The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

Archive for the ‘New Caledonia’ Category


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The red arrow points to Sydney, Australia


As previously described, I arrived in Sydney after flying many hours through several time zones. Phone calls to friends in Melbourne were successful, so I hopped on a TAA flight to Melbourne, arriving there in the late afternoon. I was dead on my feet, so quickly found a hotel and went to bed. It was Saturday night. I awoke in the wee hours of Sunday, ravenously hungry, to find that on Sunday Melbourne does not wake up. There was nothing to eat at the hotel (no room service, not even a “Mr. Coffee” (it had not been invented yet) in the room. I slept fitfully and finally got up and out around ten: there wasn’t a soul stirring anywhere, everything was closed. I wandered around aimlessly, but suddenly heard the unmistakable rumble of a street-car. Following the sound, I spotted a lovely MMTB “M” and decided to take a ride—I didn’t care where it went. Now, I don’t remember where it went, except that somewhere along the way I spotted a cafe that was open and I managed to get some food.


The red arrow points to Melbourne

TAA Claim-Check Melbourne

The luggage tag on my bag full of dirty clothes

Melbourne Tram

Style "M" tram crossing the main drag

Tram tickets Melbourne

MTB trams used a zone system

My friends picked me up at my hotel that afternoon and we went to their home in the outskirts: we used the wonderful interurban system, and while at Flinders Station I spotted some wonderful old red cars. I simply had to ride in these the next day, and wound up at St. Kilda Beach.

Red Interurban Trains to St. Kilda

Great old electric train-sets still running

Soon to be retired, however.

St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne

Another panorama shot, repaired

St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne

To say that I was underwhelmed by Melbourne is an overstatement, and the prospect of working there for any length of time really did not appeal. In particular, the lack of ethnic diversity struck me forcibly, since I had just spent over 10 months in and around SEA. Melbourne was distressingly “white”. But my friends felt they really needed my expertise on the Bay Project, so they wined-and dined me, took me to a game preserve to meet some unusual critters, and did their best to make me feel at home. But it didn’t work, and after just a few days I was anxious to move on. The itinerary I planned called for stops in New Caledonia, Fiji, Tahiti, American Samoa, Western Samoa and Hawaii, arriving back in the states in time for Christmas.

I returned to Sydney, once again simply transiting and changing planes. Before long, I was in Noumea, Capital city of New Caledonia.

Transport to TAA

Transport to TAA

Boarding Pass - Noumea

Off to New Caledonia

Noumea, 4 December 1968

Dear all~
Well, after spending nearly 11 months in South-East Asia, I find I am experiencing “withdrawal symptoms”, or perhaps one could say I an SEA-sick. In any event, I find I miss the calm and ingenuousness of the people

Without quite realizing it ’till I got there, I wound up in Melbourne as far south of the equator as San Francisco is north of it (well below the Tropic of Capricorn even), so the weather was much the same as SF right now, except that summer is approaching in MB while winter lies ahead for SF. Through the good offices of Don & Marian, we went on Sunday to Healesville Animal Preserve, which is an elaborate sort of zoo with at least as many beautiful beasts on the outside of the cages as on the inside. Because of good weather, the place was crowded with people, and the kangaroos were so sated with hand-outs all they could do was lie in the sun & let the children maul them! Emus wander about the place in numbers. A nice feature of the place is its huge walk-through bird-cages where you are inside the cages with the birds. Got to see a lot of animals I’d never seen before, and they even have a platypus on display—quite difficult to achieve because the platypus is extremely sensitive to humans—and a lyre-bird pair and chick, though my only view of the he-lyre-bird was at a great distance as these birds are even more shy than the platypus.

Big Bird

I don't remember what this was


Unusual beasts: echidnas

Treed Koala

There's a Koala in that tree


A Wallaby. Looks like a good pet

On Monday (2nd Dec) Don & I conferred with various departments of the MMBW (Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works) on aspects of the Environmental Study of Port Phillip Bay, to which I would be assigned if I decide to return to do so. Although Australia is about the last place on my list of choices to work, a temporary assignment of 6 to 8 months might not be too bad (starting in January the weather gets very warm). Melbourne itself is a huge metropolis—actually, it is nearly all suburbs—with some good points: the architecture is very victorian, they have a good street-railway and an excellent (but ancient!) interurban train system. The cost of living is surprisingly low, roads are excellent, and there are lots of interesting places to go in the interior: gold-rush towns, etc., etc. But the population is so bloody white and all the customs so british! Movies, including those shown on TV, get a censorship-board rating (inexplicably, “Star” gets an “AO”=Adults Only rating!) which (on TV) is superimposed over the title at the beginning so one can hustle the kiddies off to bed before settling down to an evening of surreptitious thrills. Except for a few (visiting) Asians, people of color are rigidly excluded from Australia, so one has to get used to seeing the uniformly sickly pallor typical of the english (“slug” as Stephen Potter would say). As for my working for the MMBW, they seem quite agreeable, and I did file an application, but the decision awaits further investigation of alternatives by me, and frankly I hope some better alternative presents itself!

