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QUEEN HORTENSE'S CAVE, NEW CALEDONIA

The British explorer Captain Cook had been commissioned by the British Government to circumnavigate the world and to determine whether New Zealand was connected to a great southern landmass, or "Terra Australis." During the years 1772-1775 he was on his second voyage on the H.M.S. Resolution to the South Pacific. On this voyage he charted the eastern coast of Australia, and in 1773 discovered a set of islands, he named "New Caledonia." The islands, an archipelago, lie 1200 km to the east of Australia. The indigenous Melaneisean people are known as the Kanaks.

Sailing east from Brisbane, Australia on the Seaboard Odyssey, we arrived on the third day at the tiny Isle of Pines. This is the southernmost island of the archipelago. Featuring tall pines and white powdery beaches, the island is described as one of the most spectacular in the South Pacific. This capacious yawning cave, named by Kanak people after their queen Hortense, is a somewhat incongruous natural feature of the island, but apparently there exits several similar grotos. This one has water disappearing into an underground river.

Of course, the islands are French overseas territories, thousands of kilometers from the mainland of France. But it is no stranger than calling the islands of Tahiti and Mourea part of France, nor Hawaii a part of the United States.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12167] (41253)
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