2007/05/29

'Oli'oli - Good Fun!

In September of 2005, I reported finding, of all things, a Hawaiian restaurant in Kashima City. Called 'Oli'oli (pronounced oh-lee oh-lee), which is Hawaiian for "enjoyment", it is just 2 kilometers from our house. (See the earlier post "Da Kine Local Grinds - In Kashima Japan?").


We seldom eat out and locally we stick with restaurants we know, so we had not gotten around to checking out 'Oli'oli. Last Sunday while we were out and about, K suddenly suggested that we stop by there. It was just after two o'clock and we had already had lunch, but we figured we'd just have something to drink and see what it was like inside.

When we pulled up in front, there was a sign on the porch of the restaurant that said "CLOSED". We decided to walk up to the door and see if the hours were posted and as we approached a young woman in a Hawaiian print apron came to the door to tell us that they close at 2PM and reopen for dinner at 5, however, if we would like to come in, they'd let us stay until 3. Great!

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Sorry, I need to read up on "manual" flash.

Inside, we were seemingly transported to a mom and pop restaurant in the Islands, with wicker chairs, walls decorated with hula photos, a sumo wrestler sized Aloha shirt, coconut hat and other Hawaiiana. A nice mix of Hawaiian music plays in the background. The restaurant looks like a house from the outside, and in fact it is, with the home of the family that owns it sharing the same roof.

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Bryan Tolentino - Analani E

The menu was nicely hand made like a travel scrapbook. As we looked over the drinks - teas, tropical juices, and so on, K took a look at the entres. Prices were quite reasonable. We decided to try some food - after all they had stayed open for us - and ordered the mahimahi (a fish prized in Hawaii) and coconut ice cream for desert. Since we had already had lunch, K and I shared the meal.


I had some iced tea and K had guava juice. When the mahimahi came, the presentation of the food was very nice. Lots of little touches added to the atmosphere - aloha shirt coasters, silverware in a lauhala basket, and paper napkins in a Hawaiian print mug.

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Looks "ono" (tasty).

I'd not had mahimahi prepared this way before. It was on a bed of rice with a tomato sauce over it that had just a touch of spice. Mahimahi has a delicate flavor and should not be over cooked. This piece was done just right and was delicious.

Ice cream choices are mango, papaya, pineapple, and coconut, each served in a bowl shaped like the fruit. The coconut came in a half coconut shell, filled to the top. Even with two of us sharing it was twice what we normally would eat.

K asked for and was given the little lei decoration to wear as a bracelet with her Hawaiian dress.

In another room there is a small bar and shop which offers a variety of Hawaiin style goodies for sale including pure Kona coffee. Organic Kona coffee - named for area on the island of Hawaii where it is grown - is has excellent flavor, but is very high in caffeine and so is often blended with other high quality beans to 10% of the total grind. (It also expensive). Pure Kona coffee would have me bouncing off the walls with a single cup, so we gave it a pass.

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Note the "SPAM" recipe book at the bottom of the picture.

As we drove out, the owners were having their lunch out on the front deck and warmly thanked us again, Japanese/Hawaiian style, for coming.

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We were both very pleasantly surprised by 'Oli'oli. It was much a better experience than we had hoped. Good food, good service, good prices, good fun! ~Hawaiian style~ in Kashima City. We'll have to go back soon for dinner.

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'Oli'oli Cafe - 0299-69-1571

2007/05/28

あやめまつり - Ayamematsuri

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Violet lotus blossoms at Suigo Sawara (now a part of Katori City)

Saturday afternoon - the first K has had free in two months and she and I have each had enough practice with the new vacuum cleaner (it really sucks - that's a good thing). K suggests iris viewing in nearby Itako City or Katori City. Late May and most of June is the season for あやめまつり Ayamematsuri - the Iris Festival. We opted for Katori City's Botanical Garden, as last year we saw it in its full glory. It has over 150,000 blue flags and irises, 1.5 million Japanese Iris (400 kinds), plus the largest collection of lotus plants in Japan. The grounds are beautifully laid out as well.

