Page 112

Category Archives: Minerva Reefs

No threat from 6.6 earthquake south of Tonga – Matangi Tonga

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Earthquake location near Minerva Reefs in Tonga. 25 February 2017. Source: USGS

An earthquake magnitude 6.6 or 6.9 was felt as a short shake in the Tongan capital at 6:29 am today, February25.

The quake wobbled furniture very briefly in the Matangi Tongaoffice.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center advised that there is no tsunami warning advisory or threat, from the 6.6 earthquake due to the depth at 259 miles. The earthquake was located 439.8 kms south of Nuku’alofa, Tonga at 23.4 south 178.5 west. The area is in Tongan waters near the Minerva Reefs, on the Lau Ridge close to the Tropic ofCapricorn.

Tonga Meteorological Service at 6:46am advised that “Based on information above from the Tonga Geology Seismic Unit and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), this event is unlikely to affectTonga.”

Tonga Met stated that the earthquake was magnitude 6.9 – but appeared to be unsure of thedate:

“Tsunami Advisory: Tsunami No Threat Advice for Tonga No: 1 Issued at 6:46pm on 22 January, 2017 An Earthquake has occurred with these parameters: Origin time: 6:28AM local time on 25 Jan 2017 Coordinates: Lat: 23.38S Lon: 178.63W Depth 436km/266 Miles Magnitude: 6.9 Location: 428KM /266 MILE SOUTHWEST OF NUKUALOFA

The above magnitude is provisional and may be increased or decreased as more seismic data becomesavailable.

Based on information above from the Tonga Geology Seismic Unit and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), this event is unlikely to affectTonga.

This is the final message for this event unless significant changesoccur.

NEOC Status: The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) is not activated. Normal NEOC contact details apply: General Enquiries: (676) 26340 Issued by: Message authorized by the Tonga Meteorological Service General Enquiries: (676) 35355 Duty Officer: SV/ML”

Read more from the original source:

No threat from 6.6 earthquake south of Tonga – Matangi Tonga

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on No threat from 6.6 earthquake south of Tonga – Matangi Tonga

Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:41 am

Republic of Minerva Micronation

Flag

Motto:Land of the Rising Atoll

Minerva Reefs

President

Declared

The Minerva Reefs (Tongan: Ongo Teleki), briefly de facto independent in 1972 as the Republic of Minerva, are a group of two submerged atolls located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and Tonga. The reefs were named after the whaleship Minerva, wrecked on what became known as South Minerva after setting out from Sydney in 1829. Many other ships would follow, for example the Strathcona, which was sailing north soon after completion in Auckland in 1914. In both cases most of the crew saved themselves in whaleboats or rafts and reached the Lau Islands in Fiji. Of some other ships, however, no survivors are known.

It is not known when the reefs were first discovered but had been marked on charts as “Nicholson’s Shoal” since the late 1820s. Capt H. M. Denham of the HMS Herald surveyed the reefs in 1854 and renamed them after the Australian whaler Minerva which collided with South Minerva Reef on 9 September 1829.[1]

The Republic of Minerva was a micronation consisting of the Minerva Reefs. It was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation on the reclaimed land of an artificial island in 1972. The architect was Las Vegas real estate millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver, who went on to other similar attempts in the following decade. Lithuanian-born Oliver formed a syndicate, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which allegedly had some $100,000,000 for the project and had offices in New York City and London. They anticipated a libertarian society with “no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism.” In addition to tourism and fishing, the economy of the new nation would include light industry and other commerce. According to Glen Raphael, “The chief reason that the Minerva project failed was that the libertarians who were involved did not want to fight for their territory.”[2] According to Reason, Minerva has been “more or less reclaimed by the sea”.[3]

In 1971, barges loaded with sand arrived from Australia, bringing the reef level above the water and allowing construction of a small tower and flag. The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence on 19 January 1972, in letters to neighboring countries and even created their own currency. In February 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva.

The declaration of independence, however, was greeted with great suspicion by other countries in the area. A conference of the neighboring states (Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, and territory of Cook Islands) met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs and the rest of the states recognized its claim.

On 15 June 1972, the following proclamation was published in a Tongan government gazette:

PROCLAMATION

A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim the following day. It reached North Minerva on 18 June 1972. The Flag of the Tonga was raised on 19 June 1972 on North Minerva and on South Minerva on 21 June 1972.[4]

Tongas claim was recognized by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972. Meanwhile, Provisional President Davis was fired by founder Michael Oliver and the project collapsed in confusion. Nevertheless, Minerva was referred to in O. T. Nelson’s post-apocalyptic children’s novel The Girl Who Owned a City, published in 1975, as an example of an invented utopia that the book’s protagonists could try to emulate.

In 1982, a group of Americans led again by Morris C. Bud Davis tried to occupy the reefs, but were forced off by Tongan troops after three weeks. In recent years several groups have allegedly sought to re-establish Minerva. No known claimant group since 1982 has made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs.[citation needed]

In 2005, Fiji made it clear that they did not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga to the Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOS agreements. In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning Tonga’s maritime waters claims surrounding Minerva. Tonga lodged a counter claim, and the Principality of Minerva micronation claimed to have lodged a counter claim. In 2010 the Fijian Navy destroyed navigation lights at the entrance to the lagoon. In late May 2011, they again destroyed navigational equipment installed by Tongans. In early June 2011, two Royal Tongan Navy ships were sent to the reef to replace the equipment, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. Fijian Navy ships in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached.[5][6]

In an effort to settle the dispute, the government of Tonga revealed a proposal in early July 2014 to give the Minerva Reefs to Fiji in exchange for the Lau Group of islands.[7] In a statement to the Tonga Daily News, Lands Minister Lord Maafu Tukuiaulahi announced that he would make the proposal to Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Some Tongans have Lauan ancestors and many Lauans have Tongan ancestors; Tonga’s Lands Minister is named after Enele Ma’afu, the Tongan Prince who originally claimed parts of Lau for Tonga.[8]

Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi), South Reef diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Terrain: two (atolls) on dormant volcanic seamounts.

Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 kilometres (270mi) southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1,097 metres (1,801 to 3,599ft) below the surface of the sea. North Minerva is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi). There is a small sand bar around the atoll, awash at high tide, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. South Minerva is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Around both reefs are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees.[dubious discuss] Several iron towers and platforms are reported to have stood on the atolls, along with an unused light tower on South Minerva, erected by the Americans during World War II.[citation needed]

Geologically, Minervan Reef is of a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations elevated by now-dormant volcanic activity.

The climate is basically subtropical with a distinct warm period (DecemberApril), during which the temperatures rise above 32C (90F), and a cooler period (MayNovember), with temperatures rarely rising above 27C (80F). The temperature increases from 23C to 27C (74F to 80F), and the annual rainfall is from 170 to 297 centimeters (67117 in.) as one moves from Cardea in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80percent.

Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by private yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji.[9] While waiting for favourable weather for the approximately 800-mile (1,300km) passage to New Zealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming can be enjoyed. North Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tokelau) offers the more protected anchorage, with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offers access to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. South Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tonga) is in shape similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobe partially open to the ocean on the northern side.

The Tuaikaepau (‘Slow But Sure’), a Tongan vessel on its way to New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. This 15-metre (49ft) wooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as the Strathcona. The crew and passengers survived by living in the remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for three months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. Finally Captain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he built a small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft, named Malolelei (‘Good Day’), he and a few of the stronger crew members sailed to Fiji in one week.

Coordinates: 2338S 17854W / 23.633S 178.900W / -23.633; -178.900

See more here:

Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Minerva Reefs – Wikipedia

FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia

Posted: December 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

FijiTonga relations are foreign relations between Fiji and Tonga. These neighbouring countries in the South Pacific have a history of bilateral relations going back several centuries.

