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Table of contents

Kindly note that the balance due will be invoiced around 5 months before departure for payment not later than days before departure. Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew are not included in the tour price. Gratuities are entirely at your discretion. Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.

Later in the evening, we will set sail and our Western Pacific Odyssey begins. Here we will have our only opportunity during the cruise to observe the near-mythical New Zealand Storm-Petrel, which has recently been re-discovered in these waters after a gap of more than a century! We will also visit some islands in the outer gulf where the uncommon Grey Noddy or Grey Ternlet occurs, and we will have a good chance of finding this uncommon species. We will be passing through some rich waters for seabirds and birding time on deck should be rewarded, with possibilities including Black-winged, Tahiti, Kermadec and White-necked Petrels, as well as some of the species we have seen previously, and as we get towards the island we should begin to see a few more species with a more northerly distribution such as Providence Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Masked Booby the dark-eyed form here is sometimes split-off as Tasman Booby and Common White Tern.


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After three whole days at sea, it will be somewhat of a relief to get off and stretch our legs! Norfolk Island is home to the distinctive endemic Norfolk Island Pine reminiscent of an Araucaria monkey-puzzle tree , though it is four endemic landbirds that will be our main targets. We will visit an area of lush forest to find the rare Norfolk Island Parakeet which can be tricky to find , the recently split Norfolk Island Whistler, Norfolk Island Gerygone and Slender-billed White-eye, though sadly several other endemics are already extinct!

We will also hope to find the colourful and localized Pacific Robin. Later in the day we will explore the island to look at some of the breeding seabirds, which include the attractive Red-tailed Tropicbird, Black Noddy and Common White Tern. We are also likely to find some migrant Pacific Golden Plovers and Wandering Tattlers and other more widespread species we may find here include Nankeen Kestrel, Emerald Dove, Sacred Kingfisher and Silver-eye, as well as a series of introduced species which include California Quail, Red Junglefowl though the birds here resemble domestic chickens , Greylag Goose equally domestic!!

Later in the day we will set sail for New Caledonia, dreaming of more seabirds and Kagus! In this area, on recent WPO voyages, an as yet unidentified storm-petrel has been recorded and we will make an attempt to further document this exciting discovery. Later in the day a pilot will guide us in through the reef that surrounds this part of New Caledonia and we will arrive at the capital, Noumea, situated in the southeast of the island, just before sunset.

Pacific Odyssey

Situated near the western edge of the South Pacific, the island is inhabited by people of Melanesian origin. The moisture-laden southeast trade-winds have swept the island for millions of years, ensuring that many of the valleys and hillsides are draped with lush, tropical rainforest, resulting in an endemic-rich avifauna. Indeed the New Caledonia group has at least 22 endemic species, of which two are feared extinct, but even on this short visit we have a very good chance of seeing many of them, including the spectacular Kagu, the sole member of its family.

The reserve preserves the finest remaining forests in New Caledonia and is home to the incomparable Kagu. The Kagu is an extraordinary bird: like much of the flora and fauna of New Caledonia, it seems to belong to another age, having evolved in isolation during the millions of years since the island broke away from Gondwanaland and drifted eastward into the Pacific Ocean. The Kagu is a little larger than a domestic chicken. It is flightless, the only member of the family Rhynochetidae, and is thought to be most closely related to the rails and cranes, although it superficially resembles a pale night heron.

A puppy-like yelping echoes though the forest as the Kagu gives its far-carrying call. We should happen upon the strange and rare endemic Horned Parakeet, a beautiful parrot with a wispy crest. If we are lucky we will encounter the crow-sized Crow Honeyeater, whose rather dull name belies the beauty of both its melodious song and its striking appearance, complete with large red facial wattles, or the beautiful Cloven-feathered Dove. During quieter periods we can entertain ourselves looking at the superb variety of tropical flying fish many of which are quite colourful that often fly up in front of the vessel!