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tourists from Tokyo take a boat ride through the gardens

As we were arriving a bit late in the day, we decided to drive right through Itako City without stopping, cross the Tone river, and go directly to the gardens. We paid the entrance fee (500 yen each) and began a leisurely stroll around the grounds. (Pandas do everything at a leisurely pace.) It didn't take long to wonder, "where have all the flowers gone?"

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K rests under an arbor in front of (no) iris flowers. Had we come a few weeks ago, the wisteria in the background might also have been in bloom.

It turns out, even though they advertise Ayame Matsuri at roughly the same time as neighboring Itako City, we hit it at a bad time. The blue flags and many other iris had come and gone in April and May, and the Japanese Iris had yet to make a showing. Sigh. there were some along the banks of the pond and here and there, but nothing like we had seen last year. Of course, we had gone earlier last year. It was a nice place to spend an hour and enjoy what was there, but we couldn't help but feel a bit let down. Ironically, when we came last time and there were lots of flowers, I took tons of pics unaware of a big smudge on my camera lens (due to an in fitting cap) so my pics that day were lousy, and I was anxious to make up for that with the new camera. As they say in Hawaii - "Humbug! Dat's why!".

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Workers busy hand weeding between the plants. The paddle wheel on the right is for decoration, but works. It is how fields were irrigated before electric pumps - someone had to do a "stair-master" exercise on it to keep it turning, working in 4 hour shifts.


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Pink lotus - no analogies, just beautiful at this moment, as it is.


It's all good. The brochure we picked up has a nice calendar showing what months different flowers bloom, so in the future we will know. As I said, it is a beautiful garden. So, we took our leave and headed toward home.

On the way, of course, we were going by Itako City, so K turned and went through the section of town where they have iris gardens. Guess what? Lots of iris blossoms! We cruised around a bit to find a free place to park - some charge 1000 yen or more ($8.25)- but we found one where we didn't have to pay.

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Ah, that's more like it.

Iris festival is a big draw for Itako City. Like a little "Venice" they have boat tours - both human powered and outboard motor powered - available along the Tone river and there is a canal in center of town along which they have planted beds of iris and built picturesque bridges. At one time, boats were the main mode of transport and the water network allowed goods (mostly rice) to flow all the way to Tokyo. If you search the Moody Minstrel blog and this one for "Itako" you will find other posts about this.

Traditional weddings here feature the bride and her parents riding in a boat along the canal to the wedding with gifts of sake and rice for the groom's family.

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We walked through the iris planters and over the many bridges built for viewing the flowers and canal. During mid-day hours on weekends there are free guides available to show people around. In the past we have taken a motorized boat along the canal - we were the only customers on the boat. Next time, we'll try one of the open boats operated by an oarsman.

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A new canal boat of Itako

Next to the entrance to a canal boating business, there is a statue and small stone that looks like a monument of some kind. Upon closer inspection it had five buttons built into it with which one could select a traditional Japanese tune that gets played on hidden speakers by the iris beds. (What a country).

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Pandabonium kneels beside a bed of iris.


Another local specialty is unagi - grilled eels. I first visited Itako in 1987 and really enjoyed the dish and still do. There is also a very good soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant in town which Moody Minstrel wrote about and we subsequently enjoyed dining at last year. But dinner out would wait until another trip. We'd finally found what we came looking for - iris blossoms.

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2007/05/24

From the Log of Manu-Mele: Puunene NAS

Manu-mele (song bird) was the Cessna 172P which I flew in Hawaii.

Puunene is a place name on Maui. Pu'u (poo-oo) means hill and nene (nay nay) is the native Hawaiian goose, so "Puunene" means "goose hill" in English. It is the site of an early sugar mill built in 1901 (still in operation) and associated labor camp, as well as one of Hawaii's early airports.

Puunene airport was built in 1938 by the Territory of Hawaii and was a Hawaiian Airlines destination. In 1940, the US Navy started using the airport as a base for a utility squadron VJ-3. The base was commissioned as "Naval Air Station Maui" in 1942. When the Navy built a larger airport at Kahului, it was renamed Puunene NAS. After the war, in 1947, it was handed back to the Territory.

