Calling in New Caledonia

Tour des Côtes 1911

The archipelago of New Caledonia is located at South-East of Australia and North of New Zealand; constituted by the Grande Terre, the Isle of Pines, the Loyalty Islands and several other islands, it is discovered in 1774 by James Cook. The British navigator names it New Caledonia, in reference to Caledonia, i.e. Scotland.
James Cook approaches the Grande Terre the evening of 4 September 1774, during his second voyage, surrounded by sixteen or eighteen dugouts. James Cook goes along then on the East side and discovers on 23 September the Isle of Pines. The fleet comprises two corvettes: HMS RESOLUTION (462 tons, 112 men) and HMS ADVENTURE (336 tonsx, 81 men)
Pirogue de l'ile des Pins Pirogue d'Ouvea
James Cookand his crew meet the Kanaks, inhabitants of the isles ; 16 or 18 Melanesian dugouts surround the British. Cook speaks in praise of the inhabitants: “we found strong men, robust, active, well done, civil and peaceful”.

La Pérouse approaches the West coast on board ASTROLABE and BOUSSOLE, before sailing to the Solomon Islands where his ships wreck on the reef of Vanikoro.

On 17 June 1792, the French rear-admiral Antoine Bruny d' Entrecasteaux, at the request of Louis XVI in search of La Pérouse, arrived off the Isle of Pines, south of New Caledonia. From there, d'Entrecasteaux sailed northward along the western coast of New Caledonia. The Bruni d'Entrecasteaux reefs at the northwestern end of the New Caledonia Barrier Reef are named for him.

Jules Dumont d'Urville is in 1827 the first to precisely locate on a map the Loyalty Islands, during the search of missing La Pérouse.

After the discoverers, will come the catholic and Protestant missionaries, who will try to be installed on the territory.

The brig CAMDEN is built in Falmouth in 1819 for the account of Tilly & Co, which uses her until 1837/38 for Falmouth Packet service. London Missionary Society, answering the calls of the rev. John Williams, acquires her. She visits the Pacific Islands where she sails a few years before being sold in Europe and to disappear from the register Lloyd in 1844.
France of the second Empire, which wants to reinforce its presence in the Pacific, decides to annex this unoccupied territory left by the British. On 25 June 1854, the French soldiers found in the south-west of the Large Earth famous Port-of-France renamed Noumea on 2 June 1866.

PHOQUE a 375 tons steam aviso, built at Nantes in 1859 and retired on 9 July 1886, her commander is Lieutenant Edmond Esprit de Bovis; PRONY is a steam corvette built at Brest between 1844 and 1847, under command of Jean Joseph de Brun. She wrecks off New York in 1861. CATINA is a steam corvette built in Rochefort, under command of  Jacques Marc Antoine and scrapped in 1886.


Louis-François-Marie Tardy de Montravel (1811 - 1864) boards on the corvette Constantine and joined New Caledonia from which the rear-admiral Febvrier-Despointes comes to take possession. Montravel proceed to the territory coasts survey and manages the new colony. he founds there the town of Port-of-France, renamed Noumea in 1866, and built Fort Constantine to protect it.CONSTANTINE is a wooden corvette, launched in Rochefort on 10 October 1851, armed of 22 guns, measuring 1117 tons. On her board, off the coasts of China, Tardy de Montravel receives the order to go to occupy New Caledonia in the name of France. CONSTANTINE remains from January to October 1854; the corvette will sail then in the Pacific and will be scrapped in 1894.

The Lieutenant commander Eugene du Bouzet, born in Paris on 19 December 1805, takes part, like Tardy de Montravel, with the expedition of Dumont d' Urville to the south pole (1837-1840). Lieutenant commander, ordering  la Brillante, he arrives at Balade and Puebo to help the missionaries Marists in 1847. Captain in 1848, he is named governor of the Establishments of Oceania and returns to New Caledonia on18  January 1855 with his ship and the steam sloop Duroc. As governor, Bouzet organises the first administrative structures of the territory. He is on board the Aventure when she wrecks off the Isle of Pines, by one night of April 1855. After having left the Pacific in 1858, he is promoted rear-admiral and dies in Paris on 22 September 1867.