Though relations between the two countries had been good since they both became independent in the 1970s, they deteriorated considerably in early 2011.[1]

By the early 13th century, Eastern Fiji(Lau group) was a province of the Tongan empire. The Empire subsequently declined, but Tonga remained an influential neighbour in Fiji affairs. In 1848, Tongan Prince Maafu settled in Lakeba, establishing a new foothold in Eastern Fiji. He was accompanied by Tongan Wesleyan missionaries, who consolidated the earlier introduction of Methodism to Fiji by English Wesleyan missionaries.[2][3] Today, Methodism is the primary religion of indigenous Fijians.[4]

Maafu’s influence in Fiji expanded during the 1850s, threatening Seru Epenisa Cakobau’s attempts to establish himself as king of all Fiji. Ultimately, Maafu and Tonga’s support at the 1855 Battle of Kaba was instrumental in enabling Cakobau to cement his leadership over Fiji, temporarily consolidating the Tongan Prince’s status and role in the country. Tonga’s direct influence faded, however, after Cakobau ceded Fiji to British sovereignty in 1874.[5]

Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama received “cheers and thunderous applause” from the Tongan public when he attended a Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga in October 2007; the crowd’s “enthusiastic reception” of Fiji’s leader was likened to “that accorded to a rock star”[6]Radio Australia noted that he had been “the star of this year’s meeting, for the people of Tonga”,[7] while TVNZ reported that he had been “given a hero’s welcome”.[8]

In terms of inter-governmental relations, Tonga has generally avoided pressuring Fiji’s “interim government” into holding democratic elections. However, Tongan Prime Minister Dr.Feleti Sevele has urged Bainimarama “to produce a credible roadmap to the election according to the Constitution and law of Fiji”.[9]

Tonga’s “soft”[10] approach to Fiji’s unelected government during the regional meeting in October 2007 was in line with the approach chosen by other Pacific Island nations, but contrasted with the much harder stance adopted by Australia and New Zealand.[11] The Tongan government rejected “several […] attempts by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to lobby for Commodore Bainimarama’s exclusion from the meeting”.[12]

In August 2008, Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Sevele said at a Pacific Islands Forum meeting [13]

Unfortunately, the Forums relationship with the interim government of Fiji has now deteriorated from the apparent, promising situation at the Forum last year in Tonga, to one of disappointment and of an uncertain future. As Forum Leaders, we are all extremely disappointed at the interim Prime Ministers decision not to attend this Forum meeting. As Chair of last years Forum Meeting in Tonga and Chair of the last 12 months, let me place on record the fact that the commitments that Commodore Bainimarama made at the Leaders Retreat were not forced on him, as has been claimed. He agreed with and accepted the 7-point communiqu on Fiji, and so told all the Leaders present at the Retreat. Sir Michael Somare and I certainly did not pressure him into making those commitments. We, and all the Leaders, were, and are, keen on helping Fiji move forward, but Fiji has to play its due part. The interim Prime Minister has an obligation to explain in person to the Forum Leaders as to why he could not fulfill those commitments, and we were all looking forward to his doing this at this Forum in Niue. That he chose not to do this is most unfortunate and most disappointing.

In May 2009, however, Sevele questioned the purpose of Fiji’s suspension from the Forum (which had taken place on May 2), and suggested it was “pointless” to “ostracise” Fiji. TVNZ described Tonga’s position as “a crack […] in the hard line being taken against Fiji” by the Forum.[10]

In February 2011, Sevele’s successor, Lord Tuivakan, stated that Australia and New Zealand’s pressure on Fiji was counter-productive, and that the more they “bother[ed]” Bainimarama, the more likely he might be to do the opposite of what they sought. He added: “Maybe just go easy and they will come around. What you need to remember is that it is an opportunity for other countries, maybe China will step in. […] There’s a lot of other countries looking in and Fiji’s said ‘We don’t want Australia, we don’t want New Zealand, these are the people that’s going to help us.'”[14]

In December 2005, Fiji welcomed Tonga’s accession to the World Trade Organisation.[15]

In 2001, the Fijian Government banned the import of mutton flaps from Tonga.[16] The Tongan Ministry of Labour said in response on this issue that “Tongas experience with Fiji is an example of the difficulties encountered by small developing nations in protecting their interests”. The Tongan Ministry said this “illustrates the difficulty and huge onus that the multilateral trading system places on small and vulnerable developing countries, which lack the necessary resources, capital and institutional means to fully implement the WTO agreements.” [17]

In August 2007, the Fijian Government called for a review of the Fiji/Tonga Air Services Agreement to allow for increased capacity on the route from 350 to 1000 passengers in each direction.[18][19] By March 2008, a new aviation agreement had been reached. The Fijian Government said [20]

This has been factored into the agreement reached by the two states in March 2008 to increase the seat capacity from 350 to 1000 per week with no restrictions to aircraft types or frequencies and both countries had agreed to this. This new provision will certainly assist or facilitate the movement of tourist between Tonga and Fiji.

Beginning in late 2010, and escalating in early 2011, diplomatic tensions opposed Fiji and Tonga over two partially simultaneous issues. Though they are presented separately here for clarity, they were being referred to simultaneously by May 2011.

Both Fiji and Tonga lay claim to the Minerva Reefs, which lie between the two countries. Historically, the reefs are said to have lain in the fishing grounds of the people of Ono-i-Lau, in Fiji. In 1972, Tonga annexed the reefs, which had not formally been claimed by any State, but Fiji has not recognised the annexation, and has stated it considers the reefs to lie within its territory. In late 2010, Fiji responded to news that Tonga had begun construction of a lighthouse on one reef, by saying Fiji reserved the right to take any means necessary to preserve its territorial integrity.[21]

In February 2011 the Fiji government said there was “no official dispute” between the two countries on the issue, but that officials from the two sides were discussing the matter of the reefs’ ownership and usage. A Fiji government official added: “The government of Fiji reiterates its position, that as far as its concerned Minerva Reef is a reef. And as such it lies within the economic, exclusive economic zone of Fiji. And the government of Fiji reserves its right within its directory.”[22] Fiji Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Solo Mara clarified that there was no “conflict”, but merely “overlapping claims” on the countries’ maritime boundary, in the context of “claims for an extended continental shelf beyond the 200 mile Exclusive Economy Zone – as provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”. Officials from the two countries would hold discussions to determine their maritime boundary.[23]

In late May 2011, during the tension over the Tevita Mara affair (see below), “Fiji navy vessels visited Minerva and ordered New Zealand bound yachts out of the lagoon. They then destroyed navigation beacons” which had been set up by Tonga. The Tongan government issued a statement in protest.[24] Fijis Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Sila Balawa subsequently told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that Tonga remained “one of Fijis closest friends”, and that, although Fiji clearly owned the reef as it was located within the countrys exclusive economic zone, Fiji hoped the disagreement would be resolved through “peaceful dialogue”.[25]

In early June, two Tongan Navy ships were sent to the Reef to replace navigational beacons destroyed by the Fijians, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. A Fijian Navy ship in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached, leading New Zealand’s One News to comment that a military conflict between the two countries had narrowly been averted.[26][27] A press release from the Tongan government described Fiji’s destruction of Tongan navigational beacons as “an act of vandalism” posing “real danger to international shipping”, adding that Tonga and “the Fijian military junta” could and should resolve their territorial dispute “under International law for the settlement of disputes between civilized societies”.[28] Simultaneously The People’s Daily, citing “Fiji intelligence sources”, reported on June 13 that “three Fijian naval ships” were “on their way to Minerva Reef” to confront the two Tongan navy ships there.[29]

In May 2011, Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Mara, a former Fiji army officer, who had just been charged with plotting an attempt to overthrow Bainimarama, fled Fiji by boat, and was picked up by a Tongan patrol boat and taken to Tonga. The Tongan authorities issued a statement saying they had picked him up after responding to a distress signal, and that in Nuku’alofa “arrangements have been made for his accommodation by the royal household office in deference to his rank”. Bainimarama issued a statement saying the Royal Tongan Navy ship had entered Fijian territorial waters without authorisation to carry out an “illegal extraction” of the wanted man; he added that his government took “strong exception to such breaches of Fiji’s sovereignty”. He announced he would issue a formal protest to Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, and would seek Mara’s extradition back to Fiji to face charges.[30] Tui’vakano replied that Tonga’s independent judiciary would hear Fiji’s case for extradition, without interference from the Tongan government, and added that Tonga had no wish to interfere in Fiji’s domestic affairs.[31]

Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the Tongan opposition, described the entry of a Tongan Navy vessel into Fiji waters to pick up a fugitive as a clear breach of relations between the two countries, but added that it was justifiable on humanitarian grounds.[32]

On May 21, four days after the first reports on the incident, the Tongan government issued a statement saying it had received no request for Mara’s extradition, only a note from the Fijian authorities containing what it called “unsubstantiated assertions” and “a personal statement by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama”.[33] Subsequently, having acknowledged receipt of an extradition request, the Tongan government indicated “it will have to go through the proper channels for legal advice before we can proceed any further”; the authorities would not interfere with the judicial process. In early June, however, the authorities granted Mara Tongan citizenship, along with a passport.[34]

Radio Australia reported that relations between the two countries has “soured dramatically” as a result of the incident.[35]

On June 10 as Tongan Navy vessels moved to occupy the Minerva Reef, an unsigned press statement on the website of the Fiji government denounced “the presence of the Tongan Navy boats within Fijis EEZ at Minerva Reef”, the “issue of Tongan passport” to Mara and “the Tongan Governments inaction on extradition papers”, describing them as “a web of deceit, collusion and a complete lack of disregard [sic] of legal extradition processes”. Blaming Australia and New Zealand, the statement said “the Tongans as seen with their presence at the Minerva Reef will be manipulated through offerings of gifts and aid to try and turn up the ante”, adding: “As far as Fiji is concerned there is no Mara or Tonga/Fiji situation. It is a Rudd and McCully spreading their wings to save face situation”, in reference to Australian and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministers Kevin Rudd and Murray McCully.[36]Stuff.co.nz described the statement as an “unprecedented attack” on New Zealand, Tonga and Australia, remarking: “The statement on the website is so completely out of kilter with previous Fiji Government statements that it raises questions over who now is in control in Suva.”[37]

In late June, the Tongan government formally informed the Fiji government that Tongan law made it impossible to extradite Mara.[38]

Go here to see the original:

FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia

Balvenie: Magical Moments at Minerva Reef.. November 2016

Posted: December 8, 2016 at 5:14 pm

09 19 November 2016: North Minerva Reef ~ 23 37S 178 54W

Our Passage South from Tonga

There was a mass exodus from Big Mamas anchorage off Pangaimotu Island, Tongatapu on this partly cloudy Wednesday morning in November. Several of us had gathered at Big Mamas the previous evening for the last supper (whoops! we were an hour late as we hadnt changed our clocks to Tongan Summer time, didnt seem worth it for 2 days)

The consensus was unchanged Wednesday and Thursday were the best days to sail to Minerva Reef, 270 miles south. The winds would be out of the south-south-east but light, the swell under a metre, the skies partly cloudy, the moon waxing in the final quarter- ah perfect!

