Caribbean Stories

Radio Sistema Tropical

Cardinal Points

Diego Azeta

18 March 2016

© 2016 Diego Azeta – All Rights Reserved – Derechos Reservados
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The PDF edition is the final edited version of the story.

WELCOME to the première broadcast of Cardinal Points, Radio Sistema Tropical’s new English programme on global affairs. I am Shahrazad Boyko, international political correspondent at Sistema Tropical World News. With me today is Teriaki Teiwaki, newly appointed host for Cardinal Points. Mr Teiwaki, welcome to Radio Sistema Tropical and to Cardinal Points.

Teriaki Teiwaki:  Thank you, Miss Boyko. I am very pleased to be here.

SB:  Since you will be hosting the programme, we would like to devote this inaugural edition to becoming acquainted with the host. I think our listeners would appreciate that.

TT:  I hope they don’t find the interview boring.

SB:  Oh, I have a feeling they won’t, sir, for your background is interesting and colourful, and your insight on international relations is unique.

TT:  Thank you, but you are too generous.

SB:  Thank you, sir. Now, you are originally from a charmingly picturesque nation, the Republic of Kiribati. (A brief aside to our listeners: the country’s name is pronounced KEE-ree-bas but is spelled Ki-ri-ba-ti. The phoneme s is written as ti in Kiribatese. There is no letter s in the Kiribati alphabet.) Mr Teiwaki, would you like to share with us stories about your home country?

TT:  It will be my pleasure. To begin with, I should explain the nature of our names. In my country, we do not use surnames as such. Instead, we append to our given name the name of our father to facilitate identification. Thus in my case, the name is Teriaki while the second appellation distinguishes me from other namesakes as the son of Teiwaki. My father, in turn, is Teiwaki, the son of Teitikai, and so on. Surnames, cross-generational family names, do not exist in the Kiribati culture. A person’s actual name is really just one, the first. So please feel free to call me Teriaki, Shahrazad.

SB:  Very well… Teriaki. Single names were also the tradition in Persia until about a century ago.

T:  That was the custom everywhere in olden times. In small societies, with small populations, people know everyone else personally. Surnames are of little relevance. That is still the case in local Micronesian communities.

S:  Is the leading syllable “Te” in your family’s names important?

T:  No. That seems to be due to personal choices in naming. Kiribati names make ample use of all thirteen letters in our alphabet.

S:  Thirteen letters!

T:  A remarkably efficient abecedarium, some assert. One must embrace the rigours of efficiency to traverse the Pacific in outrigger canoes. That indelibly marks a people’s worldview. The Romans, on the other hand, with their puny Mare Nostrum conceit, never did quite get a handle on optimization. Hard to envision with so unwieldy numerals, granted, but their reliance on smiting to solve every problem made things worse. As a result, Rome wound up with a larger alphabet than necessary along with a culture prone to profligacy and bullying, leading to a decadent mindset. Everything was done on a showy, monumental scale. Spoiled Rome: self-indulgent, vainglorious, avaricious, gladiatorial, unsustainable. The fall was only a matter of time.

S:  Is the collapse of civilisations inevitable, in your view?

T:  Under conditions of systemic suboptimality in a dynamic environment, it is a mathematical certainty, yes. Survival is reserved for the fittest. Beware the vanity of exceptionalism: it sows the seeds of self-destruction.

S:  It seems that the Romans survived for some time by appropriating every fit thing the exceptional Greeks had to offer, starting with their culture.

T:  The Greeks were no better, though. They snatched the alphabet from the Phoenicians instead of devising their own. Mesopotamians had done just fine with their homebrewed cuneiform script. Egyptians did so as well with their hieroglyphics. But not the Greeks. No originality. Just grab what you can. In this regard Europeans are the pits. Terrible attitude. What they did develop on their own and know perfectly well how to do is to plunder.

S:  But the Greeks were no Vikings. They invented philosophy.

T:  Certain Greeks invented philosophy, a select few working as individuals. Collectively, however —as societies— the Greeks were just as insufferable as any other Eurotroglodyte scumbag. See what they did to Socrates. And those were the supposedly enlightened Athenians!