Officially in charge of the inspection of the French catholic missions and the national whalers in the Pacific, corvette ALCMENE proceed to a thorough exploration of New Caledonia (studies hydrographic, climatological and ethnographic - in particular on the Isle of Pines and the diseases prevailing there) in order to study the resources of the island and the possibility of establishing a penal institution there.

Alcmène is a corvette built for the French  Navy in 1829. Long of 48m, broad of 11,20m, measuring 525 tons, its mainmast rises with 40m. It remains in New Caledonia waters between June 1850 and January 1851, visiting the Isle of Pines and the east coast. Alcmène wrecks on3  June 1851 at Bayly' S Beach, on New Zealand coast breakers.

On 28 November 1886 TAMARIS, used on the Bordeaux-Papeete-Noumea line by the armament Bordes, leaves Bordeaux for New Caledonia with supplies for the government. The ship runs aground Crozet in the night of 8 March 1887. The shipwrecked men leave a log book on the Pigs island but research will be vain. 

The regular sea traffic along the coasts started little after 1865, date on which the first Europeans settled. Small schooners started to convey goods and passengers to the insolated villages. The first regular service by steamer around the coasts of New Caledonia is installed in 1873, in correspondence with the mail of Australia and that of Europe and the service will undergo several modifications of which an alternate service on each coast instead of a full rotation in 1890. In 1896, the Ballande company commissions the Saint-Antoine steamer. Then is born the Union Commerciale et de Navigation Calédonienne with 3 ships: Emu, then Saint-Pierre and Saint-Antoine, purchased to Ballande. In 1923, the UCNC gives way to the STC (Société du Tour de Côte).
SAINT-ANTOINE is a cargo built in 1890 by Day Summer & Co., Southampton for Union Steamship Co. NORSEMAN. Tonnage 807 gross, 504 net., dim. 72 x 9.5 x 4.45m. Steam engine triple expansion 124 nhp. Purchased in 1896 by Ballande and renamed SAINT-ANTOINE. She wrecked on 26 May 1928 loaded with copra and coffee, 30 miles NW off Noumea, on Tetembia.reef by 22 05 840S 165 59 540 E. .

The collier SAINT JOSEPH, built par Clyde Shipbuilding & Eng. Co. Ltd., Port Glasgow for Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd., Sydney, steamed from August 1908 as BELLAMBI.
Tonnage 1.162 gross, 705 net, dim. 244.0 x 31.4 x 14.6 ft. Steam engine triple expansion 161 hp.
Bought in 1916 by Ballande and renamed SAINT JOSEPH. Sold in 1919to Cie Navale de l'Océanie, Nouméa then in 1923 to Hauts Fourneaux de Nouméa,and in 1929 to Calédonickel, Nouméa.
Sold to local breakers in 1952 at Hong Kong.

SAINT-PIERRE sailsed from 1895 pour Behnke & Sieg, Danzig as BALDER
Tonnage 731 gross, dim. 177.0 x 27.0 ft. Steam engine triple expansion. Speed 8.5 knots.
Purchased in 1896 par Ballande and renamed SAINT PIERRE.
Sold in 1902 to Union Commerciale de Nav. Calédonienne, Nouméa.
First quarter of 1927 broken up.

In 1864 French engineer Jules Garnier discovers a rich nickel silicate sample (garnierite). Nickel is a metal whose mechanical properties are higher than those of iron; he has moreover the advantage of not oxidizing with moisture. Associated with steel, nickel will thus make it possible to reinforce the shielding of the battleships and to better defend the hulls of the ships against corrosion. New Caledonia has approximately 30% of nickel world reserves in front of Canada, Russia and Australia. In August 1995, the ton of nickel costed 45,000 francs. As comparison, at the same date, tin was worth 35,000 francs the ton, copper 15,000, aluminium 10,000. To transport the ore, Edouard Corblet creates with Brown the Compagnie havraise de navigation à voiles. This company will use four four-masts and seven three-masted ships on the line of New Caledonia. Without being specialized in this traffic, other armaments from of Le Havre, benefitting from the New Caledonian manna, sail also occasionally for the nickel, of which the Company of Société des voiliers français ( French sailing ships) and the  Société des long-courriers français.(Company of the French long-distance carriers).