When we got up at 7am the first 3 boats had already left and we could see them slipping out of the pass to the east. A couple more left soon after, they exited via the north pass. When we left at 9.30am we had Randivag in front of us and Windance III behind us, we all went out the western pass. Funny how we all have different tactics to get to the same place! 3 more left in the afternoon, the mass exodus was underway.

Day One was somewhat more lively than expected, funny that, we really should know better by now. The winds were 15 18 knots in front of the beam so we sailed as close to the wind as we could without becoming a submarine, the waves crashed over the bow frequently ~ on a positive note the teak deck got a very thorough water blasting, but the clean stainless steel got thoroughly covered in salt yet again!

Day Two conditions were far more favourable, the wind eased to around 12 knots, much more comfortable and lovely sailing on the wind.

North Minerva Gets Invaded

Just after dawn on Day Three we were amongst the leaders in the procession of yachts arriving, not just the 12 we knew about but more floated in directly from Vavau and the Haapai, it was party time in this very remote paradise. The clouds parted, and daylight exposed this mid ocean masterpiece. North Minerva Reef is like a donut with a little piece nibbled out of the west side to allow entry into the inside ring. You can anchor almost anywhere in here but we all headed up to the Northern end for the best protection for the next few days.

Boats just kept arriving, we peaked at 26, one of the busiest anchorages we had been in for a while. The promised weather window to migrate south was still developing and no one wanted to miss out !! Meanwhile the weather was perfect here while we listened to the reports of gales buffeting northern New Zealand and temperatures of 10c in our homeland. No one was in a hurry to leave this last slice of the tropics!

The Water Has Got Cold!

We dinghied in company with Confidence and Gypsy Heart to the reef entry to snorkel the pass. Definitely something to do in company as you dont want to break down out here alone with the closest land 270 miles away! Jumping overboard took our breath away, the water temperature felt freezing initially but it wasnt so bad once we adjusted to it. We saw live colourful coral, thousands of Sergent-Majors, several white tipped sharks, a brown puffer fish (with a happy looking face on top if you look at the photo again) and several dinner sized fish down in the depths.

One afternoon there was a buzz of activity as we were overflown by the New Zealand Air Force Orion. VHF Channel 16 burst into (official) life as we were all asked to provide our boat names for them. They circled a couple of times, were very friendly and professional, wished us all a safe sail then flew off into the sun. It was reassuring to know we were being watched!

Pizza Delivery in Paradise

The days passed by, a couple of boats left but were replaced by late runners from Tonga. There were 7 boats with children onboard so there was a holiday atmosphere as endless activities were planned to keep them all amused. Michelle on Jade risked total chaos in her galley when she had 8 children making pizza dough one afternoon. Early the next evening Pizza on the Reef delivered piping hot pizzas to the yachts that had pre-ordered, unfortunately we had moved anchorage so missed out. All proceeds were donated to a Kiwi Sanctuary in Whangarei, well done to all the budding pizza chefs!

The snorkelling inside the reef edge was very good and walks on the reef were popular at low tide, especially on the eastern and southern reefs which dried completely. The reef was vast, about 400 metres deep and in places flat and even enough to run along or even ride a bike ~ no we didnt take our bikes ashore!

On the seaward side there were hundreds of indentations along the edge, full of hidey holes for dinner sized fish and lobsters. Those with spear guns would catch enough to feed everyone in a matter of minutes, and were happy to share them around. We had a very good diet of fresh fish and lobster during our stay.

We moved around the inside of the reef as the winds changed direction and ended up enjoying 3 anchorages, it was surprising how different the reef was at low tide in the various spots, great to have time to see it all. We even found the sand cay inside the southern curve, you had to be quick though, it only dried for about 2 hours each low tide.

Is It Really Time To Go?

The promised weather window of a big slow moving high continued to develop although shortened slightly by a mild low that was to follow.

The slower boats in the fleet started to eye up a departure a day before the rest of us so they could arrive into Opua in New Zealands Bay of Islands before the low, this meant however that they would leave Minerva and beat into a 20 knot souwester and 3 metre swell for the first day, the remnants of the big low we were waiting to pass ~ yuk. One boat left and soon after there was a steady trickle heading for the pass. Half the fleet did go and reported a bouncy first night and little gain of their distance to Opua. The rest of us enjoyed another peaceful and calm night in our remote Pacific paradise, the last night at anchor on our amazing voyage ~ what a spot to end it all.

All good things do have to come to an end, this was a major ending for us and 3 other kiwi boats though, we were all on the last leg of our circumnavigation of this huge planet.

Next morning we completed our final preparations for our passage home and lifted anchor at 7.30am. We were the second yacht to exit the pass out of North Minerva that morning, by 11.30am the last had left, peace returned to this outstanding tiny speck in the South Pacific.

There Is Nowhere Else To Stop We Are Going Home

Read more from the original source:

Balvenie: Magical Moments at Minerva Reef.. November 2016

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Balvenie: Magical Moments at Minerva Reef.. November 2016

Chesterfield Islands – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: October 17, 2016 at 1:28 am

Chesterfield Islands (les Chesterfield in French) is a French archipelago of New Caledonia located in the Coral Sea, 550km northwest of Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia. The archipelago is 120km long and 70km broad, made up of 11 islets and many reefs. The land area of the islands is less than 10km.[citation needed]

During periods of lowered sea level during the Pleistocene ice ages an island of considerable size (Greater Chesterfield Island) occupied the location of the archipelago.

Bellona Reef, 164km south-southeast of Chesterfield, is geologically separated from the Chesterfield archipelago but commonly included.

The reef complex is named after the ship Chesterfield, commanded by Matthew Bowes Alt, which explored the Coral Sea in the 1790s.[1]

The Chesterfield Islands, sometimes referred to as the Chesterfield Reefs or Chesterfield Group, are the most important of a number of uninhabited coral sand cays. Some are awash and liable to shift with the wind while others are stabilized by the growth of grass, creepers and low trees. The reefs extend from 19 to 22S between 158160E in the southern Coral Sea halfway between Australia and New Caledonia. The Chesterfield Reefs are now part of the territory of New Caledonia while the islands farther west are part of the Australian Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Chesterfield lagoon, located between 1900′ and 2030′ S and 15810′ and 159E covers an area of approximately 3500km2. A barrier reef surrounds the lagoon, interrupted by wide passes except on its eastern side where it is open for over 20 nautical miles (37km). The major part of the lagoon is exposed to trade winds and to the southeastern oceanic swell. The lagoon is relatively deep with a mean depth of 51 m. The depth increases from south to north.[2]

Chesterfield Reefs complex consists of the Bellona Reef complex to the south (South, Middle and Northwest Bellona Reef) and the Bampton Reef complex.

Captain Matthew Boyd of Bellona named the reefs for his ship. He had delivered convicts to New South Wales in 1793 and was on his way to China to pick up a cargo at Canton to take back to Britain for the British East India Company when he passed the reefs in FebruaryMarch 1793.

South Bellona Reef or West Point 2152S 15925E / 21.867S 159.417E / -21.867; 159.417 (Bellona Reefs – West Point), Approximately 3 m tall sand islet. Lieutenant John Lamb, R.N., Commander of the ship Baring, spent three days in the neighborhood of Booby and Bellona Shoals and reefs. Lamb took soundings between nineteen and forty-five fathoms (114270ft), and frequently passed shoals, upon which the sea was breaking. Lamb defined the limits of the rocky ground as the parallels of 2040 and 2150 and the meridians of 15815 and 15930. He also saw a sandy islet, surrounded by a chain of rocks, at 2124 south and 15830 east. The ship Minerva measured the water’s depth as eight fathoms (48ft), with the appearance of shallower water to the southwest; this last danger is in a line between the two shoals at about longitude 15920 east, as described by James Horsburgh.[3]

Observatory Cay 2124S 15851E / 21.400S 158.850E / -21.400; 158.850 (Bellona Reefs – Observatory Cay), 800 m long and 2 m high, lies on the Middle Bellona Reefs at the southern end of the Chesterfield Reefs and 180nm east of Kenn Reef.

The Chesterfield Reefs is a loose collection of elongated reefs that enclose a deep, semi-sheltered, lagoon. The reefs on the west and northwest are known as the Chesterfield Reefs; those on the east and north being the Bampton Reefs. The Chesterfield Reefs form a structure measuring 120km in length (northeast to southwest) and 70km across (east to west).