S:  Are we not being a tad too harsh on the Europeans, perhaps?

T:  Was Leopold not a tad too harsh on the Congolese? To name but one of innumerable instances strewn about all across history. And that from a tame and militarily insignificant country, no less. The answer to your question is no, not in the least. History shows that Europeans have grown abominably worse in their geopolitical behaviour over time. They —and here I include their overseas progeny— kill, maim, and subjugate far more people now, in modern times, than they ever did in the past. Often for no apparent reason, it would seem. Collateral damage they call it, that crass euphemism in vogue nowadays. Rubbish! Innocent civilians have long been considered perfectly acceptable targets in what they callously refer to as psychological warfare. And the warfare is conducted not for legitimate purposes of defence but for the projection of barbarically brutish power. They may call it psychological but psychopathic is the right term. Attila was but a babe in comparison with these Euroterrorist nation-states. These are the savages who decimated the autochthonous Americans of two continents and instituted criminal slavery based on race, far and away the two gravest crimes against humanity ever. Europeans —the West— are the bane of humankind, Shahrazad, the Black Plague of the planet. Orders of magnitude worse than Daesh.

S:  Goodness!

T:  No, badness. No other people have racked up such an atrocious record. Witness the ten to fifteen million souls slaughtered by the Butcher of Congo; the four million Vietnamese who were simply seeking their independence; the six million, nonviolent, fellow-neighbour, European Jews—

S:  That was Hitler.

T:  What was he, Chinese? What about his rabid followers? The ones who made the job easier for the SS — everywhere! Europeans always gloss over these things, but that does not make the skeletons go away. Try as they may.

S:  Let’s talk about space for a while. How large is Kiribati?

T:  Kiribati is an island nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean straddling the equator and the antimeridian, the longitudinal mark for the International Date Line. It consists of 33 islands —32 atolls and one raised coral island— with a total land area of 726 square kilometres scattered across 3.5 million square kilometres of open ocean. To put that in perspective, the breadth of Kiribati is comparable to that of the continental United States.

S:  Not the typical geography of your average country.

T:  It is somewhat different, yes. I come from Christmas Island: in Kiribati, Kiritimati. Sounds almost the same as in English.

S:  Indeed, it does.

T:  Kiritimati has only 388 square kilometres of land, lagoons excluded. But that is enough to make it the largest atoll in terms of land area in the world. Kiritimati has over half of the land area of the entire nation.

S:  That puts Kiritimati in a position of prominence, does it not?

T:  Surprisingly, no. The prominent place is South Tarawa, the capital. They have nine times the population we do on not quite sixteen square kilometres of land. Kiritimati did enjoy certain prominence some time back. Thankfully, those days of dubious prominence are over.

S:  When were those days, World War II?

T:  No, Tarawa suffered the agony of World War II, first under the Japanese occupation, followed by the American invasion. A horrific battle took place there, with other encounters in Makin, Butaritari, and Abemama atolls, all in the Gilbert Islands. Then came the nuclear bombs tests, first by the British, soon followed by the Americans. Kiritimati was massively occupied by their militaries. But we native islanders were not always evacuated when the tests were conducted. That was the case with the so-called low-power bombs.

S:  Were those bombs any safer?

T:  As safe as any other thermonuclear weapon. They were hydrogen bombs.

S:  Oh, my! But they dropped those bombs on far-off islands, right?

T:  No. They were detonated high above Kiritimati or darn close to shore.

S:  What!

T:  The nearest islands, Tabuaeran and Malden, which are actually hundreds of kilometres away, served as recording stations. Three bombs were initially tested near Malden but Kiritimati saw the rest of the action. You would think they would have stayed on Malden. The island is uninhabited. Think again.

S:  Don’t tell me they wanted to test the effects of the bombs on people.

T:  Very well, I won’t. I remember the terrifying flashes; the thermal waves racing over your back as you lay prone, cleaving to the ground, followed by thunderous blast waves; looking up at the roiling mushroom clouds potently billowing towards the stratosphere. Great fun for a kid, I must admit.