Président Felix Faure Fennia ex-Champigny
PRESIDENT FELIX FAURE, launched on 3 February 1896 in Le Havre is the first of a series of 8 steel four-masted barques. 95 meters length, broad 13.90 meters, the vessel has a net tonnage of 2650. Her surface of sail is of 3500 m ². She was a good sailer and one of its best travel is in 1903 a passage of Le Havre towards New Caledonia in 79 days. On 13 March 1908, loaded with nickel, the ship was totaly wrecked in the fog in the south of New Zealand. CHAMPIGNY, built for Société des Longs-courriers Français in 1902, belonged to the series of PRESIDENT FELIX FAURE. She achieves 13 travel without problem. Sold in 1913 to Société Générale d'Armement de Nantes, she was laid up 5 years later. Bought by a Finnish organisation in 1923, she becomes a cadet training vessel and is renamed FENNIA .

Second of the series, EMILE RENOUF, built as a steel hulled vessel by Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, in Graville-Le Havre, is launched in 1897; she has almost the same characteristics as PRESIDENT FÉLIX FAURE with however a lengthened poop deck. On her maiden voyage, she sails between Le Havre and New Caledonia in 97 days. On 2 February 1900, the four-masted barque leaves Thio, on on the east side of New Caledonia, with its nickel loading and struck Durand Reef off Loyalty Islands, on 6 February 1900. Her crew was rescued and brought to Noumea. The wreck site was found and explored in September 1991.

Built 1911 as a 5-masted barque rigged steel hulled cargo vessel by Chantiers de la Gironde, Bordeaux, France is delivered to Société des Navires Mixtes (Prentout-Leblond-Leroux & Co.), Rouen, France., FRANCE II, 8000 t, 146 m overall length, with 6350 m² of sail on 20 square sails and 12 latin; with 45 crew, for her maiden voyage France II sails from Clydbank with coke and coal to New Caledonia, in 92 days on the outward journey and 102 on the return. Combining freight and cruisings, ancestor of the cruise ships, she had seven vast rooms, a large living room, a library reading-room and a darkroom for photography! On 21 February 1917, France II leaves Glasgow with a full coal loading bound for Montevideo and starts a two year campaign, going from American ports to Australian ones, to New Caledonia and finally in Dakar, before returning to Bordeaux on 17 February 1919 and to go to be laid up in Le Havre. Powered initially by two engines of 900 hp, they are removed after being sold; it is failed in 1922 on the reefs of Teremba, off Noumea. The ship, which had discharged a cargo from cement to Thio, from where it had left on July 4th, went to Pouembout to take an ore loading bound for Europe. 

Underwater cables make it possible to connect the territory to the rest of the world. In 1893 the Australia/New Caledonia cable is layed by FRANÇOIS ARAGO; nearly one century and half later, the underwater network of cables named Gondwana-1 is deployed by the cable-laying ship ILE de RE and connects Noumea to Sydney (2 000 km) from where it is inter-connected with the global area networks towards Europe and the United States.

In 1887, the Societe des Telegraphes Sous-Marins chartered cable ship WESTMEATH, built in 1882 by Sunderland Ship Building Company,to lay cables in the Antilles. In 1892, La Societe Industrielle des Téléphones named her FRANÇOIS ARAGO then sold her in 1916, to Francaise de Commerce where she is named PERONNE. Torpedoed by a German submarine,she sunks in the Channel.
In 1893, FRANÇOIS ARAGO lays the cable between Ouaco,close to Kaala-Gomen, in New Caledonia and Bundaberg, Queensland, in Australia, connected to North America by Canada. This cable stayed in service until 1923. 

