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Rabaul Papua New Guinea


Before reaching Rabaul everyone on board had to have their temperature taken to check for viruses - none was found. But then, perhaps some were asymptomatic.


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At the dockside in Rabaul


Those who had booked tours, like us, were told to go to the theatre and wait; and wait; and wait. After a while it was clear that this would run through lunch so I went up to the Lido (self-serve restaurant on deck 9) and hurriedly made sandwiches rushing back in case our group had been called. Back in the theatre we ate them then waited some more. Finally the announcement came.  We couldn't go ashore after all.

Two people had been medivaced from our ship - perhaps we have Covid-19.  We all scoffed at their excessive caution and felt sorry for the locals.


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A day in Rabaul.


All the locals in their vans and taxis and with goods for sale were sent away from this dangerous incubus (or is it incubator) in their midst. And a couple of people were meeting friends here - bad luck.

And we didn't get to see the Japanese tunnels.  Wendy's dad had fought the Japanese in New Britain during World War 2 (see here) so this had been one of the factors in deciding to take this cruise.

Nor did we get to walk across the volcanic ash (that half buried the town in 1994 and again in 2014). But then it wasn't long ago that we did this on the Big Island in Hawaii (see here). So perhaps we can just imagine we did that.

Like Santorini, the bay upon which the town sits is the flooded caldera of a large volcano and a number of the surrounding hills are volcanic vents that from time to time erupt.  But unlike Hawaii it's all quiet on the western front at the moment.


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Rabaul Caldera - top right is the site of the latest eruption


After most of a day was gone, with no alternative to disporting ourselves onboard, we left at a leisurely 16 knots.


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Hong Kong and Shenzhen China






Following our Japan trip in May 2017 we all returned to Hong Kong, after which Craig and Sonia headed home and Wendy and I headed to Shenzhen in China. 

I have mentioned both these locations as a result of previous travels.  They form what is effectively a single conurbation divided by the Hong Kong/Mainland border and this line also divides the population economically and in terms of population density.

These days there is a great deal of two way traffic between the two.  It's very easy if one has the appropriate passes; and just a little less so for foreign tourists like us.  Australians don't need a visa to Hong Kong but do need one to go into China unless flying through and stopping at certain locations for less than 72 hours.  Getting a visa requires a visit to the Chinese consulate at home or sitting around in a reception room on the Hong Kong side of the border, for about an hour in a ticket-queue, waiting for a (less expensive) temporary visa to be issued.

With documents in hand it's no more difficult than walking from one metro platform to the next, a five minute walk, interrupted in this case by queues at the immigration desks.  Both metros are world class and very similar, with the metro on the Chinese side a little more modern. It's also considerably less expensive. From here you can also take a very fast train to Guangzhou (see our recent visit there on this website) and from there to other major cities in China. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The McKie Family








This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing.  Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred.  Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow. 

The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England and my path winds through a time when the gardens there flowered with exotic blooms and their seeds and nectar changed the entire world.  This was the blossoming of the late industrial and early scientific revolution and it flowered most brilliantly in Newcastle.

I've been to trace a couple of lines of ancestry back six generations to around the turn of the 19th century. Six generations ago, around the turn of the century, lived sixty-four individuals who each contributed a little less 1.6% of their genome to me, half of them on my mother's side and half on my father's.  Yet I can't name half a dozen of them.  But I do know one was called McKie.  So, this is about his descendants; and the path they took; and some things a few of them contributed to Newcastle's fortunes; and who they met on the way.

In six generations, unless there is duplication due to copulating cousins, we all have 126 ancestors.  Over half of mine remain obscure to me but I know the majority had one thing in common, they lived in or around Newcastle upon Tyne.  Thus, they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund. So, it's also a tale of one city.

My mother's family is the subject of a separate article on this website. 


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Opinions and Philosophy

A modern fairytale - in a Parallel Universe


I've dusted off this little satirical parable that I wrote in response to the The Garnaut Climate Change Review (2008).  It's not entirely fair but then satire never is.




In a parallel universe, in 1920† Sidney, the place where Sydney is in ours, had need of a harbour crossing.

An engineer, Dr Roadfield, was engaged to look at the practicalities; including the geology and geography and required property resumptions, in the context of contemporary technical options. 

After considering the options he reported that most advanced countries solve the harbour crossing problem with a bridge.  He proposed that they make the decision to have a bridge; call for tenders for an engineering design; raise the finance; and build it.  We'll call it the 'Sidney Harbour Bridge' he said; then less modestly: 'and the new crossing will be called the Roadfield Highway'. 

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