S:  They didn’t take special precautions with the children?

T:  Well, first they had to catch you. I knew the terrain well.

S:  But… didn’t they realise the dangers to the population?

T:  Of course they did. By then, the late fifties and early sixties, everybody knew of the dangers involved. Except us islanders. But that is precisely why these people had come to our blissful paradise, to avoid contaminating their lands and exposing their populations to radiation. Do you think they would have done this on the English countryside or over Long Island?

S:  How could they possibly do this?

T:  Europeans, Shahrazad. The Americans invented an expedient excuse for these things: national security. It’s a licence to do whatever you want with no post-traumatic moral qualms to haunt you. Works like a charm. Actually, it works as a secular deity, a golden calf. “Obey, minions!” Very effective. Things individuals would never do on their own are dutifully carried out if ordered by the state. And what is the state, but a clique of amoral politicos? Correction, a stream of amoral politicos: the state has temporal continuity. Stanley Milgram examined this authority-figure psychological phenomenon in the laboratory and obtained the same shocking results. Pardon the pun.

S:  Might this be the other side of the coin of psychological warfare?

T:  Definitely, indoctrinating your minions and conditioning them to obey your commands, whether dictated or implied. It’s a Skinnerian scheme used by the unscrupulous warmongers to maintain their hyperbloated military-industrial complex hyperbloated in an era when otherwise there would be peace.

S:  It always boils down to money.

T:  Money for the purveyors but power for the acquisitors. Especially in the Anglo-European sphere. Non-Western cultures tend to consider additional criteria in their political decision making, in varying degrees. Not the Euros, much less the Anglos. Strictly one-track minds. Power is the only objective.

S:  But that contravenes their liberal principles and much touted values.

T:  In politics at the nation-state level, principles and values are diversions, mere rhetoric to pacify the populace. Nothing overrides power. Machiavelli already pointed that out. But this insatiable craving for power is an Achilles heel, for it renders the Anglo-Europeans’ behaviour predictable. An astute opponent will take that into account when formulating strategy. As General Võ Nguyên Giáp did for his small, colonially victimised country. Twice.

S:  Strategies to wage still more wars?

T:  Not necessarily. Preponderance can be achieved by other means. One can bring down a goliath financially, say, or outperform the standard-bearer with a better educated citizenry. The trick is to choose the right goal, not the one pursued by the hegemon. If the hare is in a frenzy beating ploughshares into swords, the tortoise is bound to win any other race of her choosing.

S:  Will the minions and the hyperbloated ever learn?

T:  Frankly, no. They are ideology-bound. Can’t think properly. Check it out: most militarists are sociopolitical morons in civil life. Case in point: Caesar.

S:  Destroyed himself and the republic. So there is no hope, then?

T:  That depends on the size of the fraction of the population that still thinks, that is capable of sound judgement. When facing adverse circumstances, that fraction can grow to be quite large. But ordinarily it’s much too small. If this subset of the general population can attain critical mass —obtain sufficient influence over the political power structure, like the oligarchs have done— then there is the possibility of producing systemic change in the culture, of making genuine societal progress, advances that benefit all humanity. Which is the way to protect civilisations from collapse. If the necessary changes to the cultural system are not worked out and implemented, the culture is on its way to its downfall. Possibly accompanied by fallout, in exceptional cases.

S:  You put it in so studiously precise terms.

T:  Systems are conceptually precise; that is why they are useful. They allow us to see farther clearly. Yet systems can also be computationally complex; the intricacies of real-world problems are unbounded. Complexity can easily overwhelm the intellect. The precision I refer to is that systems are logically structured. They are coherent and can be rationally understood even when the entities and processes they model are mathematically intractable.

S:  What can be done when the mathematics become intractable?

T:  Simulate the system on a computer. The techniques of system dynamics and agent-based simulation, to name but two, yield excellent prognoses of a modelled system’s behaviour. One may not find what is technically called a mathematically closed-form solution to the problem, one definitive answer in the form of a set of analytical equations, but a picture of probable system behaviour can be very illuminating. And with lots of pictures one can derive statistically valid conclusions. Good enough for government work.

