Sydney to Port Angeles
by sea

Neil and Marsha Robin
April 2014
Revised: July 28, 2014

Dravuni Island, Fiji


I have always had a soft spot for the South Pacific.  Over the years, I've made several trips to Tahiti and surrounding islands and got as far as the Cook Islands and The Marquesas in previous excursions.  I've never been to the SW Pacific and it always fascinated me since we hear so little about the area in our northern hemisphere news coverage.  I'm talking about New Caledonia and Vanuatu in particular.  Besides Marsha had never been to the South Seas and this was a good opportunity to take her along.

oceania map

I found this trip via Holland America which services this part of the world and have traveled with them before.  They were relocating the MV Oosterdam from the Southern Hemisphere serving Australia to the Northern covering Alaska for its summer season.  We embarked on the ship at Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia.  It was headed for Seattle and Vancouver B.C. but made a stop at a relatively unknown place, Port Angeles, WA which is our home.  About 4 miles from our front door, no less.  We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to travel on this ship and disembark there.  It was 28 days in length and snaked its way through south sea islands on its way to the U.S. west coast.  See map.

Follows a sampling of our visits to many ports of call.   The video, at the end, is streamed via youtube so compatibility issues should be minimal.  Playing any sound bites with different browsers can be troublesome and you may experience incompatibility there.  This solution seems to work fine with Internet Explorer and Mozilla but may not work with Google Chrome. You'll need a plug-in that plays .WAV files which run in the background with Javascript enabled. Some tablet devices may not support Javascript.  This file was made to be played on a modern PC running updated software.  If you have compatibility problems, let me know and I may be able to help. This page was designed to be optimally displayed on 1200 horizontal pixel resolution screens.

Sydney, Australia

To reach Australia, we flew from the West coast of the US to Sydney on a non-stop from San Francisco.  Taking over 15 hours on a Boeing 777 which only has two engines, the same model as the Malaysian Air flight MH370 which, to date, has never been found.  It certainly crossed my mind that if something mechanical was wrong with this model, could that also be true for our specific airplane?  I'm happy to say that we made it in fine shape and other than a bumpy ride much of the way, we arrived w/o incident.

Sydney is a modern city and progressive.  We had a very pleasant, 3 1/2 day stay there but didn't leave the local area as there was so much to see and do.  We particularly enjoyed meeting the many "Aussies" on the cruise, (estimated 35% of passengers).  They have many unique phrases they use for eveyday activities, foods, and life in general.  I didn't know what vegemite was until they told us. We even tried it... not bad but don't use too much!

Opera house
sink at opera house
Harbor bridge, people on top
Close up of a section of the famous Sydney Opera House
Opera House washroom sink, drains towards the rear wall, novel
Harborview Bridge.  If you look close you can see people nearing the top on the bridge climb.  For $200 you too can do it too!  Also known as the "coathanger" bridge
mossy bldg.
Moss and Ivy apartment building
Taronga Zoo art, Darling Harbor
Modern Art, Darling Harbor
Darling Harbor
Harry's de Wheels
coo coobara
Waterside walk, Darling Harbor
Harry de Wheels, famous curbside eatery that was founded during WW2.  Specialty is "Aussie Pies" and "Mushy Peas"
Wild Kookaburra at Taronga Zoo. Its loud call sounds like echoing human laughter.  Australian nursery rhymes include this bird.
Roo Walaby
Circular Quay
Kangaroo, Taronga Zoo
Wallaby, Taronga Zoo
Circular Quay.  Cruise ship terminal


Whenever I visit the Southern Hemisphere, I try to enjoy viewing the deep sky objects that are not visible in our Northern latitudes.  The nearest star to our sun is in the Alpha Centauri system which is 4.2 light years distant.  It's often suggested that if we ever attempt to travel to a distant star system, it would probably be one of the first on the list of candidates.  It's actually a triple system with the nearest being a brown drawf, Proxima Centauri.  We have determined that it has exo-planets but they don't appear to be in the Goldilocks zone.  Also visible was "Crux" or better known as the Southern Cross.  It was very important for celestial navigation in the south and is found on the Australian Flag.  We had three evenings where we enjoyed viewing these objects but most nights were cloudy.  None were clear enough for deep sky object observation.

New Caledonia

Symbol, New CaledoniaThis collection of islands Northeast of Australia are under the control of France.  We don't hear much about them in the Northern Hemisphere because of their great distance from us and limited trade.  It's a popular vacation spot for Aussie's, Kiwi's and SE Asians.  New Caledonia has been a major source of nickel mining for years and is their chief export.  It has healthy commerce for its population of 250,000; better than most nations of the South Pacific.  The main town, Noumea, is well kept with clean, desirable neighborhoods.  Its sometimes called the "Paris of the South Pacific" with fashion playing a role for the ex-pats from Europe.  The currency is the French Pacific Franc.  Their are 100's of islands but three main ones,  we visited two.

Crow Research

New Caledonia is home to the New Caledonian crow, a bird noted for its tool-making abilities which rival primates.  Several university's, such as the University of Auckland have been studying them.  Marsha had taken an interest in this bird with her Girl Scouts and they researched them before we left on this trip.  While in Noumea, we took a taxi to the local wildlife park which had information and the birds on display These crows are renowned for their extraordinary intelligence and ability to fashion tools, including bending a wire to solve problems and make the most complex tools of any animal yet studied apart from humans.  In this way, they're superior to other primates.

Another bird is the endemic, Kagu, agile and able to run fast, is flightless but able to use its wings to climb branches or glide.