Luggage to Noumea

Luggage tag to Noumea

Tuesday morning I took a TAA flight to Sydney, where rains have extinguished most of the brush-fires, and on to Noumea. New Caledonia is a curious island, being just a cigar-shaped mountain-range about 250 miles N-S and +/- 30 mi E-W. The west coast is quite un-tropical and very dry; the predominate tree is a variety of eucalyptus, which burns well—there are several fires burning here, too—in fact one just up the little hill behind my hotel which broke out a few moments ago. The east coast, where all the rain falls, is said to be typically tropical, and I hope to go over there tomorrow. It is colorful here, though—frangipani, and some sort of flowering tree [Poinciana] is brilliant orange here, and bougainvillea are everywhere and very beautiful. The town shuts down from 11:15 to around 3 PM. I will take in the aquarium this afternoon, and I swam at Anse Vata [beach] this morning. Just around Noumea alone there are a dozen or so good beaches, and of course there’s 500-600 miles of shoreline all dotted with them. Noumea “dies” completely on weekends, though; nothing is open. So Friday morning I depart for Fiji where I hope the same is not true. I hear that Tahiti is so commercialized now it is hardly any fun—so I may decide to go to Tonga instead,and fly home direct from Samoa. Or I may go to both places for briefer stays. Don’t know yet—will wait and see what I learn in Fiji.

Islands - Noumea

The red arrow points to Noumea on New Caledonia


The aquarium is, as all the pamphlets say, small: but oh, my what gorgeous things they have! The fish, and more especially all the other animals they have on display (corals, sponges, anemones and so on) are just not to be believed. The owners and developers of the aquarium (it is privately owned) discovered some years ago the “luminescent” (i.e., fluorescent) corals that glow under UV light, and have what is claimed to be the only display of them in the world. They glow only if they are alive, so the dozen or so tanks they have devoted to these are really fascinating, and unimaginably beautiful.

Aquarium in Noumea

Typical tank in the Aquarium in Noumea

Australia, has, incidentally “ATV”, a single government-run non-commercial station. On it [while in Melbourne] I saw an excellent documentary called, appropriately enough, “Toward Tomorrow”: it is about C-B-R warfare, and shows in actual photos how far along we and particularly England are with this charming branch of study. Man’s capacity for evil may be exceeded only by his lack of judgement; in any case, the research in this area is a multi-million dollar investment already (cf. previous letters, this topic) as the movie more than adequately shows. Shown also is the lack of judgement, so evident in many of the interviews with people involved in the work. The american viewpoint is lengthily discussed by some Major-General whose appearance (and most of his pronouncements) is almost imbecilic. While one or two of the workers lament their involvement in what is obviously an offensive job, none appear to have enough strength of conviction to get out and find a less offensive job; one wonders what fascination compels them to remain? The most pathetic to me was one “scientist” whose only excuse was that he felt the “quality” of the work being done (in england) was “very high”. The fact remains that biological warfare a) is already in use (in VN and apparently in Yemen); b) is capable of mass demolition of humanity that makes Hitler’s pogroms look like child’s play; and c) is contemplated by military authorities with no less enthusiasm than other currently “conventional” methods of destroying adversaries. KQED might get hold of this film—I hope—but if you get to see it, take tranquilizers first. It is one of the most unpleasant things I’ve seen in years.

05 December 1968

Alas, the east coast will have to wait—the local transportation is not good enough to make a one-day return trip to “the other side”. Another time, perhaps. Instead, I shall take a boat ride this afternoon to the 100 year-old light house, on an island off-shore a ways, and see what else there might be to do there. I depart for Fiji at 7:15 AM (!!) tomorrow.

I took a few photos in Noumea, but in the main I was not impressed with the place.

Harbor at Noumea

Noumea was a deep-water port

Anse Vata beach

Anse Vata beach near Noumea

Fire behind hotel

There was a fire on the hill behind my hotel

Flame trees

Noumea was nothing if not colorful!

Verandah at hotel, Numea

The flame trees were spectacular

My letter continues on the next page, as I move on to Fiji.



Written by Editor

February 21st, 2010 at 2:45 pm