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Maui Raceway Park - Formerly Puunene NAS

Closed down in the late 1950s, one of the airport's runways is now used as an automobile "drag strip" and park for such activities as go-kart racing and model airplane flying. Bunkers and revetments are still visible today.

In 1994, there was a reunion of personnel who had served at Puunene NAS. At the time, I was president of the EAA Chapter 882 (Experimental Aircraft Association). Some of the members had collected letters, photographs and information about the base and created a display which was set up in honor of the reunion.

During that event, I had the pleasure of meeting two of the pilots who had served at Puunene NAS: Walter "Fritz" Moline, the first pilot to be posted to that station, and Tom Healey, the last pilot posted there. They were assigned to fly the Piper L-4 "Grasshopper", a small observation plane used for patrol duty, air ambulance service, towing targets, and other duties.

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Piper L-4 "Grasshopper"

During World War II, Maui became a forward training center for the war in the Pacific. Many of the beaches which I would later enjoy as a swimmer, snorkeler and kayaker, were used to rehearse the invasion of Guadalcanal. To this day, one can find concrete bunkers at some of the beaches of south Maui. Native Hawaiians and cattle ranchers who lived on the island of Kaho'olawe, a part of Maui County, were forced to move and the island was made into a target range for the US Navy.

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Click to enlarge


During WWII, Lahaina Rhodes, which in the 19th century had seen large numbers of whaling ships at anchor, saw warships in those sheltered waters. A neighbor of mine in college days was a cook serving on the battleship USS Pennsylvania when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The "Pennsy" was in dry dock when the attack occurred, so it was not as seriously damaged as other ships in the harbor. He described traveling around Maui by Model T Ford to look for supplies while the ship was at anchor off Lahaina, and told me that their provisions order for potatoes completely cleaned out the entire the island's supply.

Puunene NAS (Naval Air Station) saw use for fighter plane training as well as a base for small planes which towed targets for practice and retrieved the parachutes of target flares. (Parachutes were made of silk in those days and were very valuable). Puunene NAS was used by both the Navy and the Army. Fritz and Tom both flew the small Piper L-4 reconnaissance planes used in connection with target practice.

I don't remember who arranged our flight. It was probably my friend and EAA mentor Art Chenoweth. In any case, I had the honor of taking Fritz and Tom on a commemorative flight around Maui.

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Maui and Kaho'olawe as seen from a Space Shuttle

When the Navy had target practice on the island of Kahoolawe at night, they would fire flares to light the area. The flares floated down on silk parachutes which were valuable in wartime. So, brave souls like Fritz and Tom, were sent out later to retrieve the parachutes. They would fly over the target area, spot the parachutes, and land their plane as close as they could to them - on an island littered with unexploded ordinance! They'd grab the parachutes and take off back to Maui - hopefully without getting blown up in the process.

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Kahoolawe - "the Target Isle" (see any good landing spots?)

On October 30, 1994, we took off from Kahului Airport and flew along the coast of West Maui. They remembered it as if it were last week. They pointed out a place in a pineapple field where there used to be a straight length of road that they could land on. About half a mile away was a house. Well, as their story unfolded, it turned out that during the war the people in the house were eager to show their support and would host them for lunch or dinner. Perhaps needless to say, they made a fair number of unscheduled landings in that pineapple field.

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Molokini island (Hawaiian for "little moon")

We then went past Lahaina and on down to south Maui and out to the little island of Molokini, which lies between Maui and Kaho'olawe. The top of a volcanic cinder cone, Molokini is a favorite spot for snorkeling and scuba diving today. I wanted to take them over Kaho'olawe where they had picked up parachutes, but it was still "off limits" even for overflying aircraft due to the large amount of unexploded bombs. It has since been cleared of them (sort of) and the island returned to the state. Read more about Kaho'olawe here: Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana.

We then flew back toward Kahului, flying over what remains of NAS Puunene before touching down back at Kahului Airport. Our flight had taken just over an hour.

Back on the ground, I asked them to sign my log book and made sure to get pictures. This flight is one of those I will always treasure. Looking back I only wish we had more time to talk and that I had taken notes of their stories.