There are numerous cays occurring amongst the reefs of both the Chesterfield and Bampton Reefs. These include: Loop Islet, Renard Cay, Skeleton Cay, Bennett Island, Passage Islet, Long Island, the Avon Isles, the Anchorage Islets and Bampton Island.

Long Island 1953S 15819E / 19.883S 158.317E / -19.883; 158.317 (Chesterfield Reefs – Long Island), 10nm NW of Loop Islet, is the largest of the Chesterfield Islands, and is 1400 to 1800 m long but no more than 100 m across and 9 m high. In May 1859 Henry Mangles Denham found Long Island was a heap of ‘foraminifera’ densely covered with stunted bushtrees with leaves as large as cabbage plants, spreading 12 feet (3.7 m) and reaching as high, upon trunks 9 inches (23cm) diameter… The trees around the margin of this island were leafless, as if from the seafowl.”[citation needed] Although wooded in the 1850s, it was stripped during guano extraction in the 1870s and was said to be covered in grass with only two coconut trees and some ruins at the south end early in the 20th century. The vegetation was growing again by 1957 when the remaining ruins were confused with those of a temporary automatic meteorological station established in the same area by the Americans between 1944 and 1948. Terry Walker reported that by 1990 there was a ring of low Tournefortia trees growing around the margin, herbs, grass and shrubs in the interior, and still a few exotic species including coconuts.

South of Long Island and Loop Islet there are three small low islets up to 400 m across followed, after a narrow channel, by Passage or Bennett Island, which is 12 m high and was a whaling station in the first half of the 20th century. Several sand cays lie on the reef southeast of the islet.

The two Avon Isles 1932S 15815E / 19.533S 158.250E / -19.533; 158.250 (Avon Isles), some 188 m in diameter and 5 m high to the top of the dense vegetation, are situated 21 n.m. north of Long Island. They were seen by Mr. Sumner, Master of the ship Avon, on 18 September 1823, and are described by him as being three-quarters of a mile in circumference, twenty feet high, and the sea between them twenty fathoms deep. At four miles (7km) northeast by north from them the water was twelve fathoms (72 feet) deep, and at the same time they saw a reef ten or fifteen miles (2030km) to the southeast, with deep water between it and the islets. A boat landed on the south-westernmost islet, and found it inhabited only by birds, but clothed with shrubs and wild grapes. By observation, these islands were found to lie in latitude 19 degrees 40 minutes, and longitude 158 degrees 6 minutes. The Avon Isles are described by Denham in 1859 as densely covered with stunted trees and creeping plants and grass, and… crowded with the like species of birds.”[citation needed]

Renard Island North Bampton Reef 1914S 15858E / 19.233S 158.967E / -19.233; 158.967 (Bampton Reefs – Renard Island), Approximately 6m (20ft) tall sand islet lies 45nmi (83km) northeast of the Avon Isles and is 273m (896ft) long, 180m (590ft) across and also 6m (20ft) high to the top of the bushes.

Southeast Bampton Reef 1908S 15840E / 19.133S 158.667E / -19.133; 158.667 (Southeast Bampton Reef) Sand Cay 5m (16ft) elevation

Loop Islet 1959S 15828E / 19.983S 158.467E / -19.983; 158.467 (Loop Islet), which lies 85nm farther north near the south end of the central islands of Chesterfield Reefs, is a small, flat, bushy islet 3 m high where a permanent automatic weather station was established by the Service Mtorologique de Nouma in October 1968. Terry Walker reported the presence of a grove of Casuarinas in 1990.

Anchorage Islets are a group of islets five nautical miles (9km) north of Loop Islet. The third from the north, about 400 m long and 12 m high, shelters the best anchorage.

Passage (Bonnet) Island reaches a vegetative height of 12 m

Bampton Island 1907S 15836E / 19.117S 158.600E / -19.117; 158.600 (Bampton Island), lies on Bampton Reefs 20nm NW of Renard Island. It is 180 m long, 110 m across and 5 m high. It had trees when discovered in 1793, but has seldom been visited since then except by castaways.

The reefs and islands west of the Chesterfield Islands, the closest being Mellish Reef with Herald’s Beacon Islet at 1725S 15552E / 17.417S 155.867E / -17.417; 155.867 (Herald’s Beacon Islet), at a distance of 180 nm northwest of Bampton Island, belong to the Coral Sea Islands Territory.

Booby Reef in the center of the eastern chain of reefs and islets comprising Chesterfield Reefs appears to have been discovered first by Lt. Henry Lidgbird Ball in HMS Supply on the way from Sydney to Batavia (modern day Jakarta) in 1790. The reefs to the south were found next by Mathew Boyd in the convict ship Bellona on his way from Sydney to Canton (modern day Guangzhou) in February or March 1793.[4] The following June, William Wright Bampton became embayed for five days at the north end of Chesterfield Reefs in the Indiaman Shah Hormuzeer, together with Mathew Bowes Alt in the whaler Chesterfield.[5] Bampton reported two islets with trees and a number of birds of different species around the ships, several of them the same kind as at Norfolk Island.[6]

The reefs continued to present a hazard to shipping plying between Australia and Canton or India (where cargo was collected on the way home to Europe). The southern reefs were surveyed by Captain Henry Mangles Denham in the Herald from 1858 to 1860.[7] He made the natural history notes discussed below. The northern reefs were charted by Lieutenant G.E.Richards in HMS Renard in 1878 and the French the following year. Denham’s conclusions are engraved on British Admiralty Chart 349:

These Plans and a masthead Lookout will enable a Ship to round to under the lee of the Reefs where she may caulk topsides, set up rigging, rate Chronometers, [and] obtain turtle, fish and seafowl eggs. On some of the more salient reefs, beacons were erected by Capt. Denham, and for the sake of castaways, cocoanuts, shrubs, grasses & every description of seed likely to grow, were sown in the way to promote the superstructure; and it is most desirable that these Refuge spots should be held sacred for universal benefit and not ruthlessly destroyed by the Guanoseeker.[8]

The area is a wintering ground for numerous Humpback whales and smaller numbers of Sperm whales. During the 19th century the Chesterfield Islands were visited by increasing numbers of whalers during the off season in New Zealand. L. Thiercelin reported that in July 1863 the islets only had two or three plants, including a bush 34 m high, and were frequented by turtles weighing 60 to 100kg.[9] Many eggs were being taken regularly by several English, two French and one American whaler. On another occasion there were no less than eight American whalers.[10] A collection of birds said to have been made by Surgeon Jourde of the French whaler Gnral dHautpoul on the Brampton Shoals in July 1861 was subsequently brought by Gerard Krefft (1862) to the Australian Museum, but clearly not all the specimens came from there.

On 27 October 1862, the British Government granted an exclusive concession to exploit the guano on Lady Elliot Island, Wreck Reef, Swain Reefs, Raine Island, Bramble Cay, Brampton Shoal, and Pilgrim Island to the Anglo Australian Guano Company organized by the whaler Dr. William Crowther in Hobart, Tasmania. They were apparently most active on Bird Islet (Wreck Reef) and Lady Elliot and Raine Islands (Hutchinson, 1950),[citation needed] losing five ships at Bird Islet between 1861 and 1882 (Crowther 1939).[citation needed] It is not clear that they ever took much guano from the Chesterfield Islands unless it was obtained from Higginson, Desmazures et Cie, discussed below.

When in 1877 Joshua William North also found guano on the Chesterfield Reefs, Alcide Jean Desmazures persuaded Governor Orly of New Caledonia to send the warship La Seudre to annex them. There were estimated to be about 185,000 cu m of guano on Long Island and a few hundred tons elsewhere, and 40% to 62% phosphate (Chevron, 1880),[citation needed] which was extracted between 1879 and 1888 by Higginson, Desmazures et Cie of Nouma (Godard, nd),[citation needed] leaving Long Island stripped bare for a time (Anon., 1916).[citation needed]

Apparently the islands were then abandoned until Commander Arzur in the French warship Dumont dUrville surveyed the Chesterfield Reefs and erected a plaque in 1939. In September 1944, American forces installed a temporary automatic meteorological station at the south end of Long Island, which was abandoned again at the end of World War II. The first biological survey was made of Long Island by Cohic during four hours ashore on 26 September 1957.[11] It revealed, among other things, a variety of avian parasites including a widespread Ornithodoros tick belonging to a genus carrying arboviruses capable of causing illness in humans. This island and the Anchorage Islets were also visited briefly during a survey of New Caledonian coral reefs in 1960 and 1962.

An aerial magnetic survey was made of the Chesterfield area in 1966, and a seismic survey in 1972, which apparently have not been followed up yet. In November 1968 another automatic meteorological station was installed on Loop Islet where 10 plants were collected by A.E. Ferr.[citation needed] Since then the Centre de Nouma of the Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre Mer has arranged for periodic surveys and others when this installation is serviced.