S:  What if the problem is not amenable to computation?

T:  Mathematics is the science of patterns, not numbers. And computation is the science of manipulating symbols. Numbers are symbols. And symbols form patterns. If something has a logical structure, then it can be described by mathematics and manipulated by computers. Computers have come up with original proofs for theorems in mathematics and have trounced chess grand masters in championships. Those are symbolic tasks, things we don’t usually think of as numerical. Yet they were successfully computerized. If a task is logically grounded, a computer can procedurally simulate it.

S:  Interesting. Please tell us more about your philosophy of systems.

T:  Sure. A system is a theoretical construct, an abstraction that allows one to grasp the structure and functions of a set of interacting elements. There are two basic paths to do that: analysis and design. The key to superior systems analysis is the identification of feedback loops. This is when the outputs of a system, both intended and inadvertent, affect its subsequent performance. In concrete terms, systems are a way of approaching a problem or phenomenon to better understand its dynamics. If you can isolate and analyse a system’s feedbacks, then you’re in a position to control the system through improved system design. Which is much better than having the system control you.

S:  Point well taken. However —and correct me if I’m wrong— it seems that systems exist only in the mind.

T:  Absolutely. They are purely cognitive devices, epistemic filters, ways of looking at the world. There are no systems “out there” in the physical world. There exist only matter and energy in various combinations subject to four forces manifested through fields. And some people talking a lot of nonsense. Politicians, mostly.

S:  Who by and large do not think in terms of systems.

T:  Exactly. They think in terms of politics, which means they are hopelessly stuck in the past. Like the Greeks and Romans, doing all sorts of dumb stuff. A forward-looking politician is a rarity. That is why your everyday politician must be managed. Politicians are the people’s agents, not their bosses. They are elected to work for the people, to pursue and promote the commonweal. This principle, largely ignored in practice, is the cornerstone of democracy.

S:  How can ordinary people manage their politicians?

T:  By means of citizen initiatives: plebiscites and referenda. In particular, recall elections. The people must be able to throw the bums out at any time, including political appointees of every stripe. Having to wait for scheduled elections is not a solution because of long delays. Effective system control becomes virtually impossible with long delays, a fact well known to control engineers and wily politicos. If the people cannot exert timely control, then they do not have a democracy, period. Do note that citizen initiatives are the crucial feedback mechanism absent in national political systems everywhere. No wonder there is so much sleaze, corruption and incompetence in politics. Not to mention abuse of power and despotism. Maybe we should bring back the guillotine. Just kidding. My bad. Apologies. History shows that quickie solutions of that type do not work in the long run. Besides, they are messy.

S:  What if the despot murders his people?

T:  Then they should blow his brains out. There are limits, you know.

S:  Not very Christianlike.

T:  Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

S:  I’m not so sure that’s what he meant.

T:  The statement is internally consistent and logically complete.

S:  You have applied systems concepts to the analysis of global intercultural problems for transnational corporations, national governments and a number of United Nations organisms. How did you break into the field of cultural systems? Is it something one picks up when propelling outrigger canoes?

T:  Good one! No, unfortunately, nothing that dashing. In essence, you just sit down and read and get some practice solving problems. Just like anything else. Doing so in a formal academic programme makes it more efficient, of course. Problem is, there are very few programmes in systems science.

S:  They had such a programme in Kiritimati?

T:  In the fifties? No way! We didn’t even have a schoolhouse. Not all that many kids then. Nor funds for education. No funds for anything. The total population was perhaps three hundred islanders and four thousand military. A British chaplain took to teaching the locals English in a mess tent. We all knew a little already, but I learned a great deal.

S:  How old were you then?

T:  Um, six. Six to eight. You pick up languages fast when young.

S:  Tell me about it. What else did the chaplain teach?

T:  Arithmetic, up to multiplication and division.

S:  Did you like arithmetic?