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Walter Fritz Moline, Pandabonium, and "Manu-mele" (Song Bird)

Like many pilots of WWII, Fritz Moline decided to seek another career after the war, while Tom Healey became a pilot for Eastern Airlines.

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Tom Healey

Thank you gentlemen for your service to our country, and for allowing me to carry you through some familiar skies once again.

Trivia - the military stopped bombing Kaho'olawe in 1990 and after spending several hundred millions of dollars to clear the island of ordinance (though not entirely), the island was finally returned to the State of Hawaii in 2003.

2007/05/23

Tagimoucia, the Legend Lives On

Long time readers may recall last June's post "The Legend of Tagimoucia" , about Fiji's national flower of that name, which is pronounced "tahng-ee-mo-thee-ya" . As I reported then, the flowers are native to Lake Tagimoucia on the mountain ridge of Taveuni island at an altitude of over 2,700 feet.


Blossoms, view and lake (courtesy of Babasiga).

That story is one which continues to draw people to the Pacific Islander blog. When I bother to check my statistics I nearly always find that someone has visited the blog by searching for that flower.

Today I had a very nice surprise. A fellow named Wes, who has spent many weeks on Taveuni, and hiked to the lake last year, visited the blog and wrote me an email to share a couple of his pics. He has kindly agreed to let me share them with you. The hike took place one year ago today.

Wes related that it took about five hours of hard hiking up the southeast facing slopes to reach the lake. In the following picture, the lake is behind the group and is covered with vegetation. He says you could actually walk on the vegetation without falling into the water if you were careful. Click to enlarge...

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Copyright © 2007 Brian W. Hoffman

The next picture of the guide who led them there. He is wearing tagimoucia blossoms on his ears!

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Copyright © 2007 Brian W. Hoffman

Their hike down the other side of the mountain was to the village called Naqara (nah-ngara), the "commercial center" of Taveuni, and took four hours. A long day of hiking in the tropics, but I have a feeling that the prize was well worth the effort.

Vina'a Wes!

2007/05/20

Music Makes Magic Happen

A very unique concert took place on the island of Maui Friday night. It was an amazing blend of European, Japanese, and Hawaiian music and talent, performed on a unique combination of instruments in an historic venue.

It started with my good friend, Derek; part time Maui resident, regular visitor to Japan, and student of both guitar and zither. In the course of his business trips to Japan, Derek became friends with the world famous father-son concert zither masters, Yatsuo and Naoto Kono. Early this year, Derek thought it would be great to have Naoto perform on Maui.

Naoto Kono liked the idea. He had done some experimental work with a Japanese slack key guitarist, Yuki (Alani) Yamauchi, and thought it would be better if the concert were done featuring both the zither and a slack key guitar. Yuki had been to Maui and played with a local guitarist whom he recommended to Naoto. One thing led to another and a new amalgam took form with the addition of Hawaiian slack-key guitar legend George Kahumoku, Jr.. George gets a thousand emails a week so it was great luck that Derek was able to meet with him. George and Naoto exchanged cds and decided to perform a joint concert. (According to George, he told Derek that he'd only do the concert if Derek came up to his farm to shovel manure, pull weeds, and spread mulch! Which Derek did.)

If you are not familiar with the concert zither, here is a brief introduction:

"Perhaps the shortest meaningful description of the instrument is that it is like placing a guitar and a harp on a table side by side and then playing both simultaneously. The concert zither is considered by most experts to be the most difficult instrument of all to master because it is essentially, two instruments in one.

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This instrument has 5 melody strings (A, A, D, C, G) covering 29 frets of a small fret board, along with 25 to 40 accompaniment strings. The concert zither has 187 basic tones, which provide a greater range than the piano with 88 tones or the guitar with 136 tones. The concert zither has the added feature that because the strings are struck with one's fingers, the range of tonality of the strings is infinitely variable in pitch, attack, loudness, and timbre. Because of the variation of tones available, those listening to recordings of the instrument often believe that they are listening to duets or trios of multiple instruments."

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George Kahumoku, Jr.