From 1982-1992 Terry Walker carried out methodical surveys of the Coral Sea islets with the intention of producing a seabird atlas. He visited the central islands of the Chesterfield Reefs in December 1990.[12]

An amateur radio DX-pedition (TX3X) was conducted on one of the islands in October 2015.

Unless otherwise noted, information in this section is from Coral Sea and Northern Great Barrier Reef Shipwrecks.[13]

Coordinates: 1921S 15840E / 19.350S 158.667E / -19.350; 158.667

View post:

Chesterfield Islands – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Chesterfield Islands – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Queen & the Republic of Minerva

Posted: September 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm

I have read a number of accounts dealing with the dispute between the Kingdom of Tonga and the Republic of Minerva over their conflicting claims to the Minerva Reefs, and of the Tongan Governments subsequent occupation of, and claim to, the reefs. Much of this writing has been the product of the grossly over fertile imagination of authors who have never set foot within a thousand miles of Minerva. Here are some examples of this ‘scholarship’. ‘Private Islands Discussion Forum’.

“The Tongans never took too kindly to the micro-nation of Minerva. An army of angry, armed, plus-sized Tongans ready to push the settlers into the sea should be enough to scare anyone”

‘Cabinet’. Issue 18 summer 2005

New Foundlands. George Pendle

“On 21 June 1972, the worlds heaviest monarch, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga accompanied by members of the Tongan Defence Force, a convict work detail and a four piece brass band, set sail from his kingdom aboard the royal yacht Olovaha. On the king’s stately mind was one thought, the invasion of the Republic of Minerva”.

Out of such, are myths and legends born!

– Doug Jenkins, Bay of Islands, New Zealand –

What follows is my account of the so called ‘invasion of Minerva’. It was 39 years ago, but memories of this unique experience are still very fresh. I was there. I sailed to Minerva with King Taufa’ahau and his retinue on board the Olovaha. It was the luck of being in the right place at the right time, and it was the fortune of having an understanding boss, who when the opportunity arose for me to join the Olovaha said “go for it, and we’ll cover for you”.

The story was a big one throughout the Kingdom. On 15 June 1972 the ‘Tonga Chronicle’ published the full text of a Royal Proclamation.

PROCLAMATION His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV in council DOES HEREBY PROCLAIM:-WHEREAS the reefs known as North Minerva and South Minerva Reef have long served as fishing grounds for the Tongan people and have long been regarded as belonging to the Kingdom of Tonga has now created on these Reefs two islands known as Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga; AND WHEREAS it is expedient that we should now confirm the rights of the Kingdom of Tonga to these islands; THEREFORE we do hereby AFFIRM and PROCLAIM that the islands, rocks, reefs, foreshores and waters lying within a radius of twelve miles (19.31 km) therefore are part of our Kingdom of Tonga.

It was also announced that Taufa’ahau himself, would be sailing south to the reefs to formally claim title

His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV

Prior to the proclamation, rumours had been growing for some time around Nuku’alofa of an international organization of dubious background proposing to create an artificial island on North Minerva by dredging the lagoon of South Minerva for the infill. As wild rumors began to give way to fact, it appeared that a syndicate known as the Ocean Life Research Foundation, conceived by Los Vegas real estate millionaire Michael Oliver, with considerable financial backing, and offices in London and New York, was behind the proposals to build this new micro-nation in the South West Pacific.

Their stated object was to create a libertarian society, with no taxation, no welfare, no subsidies, or any form of state intervention. It would be supported by fishing, tourism, light industry and other commercial activities. The ‘other activities’ were never specified but no doubt would include banking and the registration of ‘off shore companies’. It was envisaged by the group that the nearby Kingdom of Tonga would be happy to supply the labour for both the construction and future servicing of the new Republic of Minerva, to the mutual benefit of both states, (1)

Early in 1971 a visitor to Tonga, claiming the title of the Roving Ambassador for the Republic of Minerva, arrived in Nuku’alofa seeking an audience with the King in order to appraise him of the scheme. The audience was not granted. A senior member of the Prime Minister’s Department however did meet with the ‘Ambassador’ and was shown a documentary film produced by the Pilkington Glass Company. The film was a feasibility study for a ‘sea city’ of 30,000 people that could be constructed on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. This was the model upon which Michael Oliver’s organization was basing its plans. Action on the reef by the ‘Republic’ was already underway. Based on legal advice that unclaimed land can be claimed if some practical use was made of it, Oliver’s organization had constructed a steel tower surmounted by a radar reflector, a useful navigation aid, on North Minerva, along with their flag. (2)

International legal experts consulted by the Tongan Government had a different interpretation of the law pertaining to unclaimed lands. According to this interpretation land could not be claimed unless it was permanently above the high tide mark. The claimants could then lay claim not only to the said land but also to all adjacent reefs. As a result of this ruling an ocean going tug and barge, with a work party of prisoners from Tolitoli Prison was dispatched to the reefs. Within a relatively short time they had constructed from coral blocks and concrete two very small islands each resplendent with a flagpole. The islands of Teleki Tokolau and Teleli Tonga were born

At this point I would like to digress for a moment. In my title I make specific mention of the Tonga Shipping Company’s vessel Olovaha. This for good reason. While surfing the net for background on Olovaha I came across an excellent web site, ‘MV Queen of the Isles’. With contributions from ex-crew and passengers this covers the life of a much loved little ship, from her launching at Bristol England in 1964, as a ferry between Penzance and the Scilly Isles as ‘Queen of the Isles’, to Tonga as an inter Island ferry called ‘Olovaha’, to New Zealand as a floating casino called ‘Gulf Explorer’, to the tourist trade of Queensland once more as ‘Queen of the Isles’. Renamed yet again ‘Western Queen’ for work in the Solomon Islands, she sadly ended her days blown ashore by cyclone Justin in 1997.

The one flaw in this account is the sparseness of information on the ships years under the flag of Tonga and no mention at all, of the roll she played in the Minerva Reef saga. This I believe must have been one of the highlights of her 33 year career and deserves to be remembered.

Olovaha sailed from Nuku’alofa at 11.30 pm on a Saturday night. We had to leave before midnight as strict Sunday observance in the kingdom forbade vessels to depart or any work to be done on the Lords Day. On board, His Royal Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, his nobles, his cabinet ministers, his royal fishermen, a platoon of solders, a police contingent, the full police brass band, Olovaha’s officers and crew, a German doctor and his wife, an American lady journalist, myself and my young Tongan companion Suliano Etu. A truly crowded little ship!

The royal entourage occupied the officers and masters quarters on the upper deck, the nobles, cabinet ministers and honorary nobles (all but one!) occupied the observation lounge below the bridge deck, police and military were accommodated in the cargo hold, the fishermen bunked in with the crew and Suliano and I camped on the after deck. On boarding I had been directed to the observation lounge and Suliano to the deck, I insisted on joining him. I preferred to be an ‘honorary commoner’. Having been told to bring our own food, we carried a back pack containing two sleeping bags, a small primus stove, some tined food and some loaves of bread. We went aft, to make camp among the mooring bollards.(3)

The flag of the Republic of Minerva

Ata Island

I slept well that first night under a canopy of brilliant stars, lulled by the rhythmic beat of ships engines and the roll of an ocean swell. I awoke from a dream of heavenly music, as from a male voice choir, opened my eyes and there on the deck before me stood a pair of very large feet in shiny black sandals. From the feet, my eye panned upwards, two brown, muscular and very hairy legs, to a black vala and ta’avala. I looked to the left and to the right, I was surrounded by them. I had awoken in a forest of hairy legs, and what’s more they were singing hymns. The owners of the legs that is. It was Sunday morning and church had convened on the largest open meeting place on board, ‘my’ after deck. Slowly, and I hope unobtrusively, I extracted my self from the sleeping bag, in which fortunately I was wearing shorts and shirt, and joined the congregation. Suliano slept on among the legs. When later I asked how he could manage to sleep through all that singing he confessed to only be pretending to sleep. He was Catholic he said, and had no intention of joining “that Methodist service”

Later that morning land appeared. A small island, very high, caped with forest and cloud, and skirted by imposing and precipitous cliffs. The island of Ata, some 100 nautical miles south of Nuku’alofa.

Here Olovaha dropped anchor on the southern side, between the pinnacles and the island. Despite the fact that it was Sunday, when it is normally prohibited, the King gave permission for fishing to commence, on the condition that all catches were to go into the royal larder. Suddenly fishing lines appeared, it seemed with every one, from noble to common sea man, all had come prepared except for Suliano and my self. The fishing was exciting but not very profitable. Most of the catch being sharks, and most of the sharks lost while hauling them up the high ships sides. While anchored off Ata a minor coincidence occurred. In 1965 six Tongan youths, in a stolen fishing boat, were shipwrecked on Ata and marooned for 13 months. They were discovered and rescued by the Australian fishing boat Just David, owned by Sydney businessman and entrepreneur, Peter Warner.(4)

Just David returned the boys, first to Nuku’alofa and then to their home islands in Ha’apai. While in Tongan waters Warner was impressed by the fishing potential and as a result established a fishing and fish processing enterprise in Nuku’alofa. He named the first vessel built for this venture Ata, for the island from which the boys had been rescued. Shortly before we were about to leave Ata for Minerva that day, a vessel made its appearance from behind the island and moved to anchor alongside us. It was Peter Warner’s long line fishing vessel Ata.