T:  Loved it. Perfectly straightforward. I was the top student.

S:  I can imagine.

T:  Noticing my interest, the chaplain took me to the comms centre, another large tent. Knowing the officer in charge, he arranged for me to listen in on nonclassified communications: weather reports, routine messages, news and sport from Britain… I was delighted with the incoming transmissions and it evidently showed, for the officer assigned me to monitor civilian broadcasts on a standby shortwave receiver they hardly used. I was overjoyed with my “assignment” and spent all of my free time listening to international radio.

S:  What competing activities limited your free time?

T:  Helping out with domestic chores, like cleaning and sun-drying fish and gathering coconuts to make copra. I was too young to row out and fish with my dad, so I spent mornings working at home, when needed, then afternoons and evenings on the radio. I listened to the BBC, Radio Nederland, Australia and New Zealand radio, the French Radio Outre-Mer, Radio Moscow, and the low-powered “tropicals” from Latin America: local stations that at night came in clearly. Honolulu also came in crisply at night on the medium-wave band. Through shortwave radio I not only perfected my English but learned French, Spanish and some Dutch and Indonesian as well.

S:  Amazing. All that on your own?

T:  Mostly. The chaplain tutored me in reading and writing —in English, of course— but the other languages I learned on my own. When the tests were over and the British were about to leave the island, the officer declared the radio set, the headphones I used, and a hand crank generator with attached battery pack obsolete equipment and released them to me for disposal.

S:  Aww!

T:  Very fine fellows, Lieutenant Marley and Chaplain Watson.

S:  How did you learn to read and write in the other languages?

T:  That happened during the American occupation. And only for Spanish and French. The key was that the Americans had brought along two hefty, dual-language dictionaries: an English-Spanish/Spanish-English tome and an English-French/French-English volume. Both featured front matter that covered their respective foreign-language grammars and some usage. That and a shortwave receiver can turn a kid into a polyglot.

S:  A bright kid into a polyglot.

T:  Well, a determined kid.

S:  Fair enough. No written Dutch or Indonesian?

T:  Alas, no, much to my chagrin and loss. Zo is het leven. Sialan!

S:  So you had no formal schooling.

T:  Not until university. In 1968, the University of the South Pacific opened for business in Fiji. I was admitted to the first class. I said goodbye to my family with much sadness, for I knew it would be years before I saw them again. Fiji is about 3500 kilometres distant from Kiritimati. There is now a weekly flight between the islands. Progress.

S:  Indeed. Was this your first experience away from home?

T:  Yes. I was just short of 18 when admitted, but still a kid at heart.

S:  Tell us about USP.

T:  A most wonderful experience, totally new to me. But I ran smack into a wall with mathematics, the powerful, more advanced kind. The professor started out by talking about different classes of numbers. I had always been under the impression that there were only plain old numbers, just one kind. Not so. My first trauma was caused by the odd numbers. I racked my brains trying to figure out what was odd about certain numbers: they all seemed perfectly normal to me. Later he mentioned the real numbers. Weren’t they all real? I fretted. Ah, maybe the unreal were the odd kind. To illustrate the need for the real numbers, the professor went on, we need only consider the irrational numbers. The what? For example, he said, the square root of two, which pops up in the hypotenuse of the isosceles right triangle with sides of length one. What the hell is this guy talking about? I had no idea whatsoever that geometry even existed, so you can imagine my predicament.

S:  Sorry to laugh, but that was marvellously humorous. You needed to take remedial maths.

T:  That was remedial maths. Needless to say, I had to drop the course right at the start. Fortunately, I was able to add an introductory survey course in social science. The professor was a cultural anthropologist and although she covered all fields as required, her exposition of anthropology was absolutely brilliant. That set my academic compass at the get-go.

S:  So your subject was anthropology.

T:  No. There was no such subject offered. The uni was brand new. I took a general education degree, without major, which, believe me, I sorely needed.

S:  How did you resolve your impasse with maths?