George Kahumoku Jr., is a Hoku* and 2 time Grammy Award winning master slack key guitarist. (*The Na Hoku Hanohano Awards are Hawaii's version of the Grammy Music Awards). He is also a songwriter, world-wide performer, high school teacher, former principal, sculptor, story-teller and a farmer who is so in tune with his islands that he has won several state and national awards for his work with the land.

George has performed to audiences all over the world, including such dignitaries as the Queen of England and the Premier of China. His guitar projects an exquisitely accurate audio image of the haunting, tranquil, beauty of the Islands.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term "slack key", the Hawaiian style of guitar playing, there is an interesting story on what it is and how it came about which you can read on his website by clicking here: ABOUT SLACK KEY.

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Naoto Kono

Naoto Kono trained during childhood in Heidelberg, Germany, learning concert zither, violin, and piano. He studied composition from his father (Yasuto Kono) before returning to Europe in 1980 for further applied musical training. He began performing in live concerts throughout Japan in 1985 and performed in Shanghai and France in 1991.

Naoto is currently performing primarily in solo concerts which provide a wide variety of music, including classical, jazz, pop, folk etc. Many of the offerings in his concert repertoire are original compositions ranging from Renaissance style to modern styles, which expand the realm of the zither beyond the traditional style of music for which it has been known.

Derek, with help from his daughter's bagpipe teacher John Grant (yes, on Maui! - a most excellent one at that) and another piper, Hamish Burgess, secured the venue - Makawao Union Church. Built in 1917 in memory of its late benefactor and organist, the church is now on the state and national lists of historic sites and has excellent acoustics (Pandabonium has performed there). I don't think Derek knew what he had gotten himself into when he first suggested a concert - the work that goes into producing a concert is pretty intense - but he pulled it off in style.

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Makawao Union Church - 1917
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Church interior.


Some comments from Derek (my clarifications in parentheses)....

"A rainstorm blew through Paia (a small town near the church) just as the show began, the temp dropped 6 C and the humidity went up to condensed milk, whatever percentage that is. So there was lots of tuning, given the 50 strings between them."

"George did a very unusual rendition of the Queen's Prayer that in my mind really enhances the song and conveys the powerful emotions behind its writing. I don't know if others were as affected by it, but I found it very moving." (This is a song written by Queen Liliuokalani as she was being held prisoner during the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy by American businessmen. See "Trivia" at the end of this post).

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Derek's daughter (right) and two of her schoolmates handled the box office.

The program for the evening:

Solos by Naoto Kono-
Unter den Lindenbaum ...............Vienese folksong
Komm Liebe Zither .....................KV.351 W.A. Mozart
The Third Man ............................A. Karas
Tanz Fantasie ............................N. Kono
Romance de Montmartre ...........N. Kono

Solos by George Kahumoku, Jr. -
Ulapalakua .................................J. Pi'ilani Watkins
The Queen's Prayer ....................Queen Liliuokalani
Hilo March..................................Joseph Kapaeau Ae`a

Intermission

Duets -
Petite Romance ..........................N. Kono
Hamabe no Uta ..........................T. Narita
Tahitian Blue ..............................N. Kono
La Petite Maison du Petit Village N. Kono
Rosamunde .................................Folksong

Derek's comments continue...

"Romance de Montmartre, and Tanz Fantasie were my favorites among Naoto's solo pieces. Hamabe no Uta, Tahitian Blue, and Rosemunde, to my great surprise, were my favorites of the duets they played.

Encores were Jack Pitman's "Beyond the Reef", one of the best of the
show, and a solo by Naoto, "When you wish upon a star."

"I think that everyone was surprised at how well the concert zither and slack key guitar could sound together. Including Naoto, George, and I. The audience seemed almost uniformly amazed and delighted."

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Naoto and George during the performance.

"One person said that the concert was the most amazing music that he had ever heard, that it went straight to one's feelings. Some others echoed his comments on the way out the door. The whole audience was spellbound."

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Like I said early on, in this post, I don't think Derek knew what he was getting into - now there is talk of a Japan concert tour featuring the two musicians together!

Music really does make magic happen.

