Random (not quite) Friday memory 6 — Tanna

During that part of my life from c.1957 to 1967 (which I recently referred to as “I was a teenage Calvinist”) the island of Tanna in what was then the New Hebrides was very much part of our consciousness.


In a kastom village on Tanna

Both ministers at Sutherland Presbyterian Church in those years had served as missionaries on Tanna.I recall that for a while a Tanna student named Loughman Jack was part of our group. Soon after he arrived we took him to Bundeena in the Royal National Park where we viewed the Dharawal carvings on a headland from which the original inhabitants of the area may well have watched the passing of James Cook in 1770 and the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.


Dharawal carvings at Jibbon Head, Bundeena; the whale was a totemic animal to the people

I remember that day Jack demonstrated some Tannese skills in cooking fish in leaves, weaving slingshots, and improvising spears from the grass tree plant. He also travelled by train that day for the first time in his life. He was visibly disconcerted when the train went through a tunnel.

I note that there is a Loughman in the Vanuatu parliament these days – no doubt a relative.

Today of course we think of Vanuatu because of Cyclone Pam: see The Wages of Cyclone Pam.

Over the weekend, Cyclone Pam, one of the most severe tropical storms ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere, struck the small island nations of Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, where it killed at least eleven people. Yesterday, speaking at the U.N. Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan, Baldwin Lonsdale, the President of Vanuatu, called the storm a “monster.” He also warned that the climate in the region would remain volatile as long as global warming goes unchecked. “The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected,” he said. “Yes, climate change is contributing to this.” No deaths have been reported in other countries, but, according to a press release issued by Tuvalu, nearly half of its population has been displaced

See also FactCheck: is global warming intensifying cyclones in the Pacific?

Tanna is the worst affected of all the islands in Vanuatu.