Some of the ships complement on Teleki Tokolau

Seeing the Royal Standard flying from our mast, gifts were immediately hoisted aboard for His Majesty, three large tuna and three large turtles. These were laid side by side on the deck, three of the men from Ata sat cross legged on one side, while three nobles, representing the king sat facing them across the gifts. An elaborate formal presentation then took place. Ceremonial over the fishermen returned to their boat. Both vessels retrieved their anchors and proceeded on their respective journeys, Ata, north to Nuku’alofa with her catch and Olovaha south, toward the Minervas’.

Late the following afternoon, out of what seemed an endless ocean, a line of broken water appeared on our horizon. We had reached North Minerva. Olovaha pitched and rolled heavily as we negotiated the narrow gap of rapidly shoaling water but within a few minutes every thing became still. We were in a comparative mill pond surrounded by a rolling ocean, a strange feeling. We made a turn to port, toward the deeper anchorage on the northern edge of the lagoon and there, before us lay Tel’eki Tokelau Island, much smaller than I had envisaged, surmounted by her flag pole. Near by lay the boilers and engine of one of the many wrecks that are scattered about the reef. Before sleep that night I lay wondering what the next day would bring, there were so many of us on this boat, and that Island looked so very small, there was no way that we could all fit ashore. Would Suliano and I even get the chance to land? After all we were among the least important of those on board.

Come morning and my concerns were answered. For the ceremony, the King would remain onboard (in fact he did not go ashore at all) along with the brass band. The soldiers, armed with 303 lee-enfields for firing the salute, also remained on the Olovaha. There was room for us.

As this was an important royal occasion all were dressed in their best finery. Police and military in dress uniform, ministers of religion in their robes, nobles and cabinet ministers, and Suliano, in their best valas and ta’avalas. For the occasion even I had taken shoes and socks, long trousers and a tie. The ships life boats were swung out, we scrambled aboard, and set off. Then there came a problem. On reaching the edge of the coral it was discovered that Olovaha’s boats drew to much water to be able to cross the reef, and we still had about 100 yards to go to reach our destination. It was over the side we all went in all our finery to wade ashore at times in chest deep water. What a sight we made on reaching the island.

And so the ceremony began. A member of the defense force, with hand held radio, coordinated what was taking place on the island with the activities onboard Olovaha. Hymns were sung and prayers were prayed. The proclamation was read. Police and military stood stiffly to attention. A soldier knelt before a minister of the church with the neatly folded flag on his outstretched arms for it to be blessed. A bugle sounded, and to the strains of the national anthem coming across the water from the ship, the red and white ensign of Tonga was slowly hoisted. This was followed by the salute, fired from ‘Olovaha’s guns’. Throughout all of this we all stood, dripping wet in our finery.

Olovaha at North Minerva

My feelings that day were to say the least, an unusual mixture. Was I partaking in some strange farce, played out in the middle of the ocean? In many ways the whole scene was quite Gilbertian. We could well have been the rehearsing cast for HMS Pinafore or the Pirates of Penzance. There were times when I could have laughed at the weird performance in which I was participating, and yet, for much of the ceremony I was considerably moved. I was being involved in history. I was participating in a ceremonial the likes of which had probably not occurred since Cook raised the flag in New Zealand, claiming the land for His Majesty King George III. Here I was, with King Tafu’ahau IV, raising the flag over a new land. Such an occurrence may never happen again in the history of mankind. This may seem rather an extreme hyperbole, but in fact it was just how I felt.

The following day Suliano and I left the ship and swam to the reef with fins and goggles, to explore the coral. After a time we noticed one of the ships boat’s approaching. Ashore came the whole contingent of nobles and with them a large Kava bowl. We swam to within a short distance of the island, and being inappropriately dressed to go ashore sat with just our heads above water and watched. We were privileged to witness at first hand a full noble kava ceremony. Normally, a rare sight, but even more so in such an unusual setting.

Early the next morning anchor was weighed and we left for South Minerva. It was as well that the formal ceremonies had taken place on North Minerva as the weather now began to deteriorate. After negotiating the entrance to South Minerva, we crossed the lagoon to Tele’ke Tonga. Here the island had been constructed near the remains of the Japanese fishing boat that had provided shelter to the crew and passengers of the ill fated Tongan cutter Tuaikaepau in 1962. A number of Tuaikaepau’s complement died and were buried on the reef so sadly adding a more emotive aspect to Tonga’s claims. (5) Wind and seas were rising and rain squalls scuttled across the lagoon as one of the boats was quickly lowered. A party of soldiers was ferried ashore, and the flag was raised. Returning to Olovaha the boat was hoisted aboard, the anchor retrieved and we made our way through the gap toward the open sea. The course was set for home.

Two days later Olovaha steamed into Nuku’alofa. One of the highlights of my four years in the Kingdom had come to an end. Over the years I have related this story many times. Listeners to my tale have often said that I should put it on paper, now, 39 years later, I have done just that. Some minor aspects of the occasion I have no doubt have been eroded by the mists of memory and time but basically this is a true account of what I remember of that event in Tongan history. I was there.

Foot Notes

The vessel as Queen of the Isles I. This was her appearance while operating in Tongan waters.

Olovaha as Queen of the Isles II after the refit. Note the extended boat deck, and narrower funnel.

The rest is here:

The Queen & the Republic of Minerva

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on The Queen & the Republic of Minerva

FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:18 pm

FijiTonga relations are foreign relations between Fiji and Tonga. These neighbouring countries in the South Pacific have a history of bilateral relations going back several centuries.

Though relations between the two countries had been good since they both became independent in the 1970s, they deteriorated considerably in early 2011.[1]

By the early 13th century, Eastern Fiji(Lau group) was a province of the Tongan empire. The Empire subsequently declined, but Tonga remained an influential neighbour in Fiji affairs. In 1848, Tongan Prince Maafu settled in Lakeba, establishing a new foothold in Eastern Fiji. He was accompanied by Tongan Wesleyan missionaries, who consolidated the earlier introduction of Methodism to Fiji by English Wesleyan missionaries.[2][3] Today, Methodism is the primary religion of indigenous Fijians.[4]

Maafu’s influence in Fiji expanded during the 1850s, threatening Seru Epenisa Cakobau’s attempts to establish himself as king of all Fiji. Ultimately, Maafu and Tonga’s support at the 1855 Battle of Kaba was instrumental in enabling Cakobau to cement his leadership over Fiji, temporarily consolidating the Tongan Prince’s status and role in the country. Tonga’s direct influence faded, however, after Cakobau ceded Fiji to British sovereignty in 1874.[5]

Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama received “cheers and thunderous applause” from the Tongan public when he attended a Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga in October 2007; the crowd’s “enthusiastic reception” of Fiji’s leader was likened to “that accorded to a rock star”[6]Radio Australia noted that he had been “the star of this year’s meeting, for the people of Tonga”,[7] while TVNZ reported that he had been “given a hero’s welcome”.[8]

In terms of inter-governmental relations, Tonga has generally avoided pressuring Fiji’s “interim government” into holding democratic elections. However, Tongan Prime Minister Dr.Feleti Sevele has urged Bainimarama “to produce a credible roadmap to the election according to the Constitution and law of Fiji”.[9]

Tonga’s “soft”[10] approach to Fiji’s unelected government during the regional meeting in October 2007 was in line with the approach chosen by other Pacific Island nations, but contrasted with the much harder stance adopted by Australia and New Zealand.[11] The Tongan government rejected “several […] attempts by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to lobby for Commodore Bainimarama’s exclusion from the meeting”.[12]

In August 2008, Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Sevele said at a Pacific Islands Forum meeting [13]

Unfortunately, the Forums relationship with the interim government of Fiji has now deteriorated from the apparent, promising situation at the Forum last year in Tonga, to one of disappointment and of an uncertain future. As Forum Leaders, we are all extremely disappointed at the interim Prime Ministers decision not to attend this Forum meeting. As Chair of last years Forum Meeting in Tonga and Chair of the last 12 months, let me place on record the fact that the commitments that Commodore Bainimarama made at the Leaders Retreat were not forced on him, as has been claimed. He agreed with and accepted the 7-point communiqu on Fiji, and so told all the Leaders present at the Retreat. Sir Michael Somare and I certainly did not pressure him into making those commitments. We, and all the Leaders, were, and are, keen on helping Fiji move forward, but Fiji has to play its due part. The interim Prime Minister has an obligation to explain in person to the Forum Leaders as to why he could not fulfill those commitments, and we were all looking forward to his doing this at this Forum in Niue. That he chose not to do this is most unfortunate and most disappointing.