T:  I fell back on what had worked for me before: self-reliance. I scurried to the library to check out some books on the subject. The inchoate library had very few books. But I found two, donated by faculty members, that turned out to be heaven-sent. One was Mathematician’s Delight by W.W. Sawyer. That wonderful book taught me what maths is really all about. It should be read by anyone who finds maths impenetrable. The other book opened up an entirely new world for me: Cybernetics by Norbert Wiener. It was there that I discovered systems and feedback, along with information, communication and systems control. With that book it became clear that I had quite a bit of maths ahead of me to learn. But that came later.

S:  How did that come about?

T:  On my last semester, I interviewed with a consultancy firm that had come to USP to recruit graduates for several cultural assessment research studies they were doing in Oceania in behalf of the United Nations’s Committee of 24, better known as the Special Committee on Decolonization. The firm was British but stationed in Hong Kong. For a kid from Kiritimati, Hong Kong was a veritable London, Paris or New York: the big time! I got the job and soon was on board a couple of BOAC jetliners on my way to the Fragrant Harbour. This was my first time flying. An unforgettable experience. Took two Vickers VC10s, one from Fiji to Sydney and another to Hong Kong via Darwin. I was impressed. That was a very fine aircraft, smooth in flight and incredibly quiet: the four engines were mounted on the tail.

S:  A fitting graduation present. What did your job entail?

T:  Research assistants did basic fact checking; compilation of ethnographic and economic data; editing of participant interviews, observation notebooks and field reports for consistency; and lent credibility to the project by virtue of being native Pacific islanders: our names appeared on the client reports. I  obtained a first-rate learning experience on cultural systems analysis.

S:  A substitute for an academic degree in anthropology, possibly?

T:  A practical, applied complement. More like an internship. I remedied my lack of formal studies in anthropology by registering part-time for courses at the University of Hong Kong. The firm paid for up to two courses per term for each of us. An educated assistant is a valuable assistant, they maintained. Especially when the expense was reimbursed by the UN.

S:  What courses did you take?

T:  In anthro, one: Introduction to Anthropology. That’s what they had. I also took Culture and Society, but that was a hybrid of anthro and sociology. It was a sociology department, so the offerings in anthro were limited. But the department chair was Professor Murray Groves, a social anthropologist by training and experienced researcher of the Motu of Papua New Guinea. He was my professor. Outstanding. I also read Marvin Harris’s now classic text, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, on my own.

S:  Naturally.

T:  To this day, that is the extent of my formal education in anthropology.

S:  For you, that was more than enough. What other courses did you take?

T:  The entire sequence of mathematics for engineering: college algebra and trig, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, probability and statistics. I also took Fortran IV programming and formal and philosophical logic.

S:  Good heavens! How were you able to deal with all that?

T:  Oh, back at USP, after reading Sawyer, I repeated the maths course. Had to drop it once more but this time I lasted longer. The professor suggested I read An Introduction to Mathematics by A.N. Whitehead. He graciously lent me the book. Did that and returned for a third attempt. This time I received special coaching from Professor Gupta, who admired my tenacity, he once said. Magnificent expositor. Passed the course with flying colours.

S:  Admirable.

T:  Thank you. To my surprise, I ran into a bit of trouble getting the first of the engineering maths courses approved. Our supervisor insisted all courses had to be in anthropology. That is not what we were told in the interviews, I said; we can register for any courses deemed useful. The supervisor replied that the interviewers were mistaken. So I talked to the executive director. He said it was fine for me to do maths and asked his secretary to sign off on the authorization for HKU on his behalf. Man, was the supervisor ever crossed!

S:  Uh-oh.

T:  I couldn’t understand at the time the supervisor’s attitude. And in part, I still don’t. This was my first experience with bureaucratic intrigues. Alas, it was not the last. People can be so inexplicably stupid in their organizational behaviour. The guy was gone from the firm in less than a year.

S:  Maybe this is irrelevant, but was the supervisor a fellow Pacific islander?

T:  No, he was Brit. But being British is no excuse for dishonesty.

S:  I’m sorry?

T:  A universal truism. Are you British?

S:  Yes I am.

T:  Good for you. Stiff upper lip.