Wildlife signs
French language signage at wildlife center
Flightless Kagu found only in New Caledonia

smart Crow

native trees
big fern
New Caledonian Crow
Lovely tree native to Southern Hemisphere
A small tree fern


Moving on to our next stop in New Caledonia, Easo, Lifou.  This was clearly the most beautiful shallow water lagoon I've ever visited. It took my breath away to look over this magnificent water.  It really does look like this, no photoshop work has been done on this picture.  This island only has a population of 10,500 with 96% being Kanak

Easo, Lifou
Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia.  This is about as close to "heaven" as you can get:

Easo dock

Our ship
Rural countryside on Lifou


Moving on to the Northeast we travel to the island republic of Vanuatu.  It was formerly called the New Hebrides with the name being changed in 1980.  The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of marine molluscs with large diversity including Sea Snakes, Coneshells, and Stonefish which all carry poison fatal to humans.  There are three or possibly four adult saltwater crocodiles living in Vanuatu's mangroves but no current breeding population. It's said the crocodiles reached the northern islands after cyclones, given the their proximity to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea where crocodiles are common.

In 2006 the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth environmentalist group published the "Happy Planet Index" which analysed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint and estimated Vanuatu to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being.

Pentecost Island is famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungee jumping, originating from an age old ritual called Gol or land diving. Between April and June every year, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers (around 20 to 30 meters) with a vine tied to their feet in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest. The ritual is also used to show acceptance into manhood. Land diving was first given international exposure when footage was brought back of the ritual during the 1950s. Queen Elizabeth II visited Pentecost in 1974 and witnessed a land diving ceremony, during which one unfortunate islander died because the jump was performed too early in the year, when the vines were much less elastic than usual. Nowadays, tourists pay large sums of money to witness the ceremony, often during day trips from Port Vila.

The ninth season of the reality TV series Survivor was filmed on Vanuatu, entitled Survivor: Vanuatu—Islands of Fire.

The main port is Port Vila but a fun and interesting day stop was Mystery Island.  No one lives here but its a great place for an afternoon snorkel or just enjoying the tropical beauty.  Its popular with the cruise ships and when one is at anchor nearby, it becomes crowded and the locals from adjacent islands come over to sell their wares and entertain.

mystery isl.
beach mi
cannibal stew
Ship's photo, Neil & Marsha
Afternoon on Mystery Island
Making cannibal soup
Mys island sign
living in the jungle
pineapple tree
Mystery Island
Showing how to construct a jungle food trap, Ekasup Village, Port Vila
Unknown tree species, Mystery Isl.
Native guide music tool

Our guide at Ekasup Village, Port Vila
Home made musical instrument as seen in video, Ekasup Village
Demonstrations by village people


We made three stops in Fiji, on two islands; Viti Levu and Dravuni.

The ZIP line

Marsha and I had never tried a ZIP line before and what better place than flying over the canopy of a tropical rain forest.

marsha ready to zip
Getting ready for "Fiji Zip line"  Great experience through primal jungle
Uprising resort

Kids, Drauvine
Lunch at the Uprising resort, Viti Levu Playing with the kids on Dravuni.  Population is only 150 on less than 1/2 mile2
Arrival in Lautoka, Viti Levu

American Samoa

We visited Pago Pago for a day and unfortunately is was rainy as you will see in the video.

Samoa Chief
Masha coconuts
"Chief" at entertainment center
Graves typically placed along seacoast


Both Marsha and I visited old friends while in the islands.  One side trip was the submarine, "Atlantis" which operates off the coast of Maui.

The Submarine ride

The Atlantis operates out of Lahaina and is an impressive tour to the bottom of the sea.  It typically operates in 135 feet of water and visits a replica of the sailing vessel "Carthaginian" of the 19th century.  This ship sat for many years in Lahaina harbor before they decided to use it as an artificial reef to attract fish. The sub can turn on outside lights which the fish have learned to come in close where customers can see them in natural color.  I'm guessing that a little chum also encourages them in?

Neil & Eran
submarine surfacing

Whitetip shark
Neil & Eran, WH6R, Honolulu. Known each other from Tektronix days
Submarine surfacing off Maui
Whitetip shark near wreck

wreak inside sub

Wreck in 135 feet of water
Inside submarine

Aboard ship

walk for a cure

"Walk for a cure"

bar stools
long hall

Bar stools
800 foot corridor
afternoon at sea
Cruising on a relaxing day at sea

Bottle in the Sea

Sea bottle in N. PacificOn our way to the US West coast, from Hawaii, we passed 35º 30' N, 143º 06' W late one morning and it was time to leave my calling card.  Sea travelers are often fascinated by the notion of throwing a sealed bottle in the sea with a note inside, see sea travelers.  It goes something like this, "return the note as evidence you found it, record location, and you'll be sent a reward".  Rewards are typically a few dollars to several hundred.  I have done this on many sea going trips with most placed in the South Pacific.  None have ever been returned and I'm beginning to doubt that they will in my lifetime.  The question is, will anyone recover this one or any of the previous ones? This last location is roughly half way between Hawaii and the US West Coast.  Currents tend to stagnate there.  By the way, by International Law, its illegal to throw objects in the sea.

A video recap

Rather then include video segments of each port, I decided to bundle them into one longer one.  Click the "run" button below to play an 7 minute summary.   Older operating systems and browsers may have difficulty playing correctly. 
If you have questions about particular ports, I would be happy to answer emails:

play button