Depart Noumea, New CaledoniaBoarding commences at 9:00am for a 10:00am departure. This afternoon your acclaimed historian Richard Frank will present a briefing about the Pacific War and the pivotal events that occurred at the destinations you will be visiting in the coming days. You will also have the opportunity to enjoy a beach walk on beautiful Casey Island and perhaps enjoy a snorkel over the colorful corals. Tonight, join the Captain and crew for Welcome Aboard Cocktails.
Lifou Island TourLifou Island's impressive beaches are amongst the best in the world, backed by sparkling lagoons and pine tree covered landscapes. Join the Expedition Leader on a walk to the island's churches and beautiful bays. Lifou is sensational for snorkeling with a panorama of sea-life unsullied by man.
Tanna Island Volcano, VanuatuWhile approaching Tanna Island see your first signs of volcanic activity; hot springs bubbling beneath the surface. Travel ashore and land on the black volcanic beach of Port Resolution. Join your Expedition Leader and naturalists on a drive, local style, through the forest and up the slopes of Mount Yasur to view this active volcano that still regularly spews rocks and ash. This evening Richard Frank will present a briefing about Vanuatu's role in the war and in particular the vital Allied base at your next port of call, Espiritu Santo.
Espiritu Santo & Million Dollar Point
Espiritu Santo was one of the main US air bases in the South Pacific for much of the war. By 1945 there were four airfields and a seaplane base on the island and more than 40,000 US troops were stationed there. James Michener wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific after being stationed on Santo during the war. The island was also the setting for the Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.
At the end of the war the US had thousands of tons of equipment and vehicles on Santo that would be too expensive to ship back to the US. After failing to negotiate the sale of the equipment to locals, most of it - from bulldozers to crates of Coca-Cola - was dumped in the sea. The site became known as Million Dollar Point, based on the estimate of the equipment's worth in 1945 dollars. Today Million Dollar Point is a popular dive and snorkel site, and you will have the opportunity to visit it during the day. Certified SCUBA divers may also wish to join the Dive Instructor on a dive to the SS President Coolidge, a glamorous passenger ship that was seconded by the US Military and converted into a US troop ship during the war. The Coolidge was struck by a friendly mine off Espiritu Santo on October 26 1942 and today is the world's largest WWII wreck accessible to SCUBA divers.
Ureparapara Island & Kastom DancingImagine cruising into the cone of a volcano surrounded on three sides by thousand-foot cliffs. Ureparapara is one of the most spectacular islands in Vanuatu. The only way to experience this island is by sea and visits from cruise ships are rare. Be entertained by the local people with dancing and join a guided walk to the top of the caldera.
Nendo Island, Solomon IslandsYour welcome to the Solomon Islands, Nendo Island is an excellent location to view and purchase quality artefacts. Enjoy a cultural performance and an opportunity to snorkel.
Santa AnaThe locals of Santa Ana, a small island southeast of San Cristobal, welcome you ashore with village warriors bearing swords and blowing on conch shell horns. Santa Ana is known for its bone fishhooks and imaginative fishing floats. Join the naturalist for a guided walk across the island, through shady forests where a myriad of colorful orchids grow. Back on board, Richard Frank will present a briefing on the highlight of your WW2 cruise, your visit to Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the coming days.
In mid-1942 Allied forces learned that the Japanese were building an airfield on the island of Guadalcanal, which could be used to launch attacks on US shipping lanes and effectively sever communications between Australia and the USA. On August 7, 1942, America launched its first offensive operation of the war when the 1st Marine Division landed on the north coast of Guadalcanal. The Marines quickly secured the airfield but over the next six months became entangled in some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific War, as the Japanese desperately tried to recover the airfield. By the time the Japanese gave up their attempts to recapture Guadalcanal in February 1943, almost 8000 American marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen had been killed, but a great victory had been won. The Guadalcanal Campaign marked the end of Japanese aggression in the Pacific. Every step they took for the rest of the war was a retreat that ended in 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
Today explore this iconic World War Two battlefield, the 'Gettysburg of the Pacific'. Accompanied by Richard Frank, visit the US Memorial, the Japanese Memorial, Alligator Creek, Bloody Ridge, Red Beach and much more. See the remains of US and Japanese planes, armor and guns at the outdoor museum at Vilu. A highlight of your day will be meeting local islanders who served as scouts for the American forces during the battle.
Richard Frank is the author of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle and was also a historical consultant on HBO's The Pacific. There is no better historian to guide you around the former battlefields of Guadalcanal. As the sun sets cruise across the famous Ironbottom Sound, scene of a series of savage naval battles during the Guadalcanal Campaign and so-named because of the huge number of Allied and Japanese ships that were sunk there.
