Day 53

Something strange happened today while we were at breakfast. Someone approached Pat saying, “I really enjoy your blogs.” It caught her by surprise and she thanked him. After breakfast, she saw the man and his wife, Chuck and Mimi, on the outside back deck. We both approached and formally introduced ourselves, making a date for dinner tonight.

Our third sea day and we found ourselves at Terry’s 10:00 enrichment lecture about “Australia’s Own Pearl Harbor, The Battle for Bali, Darwin and Timor, February 19, 1942.” Similar to Hawaii, there was an early detection of strange planes flying over Bathurst Island, north of Darwin, but the reports were down-played as friendlies by the Australian authorities, despite the attack two months earlier at Pearl Harbor. A missionary on Bathurst Island first reported planes flying south at 9:37 a.m. The early warning was ignored and no alarm sounded. At 9:58 a.m., 180 Japanese zeroes attacked 45 ships in Darwin Harbor destroying 7 warships, 5 merchant ships, and seriously damaged 10 others. They turned their attention to the airfield damaging planes on the ground. By 10:40 a.m. it was over and only 7 Japanese planes were lost. At 11:58 a second wave of bombers attacked and, in the afternoon, a third group of dive bombers destroyed more ships. This attack was lead by the same Japanese commander that planned Pearl Harbor. Confusion and chaos reigned for days in Darwin and the death toll was uncertain, probably between 240-1,000. Australia was now in the war.

As a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Australia had always supported Britain in previous conflicts, like the Boer War and Zulu War in South Africa. With Britain’s entry into WWII in 1939, Australia did not have a standing army because of the economic depression of the 1930’s. They did assemble troops to fight in North Africa in support of Montgomery and assaults into Italy and France.

In 1941, Britain and Australia were in Singapore believing they were invincible. Japan launched a surprise attack from the land and trapped the allies, who surrendered on 2-15-1942. There were originally 130,000 POWs who were forced on a death march toward Burma. The Japanese needed a train line and bridge built so they could attack the British in Burma. The rest of the story can be found in the movie, Bridge over the River Kwai.

Japan launched 192 air raids against Australian territories, capturing undefended Bali easily and retaining control through 1945. Timor was next in line. The island was half Dutch and Portuguese (considered neutral in WWII), but Germany invaded Holland early in the war so half of the island was already in axis hands. Japan attacked and the Australians resorted to guerrilla tactics, inflicting severe causalities on the Japanese. The Aussies were supported by locals called, criados, who followed the soldiers and carried their weapons. Australia finally realized they could not continue supporting a group of scattered troops in hostile territory with air drops of supplies, so they withdrew from Timor. The Japanese slaughtered between 40-70,000 Timorese and Portuguese for helping the Aussies. Even today, Australia suffers from a guilty conscience for abandoning their supporters on Timor, but at that time, Australia had an all-white immigration policy.

We hung around in the theater for the next event, pastry demonstration, “All About Crepes.” The cocktail tables were covered in white table cloths. The Pastry Chef’s staff supplied the tables with plated crepes, chocolate filing, chantilly topping, sliced banana, and squeeze bottles of chocolate sauce. Pastry Chef, Pascal Eber, was on stage and talked us through how to make the crepe batter. One must-have ingredient is French flour. That works best, but other flour could be used by non-professionals. We squeezed, added bananas, rolled, squeezed some more, and dribbled chocolate sauce on our creation. After a few questions and answers, we sampled, some devoured, our creations.

Outside the theater, we sat down for the noontime games, which are held up briefly by the daily 12:00 p.m. Captain’s briefing on our geographical location, air temperature, water temperature, ocean depth, estimated arrival time, and weather at the next port. Today’s game was Screw Your Neighbor, a quick card game. In our group of six, I won 3 Regent points. I met Art on the way out and agreed to a quick ping-pong game. We both won a game, but I came away with a rug burn on my knee from a diving volley attempt. There was no blood, thank goodness. Tomorrow we are in Komodo and the dragons are notorious at smelling and liking fresh blood. The ship warns passengers of this fact and discourages this land excursion for those with open wounds. I think I’m safe. I’ll let you know in tomorrow’s report, or maybe Pat?

After lunch, Pat went-off to the craft activity, “Teabag Folding,” card making with an origami design.

The afternoon lecture was on “Queen Nefertiti-The Eternal Mystery.” Her name roughly translated means, “Behold, the beautiful woman is coming.”

The lecturer began at the 100th anniversary celebration of her bust’s discovery at a Berlin Museum. It has always been there since the German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt, unearthed her bust in 1912. The bust is well preserved even after more than 3,000 years. Her sculptor was Thutmose. Egypt has made repeated formal attempts to have it returned and they are always refused. During the Nazi reign, they not only refused, but also stamped their symbol of ownership on the bottom.

Nefertiti’s background is unknown, but she had a major influence on the culture and customs of the 18th Dynasty. Her pharaoh, Akhenaten, got into trouble with the high priests and the common man when he converted to the belief of a single god, the sun god, Aten. Following his death after his reign of 17 years, the high priests ordered the removal of his name and the sun god from all carvings. His tomb has not yet been found.

The lecturer continued on to discussions of many carvings and images of her and the family. Nefertiti had six daughters, at least two dying at a young age of 6. Her grief was shown in sculptures later in her life. She disappeared from history without record of her death or burial.

I got a little time to read before 4:30 trivia games. Our team did well and earned second place, so we won more Regent points.

We had a lovely dinner this evening with Chuck and Mimi. They are from southern California and will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in June with a family cruise to Alaska. They have sailed on Regent quite a few times, even when it used to be Radisson cruises.

There was a special two-part performance by the internationally acclaimed pianist, Panos Karan, tonight. He performed a rare recital of Chopin’s 24 Etudes. The first half was at 5:30 and the last half at the evening’s 9:30 showtime. He performed two 45 minute concerts totally from memory, no sheet music. He is just fantastic!

Tomorrow we will be at Komodo Island, looking forward to seeing the huge, endangered monitor lizards.

Yours in travel

Pat & Mac