Unlock the Past Cruise March 2011 - Day Three

Before rushing head-long into today’s events I must write about last night’s excitement. I stayed up until the ridiculous hour of 11pm to watch the ship pull out from Noumea. A little tugboat arrived at the rear of the ship at approximately 10.30pm, and subsequently put on a bit of a show, turning around in circles, meandering to and fro. I’m not sure whether the driver was bored or if there was method in their madness, but it occupied both their and my time waiting until the ship was ready. Finally the time obviously arrive at 10.45pm as the tug moved closer to the harbour. But then it moved away! But then it moved back. And I anxiously waited for it to ram us but sadly the nudge never came. At this point I should mention that my entire knowledge of tug boats comes from a child’s book, read when I was little, so I had certain expectations that clearly weren’t being fulfilled. I followed the tug around the opposite side of the dock, waiting for something interesting to happen, and was extremely disappointed when nothing did. Around and around it went. But then I happened to look back to the other side, expecting to see the dock only a foot away, only to find it a good 30 metres away and the side thrusters of the ship working like crazy! I almost felt cheated. I discovered, by positioning myself close to a knowledgeable gentleman, that the tugboat’s dance was in fact pushing a lot of water (he used other descriptives, but I will refrain) between the ship and the dock, thus providing the side thrusters with water to use to ‘thrust away’. Amazing! That was never in my children’s book…

Back to today’s events. I woke this morning to the beautiful site of Lifou (still not entirely sure how to pronounce it). Crystal clear waters, rugged cliffs interspersed with white sandy beaches, and hot, still weather, Lifou proved to be an unexpected delight. We were to spend the day on this small island (population: 10,000, time-keeping skills: none), though many disembarked in the morning before heading back at lunchtime (today I had a cheese burger - very tasty). We were all delighted to find that, due to Lifou being without a harbour, we were ‘forced’ to go by lifeboat onto the island. Holding 90 people these nifty little orange and white boats acted as taxis all day, transporting people to and fro. Only ever used in emergencies it was, strangely enough, a real treat. By early afternoon the weather had transformed from clear and sunny, to cloudy and, you guessed it, rain!!! I felt sorry for those on afternoon tours, though I am told that it was a fine outing. Most of the rain passed fairly quickly though and the temperature was still quite reasonable. Couldn’t help but smile at the misfortunes of others…

An Unlock the Past  program was scheduled for this afternoon, consisting of short talks, including 2 mystery topics (one with a mystery speaker as well!). These talks were the following:
Helen Smith on ‘Death certificates and archaic medical terms’ - a natural public speaker who is easy to follow and very knowledgeable. I had already heard her talk before so chose not to attend again, though I am sure it was enjoyed, as I had enjoyed it.
Jan Gow & Allan Murrin spoke of their trip to ‘Roots Tech’, a big conference of 3,000 people in Salt Lake City which they both attended last year, Jan as a speaker, Allan as a delegate. They both spoke with excitement about their experience and surely inspired others to attend.
Leigh Summers once more spoke on an interesting topic ‘Victorians and contraception’. Leigh covered the different types of contraception available at the time, and mentioned that during the 1800s people could be (and were!) imprisoned if they wrote or spoke about it. Using ‘appropriate’ illustrations on the PowerPoint, Leigh spoke with confidence and knowledge, considering it was a … difficult … topic.
Jan Gow followed as the mystery speaker. Her topic still remains somewhat of a mystery to me, though others seemed to understand quite well. I missed the initial announcement as to what it was and believe it was about another conference she attended or a genie research group belonged to.

At 5pm the opportunity was given for all to come together and hunt out others with similar research interests. I confess that I steered well clear of this group as genealogists/family historians scare me when they’re on a mission (they get this wild, purposeful look in their eyes). Following this there was a history and genealogy trivia session, which was quite enjoyable. I think I managed to answer 4 out of 40 questions, though 2 of my answers were wrong. Most of it was about genealogy though so I feel I have an excuse.

Today I only changed 5 times: the initial dressing before brekky, then into bathers in preparation for going ashore, then back into ‘relaxing’ clothes for lunch, more appropriate clothes for tea, and finally pyjamas for bed. It’s sad, I know. Climate control within the ship is such that it is a very artificial environment. I am quite pleased to have a balcony so I can feel ‘real’ air and the ‘real’ temperature without having to go two levels up on the deck. Speaking of going up and down levels, there are 19 steps between each deck, and if you wish to even remotely keep off the weight you may gain from eating such good food then up and down those stairs you go! For the next few days I will attempt to keep tally of the number of steps I climbed.

After tea there was, once more, a show. Entitled ‘Do You Want to Dance’ it was a showcase of talent (though the singing wasn’t as talented as the dancing). They moved from swing to blues to Irish to Indian to Latin to ballroom to others I can’t remember. Very diverse and very talented, it was a quality performance. Tomorrow night is ‘Pirate Night’ which features a comedy show, which I am looking forward to after a day out at Vila (Vanuatu).

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