Scattered in a loose oval to the east of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are a quintessential South Pacific idyll, combining a classic landscape and tourist-free, easy-going island life with exotic endemic birds. The nation is an archipelago of volcanic islands, still largely cloaked in luxuriant rainforest, sweeping down to golden sand beaches and fringing coral reefs. The environment is still remarkably pristine as most Solomon Islanders pursue their traditional life of fishing on the reefs and tending lush gardens hidden in the forest. Few tourists have discovered this Eden, and the Solomon Islanders remain overwhelmingly friendly and generous to visitors whilst retaining much of their cultural heritage.

Difficult to reach and travel around, our opportunity to explore the archipelago by boat, rather than through a complicated series of flights, makes for an interesting and rewarding introduction to the fascinating avifauna of these islands.

The first island we will visit will be Rennell, a World Heritage Site, and we will spend this morning exploring this beautiful island. Australian Ibises are remarkably tame and widespread across the island, behaving almost like farmyard chickens.


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Rennell is actually a raised coral reef, situated far out in the Coral Sea and is very different to most of the other Solomon Islands, which are volcanic in origin and mountainous. Birds are common along the trails through the forest: the Rennell endemics, Rennell Fantail, the beautiful Rennell Shrikebill, Rennell Starling, Rennell White-eye and the weird Bare-eyed White-eye, are generally common and confiding, but the highly distinctive local form of the Golden Whistler a potential split is uncommon and difficult to find.

Other passerines in this forest include three Melanesian endemics: Cardinal Myzomela, Fan-tailed Gerygone the form here perhaps being best treated as a separate species Rennell Gerygone and Melanesian Flycatcher, as well as Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-Shrike and Island Thrush the latter found here at sea-level and resembling a small Common Blackbird.

Other species we may see here include Glossy and Uniform Swiftlets, Moustached Treeswift and Sacred and Collared Kingfishers the latter represented here by a very distinctive subspecies which may deserve specific status , whilst we may also find Brown Goshawk Rennell is the only island in the Solomons where this largely Australian species occurs.

We should also see the spectacular Rennell Flying Fox. Whilst the montane endemics are beyond our reach, we hope to find a good number of lower altitude endemics and specialities. We will also have our first chance of finding the magnificent, and rare, Solomon Sea Eagle. We should see a few seabirds as we go, such as our first Bridled Terns. Now largely ignored and forgotten by the rest of the world, Guadalcanal, like the rest of the Solomons, is a sleepy backwater which receives few visitors from the outside world.

An early start will see us landing on this island where we will concentrate our efforts on the endemic-rich Mount Austen. Late in the morning we will return to the ship and set sail for Kolombangara, further west in the Solomons Archipelago. We will keep a keen eye open for Tropical Shearwater as we go.

Time and logistics require that we ignore the imposing volcano and instead concentrate on the lower areas where our main target will be the Roviana Rail, a species which was only described in but which, with a good deal of luck, for it can be very difficult to find, will emerge onto short grassland. A goose-like honking may reveal a pair of Solomon Sea Eagles sparring high overhead or an individual being mobbed by an Osprey. The endemic Solomon Islands White-eye is also found here and other lowland forest species include Yellow-vented Myzomela and the spectacular White-capped Monarch as well as two rather scarce endemics, White-winged Fantail, Kolombangara Monarch, both of which can be elusive.

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Afterwards we will set sail towards Bougainville, where rare seabirds await! We will spend as much time as possible birding above a deep water canyon on the southwest side of Bougainville and cruising past New Ireland in rich tropical waters which are a very productive area. Although our daylight pelagic watches for birds and mammals will continue, this is often a pretty quiet period and a good time to relax.

As we approach the famous lagoon, we will keep a keen eye out for the uncommon local form of the Tropical Shearwater, before heading to the harbour to complete the necessary customs exercises. Truk Lagoon was the scene of a famous naval-air battle in and the lagoon is littered with the remains of over 60 Japanese ships that were sent to the bottom, as well as numerous aeroplanes. Nowadays the whole area is a paradise for divers, with a worldwide reputation.

His patience and endurance are truly wonderful. Perhaps he will learn, one day, that wars and calamities of nature are not the only occasions when such qualities are needed. As my plane circled over the Markham valley and approached Nadzab Airport it is at the head of the valley, about twenty-five miles from the center of Lae , I got to see where, in the World War II battle for the airstrip, MacArthur had authorized the use of paratroops, who jumped close to the airfield and overran the Japanese garrison that was guarding it.

