Thursday, December 18, 2014

Noumea's Rich History

Unfortunately, we have had five straight days of rain with more in the forecast. A couple of days were totally socked in, while the rest have been on and off. Since we are getting cabin fever in the saloon (yes, that is the correct spelling for what you may call a salon) and have done enough Internet and reading for a while, it was time to grab the foulies (jackets only) and head off to explore in between showers.

There are several museums here and they are all very well designed and full of interesting items and information. We started our "museum crawl" at the Musee de la Ville. This is the Noumea City Museum focusing on the history of New Caledonia from 1853-1953. It shows the history of the developing government and setting up of the penal colony. The basement of the building was dedicated to World War I.

A beautiful spiral staircase from the top.

The architectural details of the building were outstanding. There was a beautiful oval opening between the first and second floors. The woodwork was solid and well maintained. I don't think I could have climbed the spiral stairs too often without getting dizzy!

A view from the second floor

Even though we cannot read French, we could listen in
English and follow the graphics to get the history.
Our next stop was at the World War II Museum. Personally, I had not been aware of the role New Caledonia had played in World War II. This museum was an outstanding lesson in history and interactive, as well. It took us several hours to listen to the program, watch the videos and read the many walls of documentation. Most of it was in French so we used the recorded program and the photos to guide us along through this era in history. Dennis' father would have enjoyed this one as he was very involved in WWII and had a collection of memorabilia from his service. My father had been a medic in Europe, mainly in Italy.

This was a major US Navy facility during WWII
The museum is actually in a preserved Quonset hut, but you don't realize it when you are inside or at the contemporary entrance. We were very impressed with the size and number of items in the collection here. Also, the audio commentary was informative. With so much of our WWII history focused on Pearl Harbor, this was a fresh view of the staging in the Pacific.

Our next stop was the Musee Maritime which is a tour through the history of the maritime in New Caledonia. Being an island surrounded by reefs caused many ships to wreck and sink in the area. In addition to the early explorers all trying to find the Southern Continent, ore ships carry natural resources of nickel and other products.

Coke bottles recovered from the land and
sea. Some encrusted with coral. The bottles
have the name of the city or state where they
were produced stamped on the bottom.
Models of early vessels
During the war, there was an active US Naval base here. There was a great amount of ship traffic just bringing supplies to the area. One of the exhibits stated that over 5 billion bottles of Coke a Cola were consumed by the American troops. That must have been the "drug" of choice back then!
New Caledonia had several waves of settlement beginning as far back as 3000 years ago.

A most interesting "navigational chart" made of sticks and
sea shells representing ocean currents and islands.

One of the most interesting items in the exhibit was the "navigational chart" made of sticks and sea shells. The natives recorded the position of islands upon which they landed and marked them with shells. The sticks in the chart represent ocean currents. Amazing! And who says you need all of the electronic equipment!

There are several other museums: coffee, handicrafts, artisans, art to name a few. Hopefully we will have time to see them also. I want to see the native handicrafts.

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