 Length 320 ft (97,53 m). Breadth 42.4 ft (12,92 m) . Depth 28 ft  (8,53 m) Gross tonnage 3342 GRT

First ro-ro design built in East Germany, with a stern door and ramp, and two 55 ton lifts, GLEICHBERG works as a ferry on diferent names and for different companies from 1982 to 2000. She is then bought by Alda Marine, a joint-venture ALCATEL / Louis Dreyfus Armateurs. Leaving Remontowa yards in Gdansk as a cable-ship, ILE DE RÉ owns six cable tanks providing storage for 4690 tonnes of cable and carries submersible ROV for cable burial.

Tonnage 14.358 grt, 4.307 net, dim. 142.94 x 23.3 x 14.6m., draught 7.37m., length bpp. 124.39m. 


To the surroundings of 1880, no regular line connected the mother country to New Caledonia. Great transport of the State, several times a year, ensured the routing of the mail, entrusted to the English Companies and transhipped by sailing ships of Australia to Noumea. The Messageries Maritimes establish the first regular line towards Australia and New Caledonia with the NATAL steamer which arrives at Noumea on 14 January 1883. The first units of the Messageries Maritimes assigned to the service of New Caledonia are initially steamers taken on the fleet of the Far East then replaced by new ships. An additional service Sydney-Noumea-Sydney moreover is organized in correspondence with the English steamers of Australia. In 1887, the Company reduces the duration of the crossings by the suppression of the calls at La Réunion and Maurice, and orders faster steamers. After 1918, the Company restores the suspended maritime relations. EL KANTARA, at the start of 1919, repatriates mobilized of New Caledonia via the way of Panama. The departures are followed then through Suez until 1923.

Messageries Maritimes steamer NATAL, after delivery by the yard of La Ciotat, inaugurates on 23 November  1882 the line of Marseilles to Noumea via Port Said Mahe, Réunion, Mauritius, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
Length: 130.75 meters width: 12.07 meters Gross tonnage: 4,002 grt
Passengers: 90 first, 38 seconds, 75 third 
Powered by a steam engine compound heated by 8 coal-fired boilers of 3,400 hp at the speed of 15 knots, she is rigged as a barque and can carry 17,072 feet² of sail (approximately 1590 m²).
 Between 1882 and 1917, she makes 138 trips towards ports of the Middle and Far East. She is also used as trooper (Dardanelles, Salonique). Her career finishes after a collision with the steamer “Malgache” off Marseilles on 30 August 1917.

EL KANTARA leaves the yard of La Ciotat on 9 April 1904 and is delivered to the Messageries Maritimes in March 1905. Used on the service around the world, first French to cross Panama Canal, she is transferred in 1923 on the line Marseilles/Christobal/Papeete/Port Vila/Noumea. She finishes her career in 1927 in Dunkirk.
Charactéristics: length: 141.35 m width: 16 m Tonnage 6.888 gros, 4.427 net
Passengers: 40 first, 54 second, 1200 troops 
Two triple expansion reciprocating steamengines 545 nhp., two screws, speed 13 knots.

propulsion: 2 alternatives to triple expansion heated by two coal-fired boilers power: 3800 CV, speed: 13 nodes 2 propellersLarge tonnage 6,888, 4,427 Net, dim. 447.2 (pp) X 52.6 X 32.6ft.

ERIDAN after Marseilles - Beirut via Alexandrie and Jaffa in 1929,  links Marseilles to Australia via Suez then via Panama from 1935 to 1942, the line being extended to Papeete and Noumea. Her carrier ends in 1956.

The geographical proximity of Australia promoted the commercial exchanges with the island continent and the islands of Melanesia.

In the summer of 1910 Burns. Philp & Co. and the French Government of New Caledonia closed a mail contract, and the MAKAMBO and MALAITA were used for this contract in a monthly service.

