Written by Pat Doherty, VE3PD (VE3HFS)
This is being written in May of
1997, quite a few years after our second trip. I don't know as the
memories are as sharp as the first trip. Since we (VE3EEW and myself)
were going to where we would stay with friends and then re visit Rarotonga in
the Cook Islands there was a little less
pressure to preparations.
The incentive for the second trip to the Pacific really started on the first trip. While we were in Rarotonga in 1978 we met Alan Cresswell, his wife Colleen and his family. During our stay we initially got invited over for four o'clock tea. Everyone seemed to hit it off and eventually we progressed to visiting with them quite a bit. It was during conversations that we found out Alan's posting to Rarotonga would end about a year after we departed. Rarotonga was a posting that had a limited duration. The maximum stay allowed was three years. It seems that when supervisory personal get posted there they start out with a great deal of enthusiasm, getting everything back on track with regular reports etc. Things have been known to go down hill from there as they start to settle into island life with things like reports, regular schedules and the like starting to fall behind and even becoming non existent. The New Zealand government limits the time spent to three years figuring that as the maximum for productivity, after that island priorities and the slow paced way of life would most likely change even the most dedicated employee. They expected to get posted to another tropical area and invited us to visit with them when this posting became a reality.
It turned out we were to see them much sooner than we thought. Alan who worked for the New Zealand government and was in charge of the geophysical station on Rarotonga was due for vacation after his island posting. Amazing! we go there for a vacation, he gets one after he leaves. Bill and I had kept up a schedule on the radio with Alan. We were aware they had thought about traveling home to New Zealand via the United States and Canada. They would get a chance to visit with many amateur radio friends and best of all they would stay with us in Murillo for about 10 days. Since this is not a story about their trip I will just make a few comments. When they landed in Los Angelos the temperature was about 65 degrees F. As they traveled farther north it got hotter, and when they arrived in Murillo, at the end of May, the temperatures were in the eighties and nineties. We held a large barbecue for them on a Saturday and we were lucky that the temperature dropped from a high of 95 degrees F the day before to 85 degrees. A visit to Old Fort William, which is in a valley, proved to hot for Colleen. Hard to believe, considering they had just left a tropical isle.
In any case Alan's next tropical assignment was on Western Samoa, and he invited us to visit. Bill and I started making plans in the spring of 1983 for a visit to Western Samoa and Rarotonga in January and February of 1984. It was easier the second time, we had friends we were going to visit, Alan already had a station set up, we had a friendly place waiting for us to eat and sleep and play radio. The only need for radio equipment was in Rarotonga. We purchased a Sumner Tri Band yagi, an excellent antenna that was relatively small in size yet had the band coverage and performance of a full size yagi. We pre built the antenna using coloured tape to distinguish the various elements and measurements. A simple matter to re assemble in Rarotonga. Our radio would be an Icom 720 A, much lighter than the Kenwood TS 820 we took on our previous expedition. This time we were taking a Commodore Vic 20 with us, this meant keyboard CW and RTTY. A small black and white portable TV with about a 5 inch screen, that ran off 12 volts replaced the usual Vic 20 Monitor.
In late 1983 after Bill and I had put all our plans together it turned out there was to be a major change in my employment. My boss, the Vice President and General Manager of the Steamship Division had decided to retire at the end of December, 1983. I was to take over and become the General Manager as of January 1, 1984. A decision was made, with the consent of the company, to go ahead with the DX vacation. Isn't that great, what other company would let you take over a senior management position and start out with a five week vacation to the Pacific. To carry this a bit further, during our second week in Western Samoa I received a call from Robert Paterson advising me I was now Vice President and General Manager. That is the way to add spice to a vacation! Our schedule called for us to fly Thunder Bay to Los Angelos/Hawaii/American Samoa/Western Samoa, with a side trip to Rarotonga. We were scheduled to overnight in Hawaii and American Samoa. No more thirty seven hours of straight traveling as we did on our first trip. Flying from Hawaii to American Samoa and then onto Western Samoa was a real experience. The first leg was on South Pacific Island Airways on a stretched DC8, you almost needed a lunch to go from end to end. When checking our luggage in, the agent at the gate attached VIP stickers to our luggage. Don't know if this affected our various customs receptions, in any case we did not have any problems. While waiting to board the plane we had a conversation with a fellow traveller. He advised us not to leave the door of our room open when staying in American Samoa as the rats will come in to drink fresh water (!) from the toilet. I think this was just a bit of tourist baloney (we did not leave the door open just in case). He also mentioned that when we caught a cab at the airport to expect the cabbie to offer to take us to better and cheaper accommodations. He said don't do it, and yes the cabbie offered and we did not do it. Our accommodations in American Samoa were excellent. We flew from American Samoa to Western Samoa on a Dash 7, a Canadian built airplane. A thirty minute ride and would you believe there was a stewardess on board. By the way, South Pacific Island Airways was shut down three months later for safety violations!
End of Part 1 PART