S:  Um… Who took over the position of supervisor?

T:  It was left vacant for some time. Eventually I was promoted to the slot.

S:  I see. How long were you with the firm?

T:  About five years. In 1977, I was invited to join the Committee of 24 in New York as a research associate. Hit the big time, momma! Big Apple, here I come!

S:  I can feel your thrill. Teriaki, I’m afraid we’ve run out of time, so we’ll have to leave it there. However, our producer informs me that she would like to continue the interview at a later time, if that is all right with you.

T:  Why, certainly. I’d be happy to do so.

S:  Wonderful. To our listeners, thank you for joining us at Radio Sistema Tropical. Cardinal Points returns next week at its regularly scheduled times with Mr Teriaki as your permanent host. Podcasts are, as always, available at Sistema Tropical’s website. I am Shahrazad Boyko signing off and wishing you a pleasant morning, afternoon, evening or night, wherever in the world you may happen to be.

This is Radio Sistema Tropical, the Antillean world broadcasting system.

This story is available for download as
a PDF file for personal reading use.
(Edited 19 January 2017)

Editorial Antares

 External Photo Galleries

Keith Collicoat Kiritimati Photo Galleries

Cassidy International Airport (CXI) terminal, Kiritimati, Kiribati — 16 Nov 2005

Not everything is rustic, though.

Jane Resture’s Christmas Island Photographs

Christmas Island Photographs 1

Christmas Island Photographs 1 Part 1
Christmas Island Photographs 1 Part 2


Note: To prevent pesky annotations from popping up on the video, click Settings (the gear icon) on the control bar at the foot of the video and deselect (uncheck) Annotations.

Into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of Hell
per order of the State

Squadron leader Eric Denson was ordered to fly his Canberra plane through the center of a nuclear mushroom cloud detonated at Christmas Island. Read a report of an interview with his widow at The Guardian.

Denson was 26, probably too young and naïve to realize that the proper response to that order was:
     (a) Yo mamma, sir!
     (b) Tell HM's GD MF PM to do it himself, sir!
     (c) Shove it, sir!
     (d) all of the above.
That, my friends, is called living democracy: democracy practiced so as to remain living. Learn and live.

Goodbye from Kiribati!

Ti a boo! Áo uéka Kiribati te tai ae aki maan!

Image credits:

All nuclear explosion images are in the public domain.

Hastings TG 582 in-flight photos of Christmas Island in 1956 are by Dennis Hobbs, the plane's navigator, as well as the photo of the plane itself. The flight over London is in the public domain; the flight over the northern littoral of the atoll and the aircraft parked on the airfield are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons. The Kiritimati Island color map appears in the 2014 Kiritimati Island Travel & Trade Brochure published by The Kiribati National Tourism Office, available at This author added the 10 km scale bar.

The Kiritimati lagoons image appears in KNTO's 2014 Kiritimati Island Travel & Trade Brochure. The Air Pacific Boeing 737 photos and the hyperlinked CXI airport terminal photo are from Keith Collicoat's Kiritimati Photo Galleries. The photos of the I-Kiritimati family and the airport fire engine are  by Dan Dubbs from Jane Resture's Christmas Island Photographs (links shown below family photo). Many thanks to KNTO, Keith and Jane.

All videos are the original versions publicly posted by their respective owners in YouTube. They are not part of this website.

PDF Download button by Diego Azeta based on publicly available legacy icon courtesy of Icons Etc at Public domain.

Further reading:

Christmas Island Bomb Tests by Jane Resture

Atmospheric Nuclear Testing in the Pacific Ocean and Nevada by Theo Radic

When We Tested Nuclear Bombs by Alan Taylor – The Atlantic – 6 May 2011

Kiribati – Wikipedia

Kiritimati – Wikipedia

Operation Dominic 1962 – The Nuclear Weapon Archive

Operation Dominic – 1962 –

Operation Dominic – Wikipedia

Operation Grapple 1956-1958 – The Nuclear Weapon Archive (about half-way down the page)

Operation Grapple – Wikipedia

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