Trivia: The Queen's Prayer (O Kou Aloha No) is usually sung in Hawaiian as a church hymn. An English translation of the sentiment is: "Your loving mercy is in heaven and your truth so perfect. I live imprisoned in sorrow; you are my light; your glory, my support. Behold not with malevolence the sins of humankind, but forgive and cleanse. And so, O Lord, beneath your wings protect us and let peace be our portion now and forever more."

The Makawao Union Church has a Reuter pipe organ with 1,055 pipes.

2007/05/18

Trail's End

Our blogging friend Bonnie of "Frogma" fame, just got back to Brooklyn from a visit to her home island - Oahu. She posted a few pics from there - all very interesting and not at all your typical tourist shots, and promises more. (Momo thinks the baby Albatross looks cuddly). Here's just a part of one of her pics:

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To see the full picture, click on the pic above. Oh, and if you ever go hiking on Oahu, pay attention to the signs!

What's In Your Rice Bowl?

In a small town in northern Japan, it might be a work of art!

In July of 2005 I posted a picture of two Ukiyoe prints by 18th Century artists Sharaku and Utamaro, as reproduced in rice paddies using different colored varieties of the grain.



This is an annual project in Inakadate Village, in the prefecture of Aomori. Last year, they produced these images of two Japanese gods -



You can visit the town website to see previous rice art as well as a photo sequence of last year's rice art starting with the hand planting of the rice on May 28, and following the growth every few weeks to the end of September. As the site is in Japanese, I've linked that particular frame directly here: Inakadate Rice Art Growth. Not shown above is the writing - in rice - of the town name plus a slogan or theme used each year.

What's next? For 2007, they have chosen two famous woodblock prints by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) from his series "Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji".



One of the things that has always fascinated me about Japanese culture is the way that art is integrated into so many things and every aspect of life. This has been eroded somewhat by westernization which emphasizes the utilitarian aspects of things, but in typical Japanese fashion the artistic and the utilitarian are often blended into something new and unique. Rice paddy art may not be the most practical example, but it does represent the many ways that the Japanese have continued to embrace their own cultural heritage and use its art to enhance everyday life.

2007/05/14

Witness To Creation

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Last year, Fredrik, a Swede who was relocating from San Fransisco to Brisbane, and his uncle Hakan, sailed Fredrik's 36 foot yacht, "Maiken", across the Pacific, stopping at many South Pacific islands along the way.

After leaving Tonga for Fiji on August 12th, they came upon a very curious sight.

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No, this was not a shoal or a beach, but rather a "raft" of small pumice rocks floating on the ocean's surface. Pumice, as you know, is an igneous rock produced when lava from a volcano cools very quickly above ground. It is actually a kind of glass and some samples are so full of air pockets that they float on water. Somewhere on the sea floor near their boat was an active volcano called "Home Reef" that was erupting and making the pumice. Comforting thought.

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As they sailed through the pumice, leaving a cleared path in the boat's wake, the rock acted like sandpaper, removing a little of the bottom paint at the waterline.

The volcano was erupting, and they watched in amazement as it broke the surface of the ocean, creating a new island right before their eyes.

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They took several remarkable photos, more of which can be found on their blog, linked at the end of this post, parts of which are written in English and Swedish.

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The new island is located south and a bit west of the Vava'u group of Tonga, which is where Robert Bryce lives, who wrote the guest post for Pacific Islander: "The Kingdom of Tonga - A Paradox In Paradise".

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The island created by "Home Reef" volcano is located in the lower left corner of the red box, near the island "Late" (la-tay). The Vavau' group is further up and to the right and is only about 100 km from the new island.

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Satellite images show the island as about 500 meters wide and 1500 long, with a water filled crater within it.

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A fountain of lava shoots straight up into the air - or perhaps it is where Maui, the Polynesian demigod said to have fished the islands up out of the sea, is pulling on Home Reef to create a new land.

Be sure to check out the blog of Fredrik, his uncle Hakan, and Jenny (who joined them in Fiji), with posts and pictures of their entire voyage: Fredrik and Crew on Maiken.

Their story sure stirs my wanderlust and has me longing for a sailboat and the South Pacific!

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in
the things that you didn't do than in the ones you did do.
So throw off the bow lines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

-Mark Twain