Tulagi is a small island just north of Guadalcanal that bears the distinction of being the first place American forces landed during the Pacific War. Several hours before the main landing on Guadalcanal, a force of Marine Raiders came ashore at Tulagi to neutralize the Japanese garrison on the strategically important island. After a short but tough fight the Raiders had captured the island, and today there is much to see from the war.
In the morning anchor off the coast of Tulagi and travel ashore aboard Xplorer. Spend the morning walking around the island, exploring Japanese caves, anti-aircraft positions and Blue Beach, where the Marines landed in 1942. After lunch reboard Xplorer and explore Tulagi Harbor, a former PT-boat base where John F. Kennedy was stationed in 1943 on PT-109.
Cruise past the islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo, scenes of fierce fighting during the US landings, and the wrecks of several Japanese 'Mavis' flying boats, sunk on the morning of the landings. Cruise to the wreck of the Japanese destroyer Kikuzuki, which was sunk by US planes in May 1942, and the wreck of the US landing ship LST-342, sunk with the loss of most of its crew by a Japanese submarine in 1943. At the end of this memorable day return to the Oceanic Discoverer and continue your voyage through the Solomon Islands.
Arnavon Islands Marine ReserveThe Arnavon Islands are the only marine reserve in the Solomon Islands where, except for subsistence gathering, all marine life is protected and fishing is banned. The islands are home to endangered wildlife including the beautiful Hawksbill Turtle. Travel ashore to see how the conservation efforts are helping rejuvenate the island before enjoying snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours. Back on board, Richard Frank will present a briefing about the tough fighting in the northern Solomons in 1942/43.
Ghizo & Kennedy IslandDiscover tiny Kennedy Island, named in honor of John F. Kennedy who swam ashore with his crew after his patrol boat PT-109 was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943. Explore the sandy beaches and snorkel or dive over the coral reef. In the afternoon visit the small provincial capital on Ghizo Island. Wander through the open air markets, showcasing crafts by legendary wood carvers. Ghizo was occupied by the Japanese during the war and was subjected to dozens of US air raids. Wrecks of planes and ships litter the waters around the island. This evening Richard Frank will deliver a briefing on the Bougainville Campaign, the next chapter of World War Two history you will explore.
Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
Today bid farewell the Solomon Islands with your arrival on the New Guinean island of Bougainville. Bougainville was occupied by Japanese troops in mid-1942 and was intended to form an important forward outpost of the Japanese Empire. There were even plans to move civilian workers to the island, to be housed in a settlement known as Little Tokyo. An American landing in November 1943 put an end to those plans and Bougainville became a major battle front for the rest of the war. Australian troops took over much of the fighting from US forces in late 1944 and launched a series of attacks which effectively wiped out the entire Japanese garrison. More than 20,000 Japanese were killed in the fighting and an additional 35,000 died of disease and starvation in the jungle. More than 1200 Americans and Australians were killed.
Travel ashore at Torokina, the site of the original US landing and the main US and Australian base for the rest of the war. Have the opportunity to meet the local villagers and see the remains of an Allied airstrip built on Cape Torokina. Also visit Puruata, an idyllic uninhabited island in nearby Empress Augusta Bay that has a beautiful beach and many relics from the war.
Buka IslandTraveling in the wake of 18th century French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville sail the coast of Bougainville and embark on an expedition at the island of Buka. After the US landings at Torokina, the Japanese headquarters on Bougainville was transferred to Buka. An airstrip on the island was used by the Japanese for the remainder of the war. Even though Buka was not occupied by the Allies during the war, it was neutralized by constant air attacks and eventually surrounded and cut off from the rest of the Japanese forces. Back on board, Richard Frank will present a briefing on the New Britain Campaign, the final chapter in your tour of the Second World War battlefields.
New Britain / Rabaul and Disembark
Rabaul was the provincial capital of the island of New Britain. It was first established by German colonists in the early 1900s and was occupied by Australian troops during the First World War. In January 1942 Rabaul was again occupied by Australian troops when it came under attack from the Japanese. An invasion force landed on January 23 and within hours Rabaul was in Japanese hands. Within months Rabaul had become the Japanese Army and Navy Headquarters in the South Pacific and formed one of the largest and most important Japanese bases in the Pacific. The Allies had originally intended to capture Rabaul but decided in 1943 to encircle and isolate it, rather than take it directly in a costly frontal attack. This plan, known as Operation Cartwheel, involved the capture of several strategic points around Rabaul including New Georgia, Lae, Bougainville, Cape Gloucester, and several more. The strategy was extremely effective and Rabaul was cut off from the rest of the Japanese forces by early 1944. The under-supplied Japanese garrison held out until the surrender in August 1945 but their ability to wage war had been completely neutralized. Today Rabaul has many reminders of its important wartime history and makes for a fascinating visit.
Arrive in the morning and enjoy a half-day tour of the town's Second World War landmarks. The conclusion of the tour marks the end of your voyage through the Pacific battlefields of World War Two.