MAKAMBO is called after a island in the Solomon Island Group and was built Clyde Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Ltd. Port Glasgow, U.K for Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd. in 1906. In service on the Pacific, she was refloated after grounded off Ned’s beach, Lord Howe Island. She sprang a leak and she is sold to Okada Gumi K.K of Osaka, Japan; under the name of KAINAN MARU, she finishes torpedoed by a British submarine off Phuket in 1944.
Tonnage 1.159 gross, 648 net., dim. 210.3 x 31.4 x 14.8ft. One triple expansion steam engine 146 nhp., speed 9 knots, one propeller. Two coal fired boilers. Passenger accommodation for 36 first class, 18 second class passengers

Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd. acquires in 1905 the Bahamean cargo ANTILIA of 1893 and names her after one of the main islands of the Solomon group. MALAITA is used for various lines from Australia for New Hebrides, Lord Howe Island, Papua New Guinea, Solomons and Gilbert & Ellice Islands. She is scrapped in 1927.
Tonnage 14.358 grt, 4.307 net, dim. 142.94 x 23.3 x 14.6m., draught 7.37m., length bpp. 124.39m.

ILE DE LUMIERE is a cargo of Comptoir General de Transports in Marseilles, launched in 1962 under the name of DANIELLE V. the Compagnie des Chargeurs Calédoniens (C.C.C.) of Noumea purchases her and re-names her ILE DE LUMIERE using her from 1975 on the line Sydney-Lord Howe-Norfolk-Auckland-Noumea. In 1979, the  French organization Comite un Bateau Pour le Vietnam installs 110 beds there and use her in succoring Vietnamese boat people. The ship will still sail several years in the Pacific before being scrapped in 1988 in Taiwan.

WASHINGTON, built  at Bremen in 1929 for  Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, opened in 1919 the cargo service to the Pacific coast of North America via the Panama Canal before being swapped in 1938 with INDOCHINOIS of Messageries Maritimes. Renamed SAGITTAIRE with this flag, she made in April 1939 her first sailing in the service from France to Nouméa. 
She works in 1940 to the repatriation of troops from Syria. In 1941,she goes to Far East by Capetown. From Oct 1942 to July 1943 she is laid up at the French Antilles then she is requisitioned by the Free French Government and used for war duties.She starts again her trips to Nouméa from March 1946 in particular to bring back home Bataillion du Pacifique to Tahiti and New Calédonia. She continues on this line until 1954, when transformed in cargo,she makes some voyages to the far East before being broken up in Japan in 1959. 

Tonnage 8.253 GRT, 4.836 net ; dim. 150.5 x 18.7 m.

Two diesel engines 6.300 hp, speed 14.5 knots.

Passengers : 37 First, 45 Second, 37 Third and 360 Fourth class.

The cruise ships have now replaced liners of Messageries Maritimes

OCEANIC DISCOVERER calling in Noumea : 25 crew may welcome for Coral Princess Cruises up to 72 passengers.

Pacific Dawn

Pacific Jewel

With PACIFIC PEARL, P&O Cruises proposes cruisings towards Lifou and the island of the Pines. 
Ordered to the French yards of Chantiers de l’Atlantique by Sitmar Cruises, she leaves the yard on 28 May 1988 under the name of SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY but sold on 1 September 1988 to P&O Cruises, which puts her in the fleet of Princess Cruises under the name of STAR PRINCESS. 
Tonnage 69.845 grt, 6.261 dwt. Dim. 245.1 x 32.25 x 14.3 m.
Powered by four 8-cyl. MAN-B&W diesel engines, 24,000 kW., twin shafts, speed 19.5 knots.
1621 passengers and 634 crew. 
Used for cruisings at the week in the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, summer cruisings goeing to San Francisco in Alaska. After several change of name (ARCADIA, OCEAN VILLAGE) it is announced her transfer to P&O Cruises Australia starting from 2010 and the name change in PACIFIC PEARL. 
PACIFIC JEWEL is used on regular cruises from Sydney towards the Pacific Islands of which New Caledonia. 
Built at the same time as PACIFIC PEARL, CROWN PRINCESS goes on her maiden voyage from Piraeus in July 1990 before following his sister ship on the cruises from Fort Lauderdale. 
Tonnage 69.845 grt, 6.995 dwt., dim. 245.08 x 32.25 x 7.90m. 
Powered by four MAN-B&W 8l58/64 diesel engine, 24.000 kw, two shafts, speed 19.5 knots. 
1900 passengers. 
By 1992 she is transferred to Princess Cruises Lines Ltd.flag Bermuda; various name changes and owners follow one another and in 2007 a yard reduced capacity to 1748. On 12 December 2009, she is officially re-named PACIFIC JEWEL by the Governor General Quentin Bryce.
Pacific Dawn