It was one of the first uses of paratroops in the Pacific war, and MacArthur watched the operation in person from a plane circling above the drop zone. Had I gone into Lae, I am sure that I would have visited the Lae War Cemetery, which is next to the Botanical Gardens, and then tried to track down the schedule for the coastal ferry, M. Chebu, which in my obsession over getting around Papua New Guinea had become something of a great white whale.

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After the MV Rabaul Queen sank in , there was no ferry service between Lae, Rabaul, and Bougainville until a Chinese investment company entered the Chebu into service around I knew that it called at Kimbe and Rabaul, but I never could find out when, despite reading numerous posts to TripAdvisor and the Lonely Planet websites. Such was my obsession with the Chebu that I joined the community of a marine traffic website, which uploaded to my computer in real time the positions of the Chebu.

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Whenever I called up the satellite website, I could see the location of the Chebu around New Britain. Sometimes it was in Rabaul; other times it was at sea near Lae. I kept notes about its positions, but they never allowed me to verify, as Lonely Planet claimed, that the Chebu departed Lae at a. Nor did they ever suggest a stop in Gloucester, which today is no more than a village.

He had been very kind to me, at least in a series of emails, when I was searching for a connection between Lae or Finschhafen just down the coast to Cape Gloucester, across the Vitiaz and Dampier straits. I had thought that perhaps a boat from the yacht club could ferry me across these rough waters better a fishing than a banana boat, in my mind. In his emails, Mr.

Snowball had said he was not aware of any ferries that stopped in Gloucester. Nor did he think I would have much luck finding deck passage on a steamer. The old German trading port is about fifty miles east northeast of Lae, and in September and October Australian forces took the town and nearby Cape Cretin from the Japanese, giving the Americans another forward base from which to stage their attack on Cape Gloucester and its airfield.

Navigation

Some guide books hint that Finschhafen has retained its German accents, although the entries as with my email correspondents are divided on how easy it is to visit the town. Other websites talk of a regular coastal ferry service from Lae to Finschhafen, taking about four to five hours. But I had downloaded messages suggesting that there was no ferry service and that only private banana boats make the coastal run.

In any case, no one indicated that there was a connection between Finschhafen and Cape Gloucester, despite their proximity. I am pretty sure, but was never positive, that my father was among this landing party. They were a good outfit. I have no doubt that medals were given to the First Marines for their presence however briefly at Finschhafen. Some forward elements of the First Marine Division were at Finschhafen during the September fighting, but I do not believe that my father was among them, as his war record indicates that he only made a ten-day stop there, in mid-December, on his way from Goodenough Island to the D-day landings at Cape Gloucester on December 26, For a long time I was unable to find the location of Nascing Alatu.

I even wondered if it might have been Alotau. The stay there was a short one also, for the 1st Marines left Finschafen on Christmas Day , for their December 26 landing on enemy-held Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Within two months of the time he left his home shores, the former draftsman was involved in a battle for an enemy airdrome on an island rarely heard of before.

Finally the pieces of the puzzle that I had been working on for years were falling into place. And if I had had the resources of the U. Before boarding the plane, I had badgered the check-in agent to give me a window seat on the left hand side of the plane. When she asked why, I explained about my father and Cape Gloucester, and she placed me in seat 1A. But even with an unobstructed view to the north, I was not able to see Mt.

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Talawe which dominates the area nor anything about Cape Gloucester, which remained hidden in the mists. I should not have been surprised. Whenever I heard either one tell this story, both of them would laugh. His citation reads:. Disregarding the constant hostile fire, he skillfully directed his assault formations effectively and employed supporting artillery and auxiliary weapons to maintain pace with the main body of troops.

But to hear my father or Hal Jennings tell the story, Reaves was nowhere near the airfield when it was captured. After the airstrip was taken, the job of the Marines was supposed to be over, and the army should have garrisoned the battlefield on West New Britain. For the first few weeks, after the landing, there was heavy fighting around the airfield and inland from Borgen Bay especially around Hill But after that New Britain became a battle of endurance between the Marines and the weather, which consisted of non-stop rain and humidity.