In May 2009, however, Sevele questioned the purpose of Fiji’s suspension from the Forum (which had taken place on May 2), and suggested it was “pointless” to “ostracise” Fiji. TVNZ described Tonga’s position as “a crack […] in the hard line being taken against Fiji” by the Forum.[10]

In February 2011, Sevele’s successor, Lord Tuivakan, stated that Australia and New Zealand’s pressure on Fiji was counter-productive, and that the more they “bother[ed]” Bainimarama, the more likely he might be to do the opposite of what they sought. He added: “Maybe just go easy and they will come around. What you need to remember is that it is an opportunity for other countries, maybe China will step in. […] There’s a lot of other countries looking in and Fiji’s said ‘We don’t want Australia, we don’t want New Zealand, these are the people that’s going to help us.'”[14]

In December 2005, Fiji welcomed Tonga’s accession to the World Trade Organisation.[15]

In 2001, the Fijian Government banned the import of mutton flaps from Tonga.[16] The Tongan Ministry of Labour said in response on this issue that “Tongas experience with Fiji is an example of the difficulties encountered by small developing nations in protecting their interests”. The Tongan Ministry said this “illustrates the difficulty and huge onus that the multilateral trading system places on small and vulnerable developing countries, which lack the necessary resources, capital and institutional means to fully implement the WTO agreements.” [17]

In August 2007, the Fijian Government called for a review of the Fiji/Tonga Air Services Agreement to allow for increased capacity on the route from 350 to 1000 passengers in each direction.[18][19] By March 2008, a new aviation agreement had been reached. The Fijian Government said [20]

This has been factored into the agreement reached by the two states in March 2008 to increase the seat capacity from 350 to 1000 per week with no restrictions to aircraft types or frequencies and both countries had agreed to this. This new provision will certainly assist or facilitate the movement of tourist between Tonga and Fiji.

Beginning in late 2010, and escalating in early 2011, diplomatic tensions opposed Fiji and Tonga over two partially simultaneous issues. Though they are presented separately here for clarity, they were being referred to simultaneously by May 2011.

Both Fiji and Tonga lay claim to the Minerva Reefs, which lie between the two countries. Historically, the reefs are said to have lain in the fishing grounds of the people of Ono-i-Lau, in Fiji. In 1972, Tonga annexed the reefs, which had not formally been claimed by any State, but Fiji has not recognised the annexation, and has stated it considers the reefs to lie within its territory. In late 2010, Fiji responded to news that Tonga had begun construction of a lighthouse on one reef, by saying Fiji reserved the right to take any means necessary to preserve its territorial integrity.[21]

In February 2011 the Fiji government said there was “no official dispute” between the two countries on the issue, but that officials from the two sides were discussing the matter of the reefs’ ownership and usage. A Fiji government official added: “The government of Fiji reiterates its position, that as far as its concerned Minerva Reef is a reef. And as such it lies within the economic, exclusive economic zone of Fiji. And the government of Fiji reserves its right within its directory.”[22] Fiji Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Solo Mara clarified that there was no “conflict”, but merely “overlapping claims” on the countries’ maritime boundary, in the context of “claims for an extended continental shelf beyond the 200 mile Exclusive Economy Zone – as provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”. Officials from the two countries would hold discussions to determine their maritime boundary.[23]

In late May 2011, during the tension over the Tevita Mara affair (see below), “Fiji navy vessels visited Minerva and ordered New Zealand bound yachts out of the lagoon. They then destroyed navigation beacons” which had been set up by Tonga. The Tongan government issued a statement in protest.[24] Fijis Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Sila Balawa subsequently told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that Tonga remained “one of Fijis closest friends”, and that, although Fiji clearly owned the reef as it was located within the countrys exclusive economic zone, Fiji hoped the disagreement would be resolved through “peaceful dialogue”.[25]

In early June, two Tongan Navy ships were sent to the Reef to replace navigational beacons destroyed by the Fijians, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. A Fijian Navy ship in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached, leading New Zealand’s One News to comment that a military conflict between the two countries had narrowly been averted.[26][27] A press release from the Tongan government described Fiji’s destruction of Tongan navigational beacons as “an act of vandalism” posing “real danger to international shipping”, adding that Tonga and “the Fijian military junta” could and should resolve their territorial dispute “under International law for the settlement of disputes between civilized societies”.[28] Simultaneously The People’s Daily, citing “Fiji intelligence sources”, reported on June 13 that “three Fijian naval ships” were “on their way to Minerva Reef” to confront the two Tongan navy ships there.[29]

In May 2011, Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Mara, a former Fiji army officer, who had just been charged with plotting an attempt to overthrow Bainimarama, fled Fiji by boat, and was picked up by a Tongan patrol boat and taken to Tonga. The Tongan authorities issued a statement saying they had picked him up after responding to a distress signal, and that in Nuku’alofa “arrangements have been made for his accommodation by the royal household office in deference to his rank”. Bainimarama issued a statement saying the Royal Tongan Navy ship had entered Fijian territorial waters without authorisation to carry out an “illegal extraction” of the wanted man; he added that his government took “strong exception to such breaches of Fiji’s sovereignty”. He announced he would issue a formal protest to Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, and would seek Mara’s extradition back to Fiji to face charges.[30] Tui’vakano replied that Tonga’s independent judiciary would hear Fiji’s case for extradition, without interference from the Tongan government, and added that Tonga had no wish to interfere in Fiji’s domestic affairs.[31]

Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the Tongan opposition, described the entry of a Tongan Navy vessel into Fiji waters to pick up a fugitive as a clear breach of relations between the two countries, but added that it was justifiable on humanitarian grounds.[32]

On May 21, four days after the first reports on the incident, the Tongan government issued a statement saying it had received no request for Mara’s extradition, only a note from the Fijian authorities containing what it called “unsubstantiated assertions” and “a personal statement by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama”.[33] Subsequently, having acknowledged receipt of an extradition request, the Tongan government indicated “it will have to go through the proper channels for legal advice before we can proceed any further”; the authorities would not interfere with the judicial process. In early June, however, the authorities granted Mara Tongan citizenship, along with a passport.[34]

Radio Australia reported that relations between the two countries has “soured dramatically” as a result of the incident.[35]

On June 10 as Tongan Navy vessels moved to occupy the Minerva Reef, an unsigned press statement on the website of the Fiji government denounced “the presence of the Tongan Navy boats within Fijis EEZ at Minerva Reef”, the “issue of Tongan passport” to Mara and “the Tongan Governments inaction on extradition papers”, describing them as “a web of deceit, collusion and a complete lack of disregard [sic] of legal extradition processes”. Blaming Australia and New Zealand, the statement said “the Tongans as seen with their presence at the Minerva Reef will be manipulated through offerings of gifts and aid to try and turn up the ante”, adding: “As far as Fiji is concerned there is no Mara or Tonga/Fiji situation. It is a Rudd and McCully spreading their wings to save face situation”, in reference to Australian and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministers Kevin Rudd and Murray McCully.[36]Stuff.co.nz described the statement as an “unprecedented attack” on New Zealand, Tonga and Australia, remarking: “The statement on the website is so completely out of kilter with previous Fiji Government statements that it raises questions over who now is in control in Suva.”[37]

In late June, the Tongan government formally informed the Fiji government that Tongan law made it impossible to extradite Mara.[38]

Continue reading here:

FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on FijiTonga relations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minerva – MicroWiki – Wikia

Posted: August 23, 2016 at 9:32 am

The Republic of Minerva was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation on the reclaimed land of an artificial island in 1972.

Landing on Minerva, years after the confrontation.

More people walking on Minerva.

It is not known when the reefs were first discovered but had been marked on charts as “Nicholson’s Shoal” since the late 1820s. Capt H. M. Denham of the HMS Herald surveyed the reefs in 1854 and renamed them after the Australian whaler Minerva which collided with South Minerva Reef on 9 September 1829.

In 1971, barges loaded with sand arrived from Australia, bringing the reef level above the water and allowing construction of a small tower and flag. The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence on 19 January 1972, in letters to neighboring countries and even created their own currency. In February 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva.

The declaration of independence, however, was greeted with great suspicion by other countries in the area. A conference of the neighboring countries (Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, and territory of Cook Islands) met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs and the rest of the states recognized its claim.

On 15 June 1972, the following proclamation was published in a Tongan government gazette:

A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim. Tongas claim was recognized by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972. Meanwhile, Provisional President Davis was fired by founder Michael Oliver and the project collapsed in confusion. Nevertheless, Minerva was referred to in O. T. Nelson’s post-apocalyptic children’s novel The Girl Who Owned a City, published in 1975, as an example of an invented utopia that the book’s protagonists could try to emulate.

In 1982, a group of Americans led again by Morris C. Bud Davis tried to occupy the reefs, but were forced off by Tongan troops after three weeks.

In recent years several groups have allegedly sought to re-establish Minerva. No claimant group has to date made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs territory.

In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning territorial claim over Minerva.

Tonga has lodged a counter claim. The Minerva “principality” group also claims to have lodged a counter claim.

Minerva Reefs

Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6km, South Reef diameter of about 4.8km. Cities: CapitalPort Victoria. Terrain: 2 island atollsmainly raised coral complexes on dormant volcanic islands.

