A Revisit to Nuku’alofa, Tonga

2023 HAL World Cruise

Monday, January 30, 2023

On January 15, 2022, a submarine volcano named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in the Tongan archipelago of the Pacific Ocean spewed a plume of lava and ash 36 miles into the air.  It was rated VEI-5 to 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index Scale.  It was the largest volcanic eruption since Mount Pinatubo in 1991; and the most powerful since Krakatoa in 1883!!!  It displaced 10 cubic kilometers of rock, ash, and sediment.  It also generated the largest atmospheric explosion recorded by modern instrumentation.  Thick ash contaminated water supplies, cut off communications, and prevented surveillance flights thereby delaying relief efforts. 

But wait, that isn’t all!!! 

Then, it generated tsunamis in Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, Vanuatu, and all along the Pacific rim causing damage as far away as New Zealand, Japan, the United States, the Russian Far East, Chile, and Peru.  In Tonga, the tsunami waves reached 66 feet high.  In the Tongan capital city, Nuku’ alofa, the waterfront was severely damaged.  The underwater communications cable (the country’s sole link to the outside world) was damaged.  The airport was closed because the runways were covered in ash.  The crops, covered in ash, died; livestock, unable to graze, perished; fisheries, contaminated with ash, lost stock.    

Is there any good news???   Well, yes!!!

Buildings were flooded but the hospital and national pharmacy remained intact and fully functional.  The airport was opened in a matter of days.  Ships were sent to repair the communications cable.  Relief helicopters began arriving.  And the resilient, good-natured Tongan people began the process of clean-up; repair; rebuild; and restock.  They persevered, just as they have always done.  Tonga is the only surviving monarchy in the island nations of the South Pacific.  And unlike the other islands, Tonga has never been colonized even though the people of Tonga have been trading and dealing with merchants and diplomats from around the world since Captain Cook’s arrival in 1777.

On January 30, 2023, the MS Zuiderdam pulled into port.

Here are some photos…..

This photo was taken on 17 January 2022, 11:15:57 by the NZ Defence Force. It shows the heavy ash fall in Nuku’alofa. (CCA-SA 4.0 International, Source https://www.nzdf.mil.nz/nzdf/search-our-libraries/images/?collection=Tonga+response&tags=)
A RNZAF 3SQN maintenance team prepares NH90 helicopters for long-term support operations in Tonga. (Sam Shepherd, NZ Defence Force, CCA 4.0 International, source https://www.nzdf.mil.nz/nzdf/search-our-libraries/images/?collection=Tonga+response&tags=
This is a photo of the Ministry Building taken from HMNZS Aotearoa upon its arrival in Nuku’alofa on January 21, 2022 to unload water and supplies for the Tongans. Looking closely to the left you’ll notice the treasury building is badly damaged.
We arrived in Nuku’alofa on January 30,2023. The Ministry building is looking good…..
…..the Treasury building, to the left, appears under renovation.
There appears to be a lot of construction material stockpiled at the dock.
But the Tongan Police Brass Band warmly greeted our arrival; dancers performed; and vendors set up to offer crafts and souvenirs!!! Our being here would help their economy stabilize!!!
And we happily flocked ashore to shop, tour, eat and drink!!!
Your RovingRaconteurs joined David & Shirley (who send a shout-out to the grandkids!!!)…..
…..along with Pete and Judy (who post the travel blog, http://www.theinsidecabin.com, that you might want to check out!!!)….
…..and many others who found the Friends Café for good food & drink in a very pleasant atmosphere.
We enjoyed the local brew “Tiki” from the Pacific Brewing Co. on Tonga.
The hamburger and fries were a perfect lunch!!!
But the fries alone were pretty good. also!!!
The Friends Café is a long-time local institution!!! The building dates back to 1860 and is still owned by the original family!!!
The name,” Friends Café,” derives from Captain James Cook who, in 1777, called Tonga “The Friendly Islands.” Ofa Atu to a well-run establishment.
At the end of the day, we hurried back to the ship.
The band played as we departed.
We waved “good-bye”.
And then the rain came as we pulled away. The rain will follow us as we now sail to New Zealand. Our next port-of-call is Auckland.

Now, two more sea-days to our next port:  Auckland, New Zealand!!!

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