GoPro footage is awesome...

Motion blur

Young kids in a canoe off Santa Ana in the Solomon Islands

Ship in the background

During the performance on Santa Ana, all the locals came to watch too and I think had almost as much fun as we did!

I'm guessing that was the father behind...gotta love the T-Shirt!

Very very cute kids

The marauding mud men

Musical instrument of choice...

Why not!

Even the kids gave it a go

Waving and rapping from the bulbous bow

The old World Discoverer at rest in the Solomon Islands

A local fisherman sailing in Papua New Guinea


  1. Awesome photos of the children, Brent, as are those of the divers and support crew on Pentecoste