Sunday, January 17, 2010

Funafuti: A place of peace, a place I want to go

When I was a boy, my late stepfather Ray used to reminisce about a place he visited during World War II.

Ray was a Navy pilot, but from what I could glean from our rare discussions, not a combat one. He flew PBYs, a large plane equipped to land and take off on water. He visited all the hot spots, including Guadalcanal, but always after the islands were secured by Marines and Army units.

He had a Navy friend, Frank Ferguson who used to stop by our house in La Crescenta and they would talk about their war experiences. I was always fascinated by their talks. But one place they talked about that stuck with me was Funafuti.

Funafuti, the capital city of the Tuvalu atoll, was a small Navy base that both Frank and my stepfather had visited. When they spoke of Funafuti they would light up. It was obviously a place of fond memories.

When my stepfather would become frustrated with the routine and not-so-routine challenges of life he would often say: "God, I wish I was back on Funafuti."

For some reason I woke up thinking about those discussions between Frank and Ray in our living room in the early 1960s (Frank died of cancer in the 1960s). So thanks to Google I found out a little about the island nation.

According to the Funafuti travel website, (the chart for population and acreage is reversed) the island nation, one of the newest members of the United Nations, has a population of a little over 9,000 (as of 2002 census). Half of the population of the country lives in the capital city of Funafuti. The group of small islands are a part of a former volcano rim in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it looks like it is only a couple city blocks wide in many places.

You can't find flights on Expedia, Priceline or any of the usual travel sites and it appears only Air Pacific flies there and only a couple days a week. I couldn't find a price or even an airport to fly from (there are no flights from any American airport to Funafuti listed on any travel site I checked).

There are 5-6 hotels, with the largest having 12 rooms. One motel has three rooms and a daily rate of $80 (Australian). There are wonderful excursions for the few travelers who do come there.

God, I wish I was on Funafuti, and I've never been there.


Anonymous said...


I think the first people to populate Funafuti were the Fungawi. But it was happenstance; they were apparently traveling to someplace else when the discovery was made.


And you know what? You should find a way. Life is short, big guy! Imagine blogging from there. Would that be a business expense? rofl


Jim of L-Town said...

I am going to find a way. And if we go, we will stay for a long time.

They do have Internet, I did find that out.....

I read about the first settlers and yes, they were headed somewhere else. I can't imagine anyone setting out for this tiny speck in the middle of the ocean.

It appears they import some of their needs, but grow and fish for the rest.

Sounds like a great life.

When I was in the Navy I once made an 8-hour stop on Midway. It was a beautiful island with Gooney birds. You can walk around it in a very short time, but I wanted to be stationed there until one of the guys who was stationed there told me you only get off once every 18 months, unless you die.

Chris Flynn said...

Thanks for some great postings today Jim. First, I can't stop the tears after listening to 'Til the Last Shot is fired' Remember MAC, the Military Acknowledgment Committee, when we visited the Viet Nam vets at Oak Knoll hospital... (more tears).

I kinda remember Ray talking about Funafuti... my dad was stationed the whole time on Midway. I've got lots of pictures of the goony birds. He said they were beautiful, graceful fliers, but always tumbled when they landed.

Wish Ray, my dad, Joan's dad, were here to tell us the stores.

Thanks again for the postings.

PS I think you'll get to Funafuti!

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear Chris:

My stop at Midway was for hours while we refueled. I remember the rusting hulks of ships on the reef, still there from World War II. They are all gone now, either lost to the rust or removed as part of the clean-up.

The water was crystal clear and you could see 30-feet down to the bottom. When a ship entered the lagoon, you were required to seal off your bilges to avoid any accidental spills (this was back in 1967).

It is no longer a Navy base, but is part of the Department of the Interior, although veterans sometimes go back to visit.

There are lots of pictures of current day Midway at the bottom of this webpage:

I well remember all the work you did on the MAC and our visits there and how much it meant to those vets. That was a very good thing that you did and way out of place during the Vietnam era when a lot of people treated veterans with disdain.

The video got to me too.


Bob Allen said...

Oh, my, God. My father was in the Navy during the war, and the one Island he mentioned fondly -- or at least more wistfully than, say, Iwo Jima -- was ... Funafuti.