Both Minerva Reefs are about 435km southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549to1097meters (1800to3600feet) below the surface of the sea. Cardea is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6km. There is a small island around the atoll, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. Aurora is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8km. Around both atolls are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees. Several iron towers and platforms are reported to stand near the atolls, along with an unused light tower on Aurora, erected by the Americans during World War II. Geologically the Minervan islands are of a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations elevated by now-dormant volcanic activity.

The climate is basically subtropical with a distinct warm period (DecemberApril), during which the temperatures rise above 32C (90F), and a cooler period (MayNovember), with temperatures rarely rising above 27C (80F). The temperature increases from 23C to 27C (74F to 80F), and the annual rainfall is from 170 to 297 centimeters (67-117 in.) as one moves from Cardea in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80%.

Originally posted here:

Minerva – MicroWiki – Wikia

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Minerva – MicroWiki – Wikia

Minerva Reefs – Surfer’s Path

Posted: July 29, 2016 at 3:17 am

Lat: 23 deg 38S

Long: 178 deg 39W

We are sitting in the middle of the largest contrast any of us have ever experienced. There is no land in sight from horizon to horizon. In fact we had our last sight of land 3 days ago as we sailed away from Tongpatapu, the southernmost port in the kingdom on Tonga. The cabin of Khulula is filled with the sound of wavelets gently lapping against her side, juxtaposed against the muted roar of the Pacific Swell crashing on the reef around us. 3 miles in diameter, Minerva Reef is one of the most remarkable and stunningly beautiful places I have ever seen.

We are 25% of the way to New Zealand, partway through a passage that does not act kindly towards those who dawdle. We had no intention to stop at this place, but are compelled to as gales rage below us (further south). We have 780 miles to go, a mere hop skip and a jump compared to our distance traveled so far (over 6000miles), but this passage demands attention to detail weather and timing details. A daily analysis of the weather systems moving around us, and the careful positioning of our boat in relation to these systems will be the difference between a windy, stormy passage and a cruisy sunny one. Well take the latter, please!

Yesterday morning saw all four of us in the cockpit, watching the distance to Minerva field on the GPS slowly clock down. With nine miles to go, all we could see was deep blue Pacific Ocean. At seven miles to go, we could make out the mast of a boat seemingly sitting among the waves, but with no sail to be seen. At three miles to go we could make out the breakers around the reef and could see a slightly smaller mast next to the original one, also seemingly bobbing up and down on the waves with no sail up. At one mile to go we could see the turquoise center of Minerva Reef, as its associated flat water and perfect sandbank anchorage. The colour of the water was so vivid it looked like it had been Photoshopped.

Approaching a navigational hazard such as Minerva, we are reminded of a realization that we have had on multiple occasions during this voyage. We are WIMPS compared to the seafarers of old. Historically, during the days of wooden ships iron men there were no charts, no weather outlooks, and the sailor were in a boat that does not sail upwind. On many occasions we have adjusted our course in the middle of the night to avoid a reef or shoal, who to us only exists on a paper and electronic chart. We know exactly where we are, and know EXACLTY where the shoal is, as well as how large the shoal is and the best course of action to avoid it. The iron men on those wooden ships would have no idea! Spare a thought for the watch boy, sitting high up in the Crows Nest of a wooden galleon, trying to stay awake on night shift as strains his eyes searching and searching for breakers in the night. If he spots them (assuming no rain, no mist), the captain would have no idea whether it was a small reef, a 50-mile long reef (like Fakarava), or the lee shore of another continent for that matter! Had he come across Minerva Reef, and seen it in time, Captain Cook would not have known whether it was one of hundreds of atolls (like the Tuamotus) or the reality that is is just one of a pair of tiny reefs in the middle of millions of square miles of featureless Pacific Ocean. It is incredible.

We have decided that the seafarers of old were completely and utterly nuts! Here we were, glancing over the bow with trepidation, searching for a reef that we know is directly ahead, and less than 5 miles away! Our GPS gives us our position to within 3 feet, and there is no confusion as to what it what. The historical captain would maybe know his position to within 150 miles, and that is if the sun had been shining recently.

At two miles to go, everything happened at once: We were furling in our headsail (the forwardmost sail on the boat) to slow down and prepare for the transit of the reef pass. In the middle of this job there are sheets and lines (ropes) everywhere, a NZ airforce plane buzzes the atoll and starts demanding that everyone check in over the radio: This is the New Zealand Air Force, please state the name of your vessel, your intended destination, your ETA (if NZ), name of your skipper, number and names of crew, and declare any firearms or pets aboard. Just as other boats started answering, our fishing line got hit by a 30lb yellow fin Tuna WHAM! So here we are, trying to reduce sail, shoot a reef pass in the middle of nowhere, steer the boat, reel in a fantastic Tuna, and answer the call from a large aircraft doing passes just above our head demanding our attention on the VHF radio! Um, sorry for the delay, but we are a LITTLE busy here!! Needless to say, they did not hear a response back from s/v Khulula. All the other boats did check in though, I emailed NZ customs in the evening to file our report!

So, Minerva! Wow, anyone that gets a chance to visit this place should NOT miss out on it. Granted, it is a little out of the way, being 400 miles away from anything with an airport, having no dry land and all that, but IF you find yourself in a sailboat in this area, STOP, it is incredible. With no continents and associated alluvial runoff around, the water is completely absent of fines translation, CRYSTAL CLEAR! Looking over the bow of Khulula, we can see a giant sandbank all around us, 12m down. Sitting in the lagoon in flat water, watching waves explode on the reef around us, with not a scrap of land in sight is an experience none of us will ever forget. Also, as you can imagine, the reef is teeming with life such is the nature of a reef inaccessible to significant amounts of human population.

In the evening we went for a snorkel and scored a wonderful Minerva lobster. Last night we watched an amazing sunset while feasting on Yellow Fin sashimi and garlic steamed lobster tail. We are planning on leaving Minerva tomorrow morning (14th November 2007), and beeline it for NZ. It is time to take the jump. As wonderful as this place is, there are harrowing reminders in the lagoon (in the form of a couple of wrecked sailboats) of the perils of being anchored inside a submerged atoll during a storm. This ocean us unpredictable, and it is prudent to briefly enjoy the wonders of this remote place, and then move on. So, after a weather check in the early am, we begin out 780 mile passage to New Zealand and the end of the 1st year of the OceanGybe expedition. We have a HUGE amount of data to compile, and presentations to prepare, in line with our quest to continue to bring awareness to oceanic garbage.

More:

Minerva Reefs – Surfer’s Path

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Minerva Reefs – Surfer’s Path

Minerva Reefs : Map (The Full Wiki)

Posted: June 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm

The Minerva Reefs are a group of reefs located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and Tonga. The reefs were named after the whaleship Minerva, was wrecked on what became known as South Minerva after setting out from Sydney in 1829. Many other ships would follow, for example the Strathcona, which was sailing north soon after completion in Auckland in 1914. In both cases most of the crew saved themselves in whaleboats or rafts and reached the Lau group in Fiji. Of some other ships, however, no survivors are known.

The Tuaikaepau (‘Slow But Sure’), a Tongan vessel on its way to New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. (This 15 m wooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as the Strathcona). The crew and passengers survived by living in the remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for 3 months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. Finally Captain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he built a small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft, named Malolelei (‘Good Day’), he and a few of the stronger crew members sailed to Fiji in one week.

The reefs gained further notoriety in January 1972 in the Republic of Minerva ‘incident’. Subsequently, on 24 February, Tonga laid claim to the Minerva Reefs and annexed them on 15 June the same year. The move was recognised by the South Pacific Forum in September. More recently Fiji has made it clear that they do not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga to the Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOS agreements.

Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji. While waiting for favourable weather for the approximately 800-mile passage to New Zealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming can be enjoyed. North Minerva offers the more protected anchorage, with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offers access to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. South Minerva’s shape is similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobe partially open to the ocean on the northern side. Due to the lower reef and large entrance, the anchorage at South Minerva can be rough at high tide if a swell is running. The lagoon also contains numerous coral heads that must be avoided. While presenting an attractive area to wait out harsh weather occurring farther south, the Minerva reefs are not a good place to be when the weather is bad locally. This does not occur often, but it is important to maintain awareness of the situation and put to sea if necessary.

Scuba diving the outside wall drop-offs at the Minerva Reefs is spectacular due to the superb water clarity and extensive coral, fish and other marine life. There are few suspended particles and the visibility is normally in excess of 100 feet due to there being no dry land at high tide. Of particular note are the numerous fan coral formations near the pass at North Minerva and the shark bowl area located by the narrow dinghy pass on the western lobe of South Minerva. The inside of the lagoon at South Minerva is also home to numerous giant clams. Divers at Minerva must be entirely self sufficient, with their own compressor, and should also be aware that the nearest assistance is a multiple-day boat ride away in Tonga. Due to the vertical drop off and water clarity, divers must watch their depth carefully.

The surf that indicates the reef can just be seen in the background

Read the rest here:

Minerva Reefs : Map (The Full Wiki)

Posted in Minerva Reefs | Comments Off on Minerva Reefs : Map (The Full Wiki)

Page 112