Visitor of Noumea, PACIFIC DAWN belonged to the Sitmar Cruises fleet, before the purchase of this company by P&O Cruises, which owns her at Fincantieri yards in Monfalcone and names her REGAL PRINCESS. She ensures same cruisings as CROWN PRINCESS (the Caribbean departing from Fort Lauderdale, Alaska) before being transferred in October 2007 to P&O Cruises Australia and her name change.
Tonnage 69.845 grt, 6.261 dwt. Dim. 245.1 x 32.25 x 14.3m.
Propelled by four 8-cyl. Diesel MAN-B&W, 24.000 kw., two propeller shafts, speed 19.5 knots. 
Accommodation for 1792 then 2050 passengers.

Commissioned in October 1990, ATALANTE is a multi-purpose research ship intended for the marine geosciences, physical oceanography and marine biology. L'Atalante can operate a manned submersible such as Nautile (-6000m) and the remote operated vehicle Victor 6000. Launched in 1989, it embarks 17 to 30 crew according to the type of mission and 30 to 33 scientists.
Length 84.60 m Overall breadth 15.90 m Draught 5.1 m Displacement 3,550 t 
ATALANTE conducted in the Pacific several campaigns and visited several times New Caledonia: exploration and development of the natural resources, in order to determine the zones which could present potential mineral resources from August 2nd to August 22nd, 1994: ZoNéCo countryside; study of the underlying structure and the nature of the crust of the basins of Fairway and New Caledonia in 2004: ZoNéCo; study lots of sub-surface and surface water: Pandora in 2012.

In 2007, lifeboat station SNSM of Noumea receives a most powerful 2nd class boat SNS 270,  10.50 meters long, been driven by 2 IVECO engines of 330 CV enabling her to reach a maximum speed of 28 knots. This boat coming from the Sibiril yard at Carantec, in Brittany and equipped by the workshops with the SNSM in Saint-Malo, has an appreciably increased range, which extends from the island of the Pines until Foa by sea of force 6 and makes it possible to perform rescue operations outside the lagoon. The boat with hull number SNS 270  is called “CROIX DU SUD”.

Boardsports are present in the forms most varied in New Caledonia: surfing, windsurfing, kitesurf and others ones…

Since many years, New Caledonia organized the greatest nautical tests: the World Championship of Olympic board takes place in 1999 at Sainte-Marie, followed by Hobie Cat 16 World Championship in 2002; the South Pacific Games  (since 2011 simply Pacific Games) and the Pacific Mini-Games were organized three times: in 1966, in 1987 and in 2011.

The World Championship makes stage every year in Noumea on the Point Magnin beach: Teri Kite Surf Pro, last stage of the world circuit, crowns the world champions of the discipline at the end one week of speed crossing, best tricks and freestyle. New Caledonia is a melting pot of windsurf with the many international champions of the discipline born there- Robert Teriitehau, Michel Quintin - New Caledonia accommodates each year international competitions, like the “Trophée des Alizés" (Trophy of the Trade winds).
Hobie Cat 14 and Hobie Cat 16 have as main features a very bent banana shaped hull., “punts” outside and “convex” inside, which makes it possible these boats to sail without drifts. Hobie 14 is a boat similar to the 16 but they are usually sold without jib in their initial version. The 14 are the first model of the range Hobie Cat and her sails are smaller even if they have the same form. The 14 were conceived to be skipped by only one person using only a large sail. Hobie 16 measures 5.05 meters (16.7 feet) length for 2.43 (7.11 feet) broad, has a mast of 7.92 m (26.6 feet) top but its weight does not exceed 150 kg.Two Frenchwomen, Françoise Dettling and Frédérique Pfeiffer, are world champions 2000 and 2002 in Hobie Cat 16

Built in 1967 at Auckland, RAINBOW II is a One Ton class yacht. Boat of the third division in the 1967 Whangarei-Noumea race, she finishes eighth but beats all the boats of the second division. She gains Sydney-Hobart the same year in compensated time, is engaged in the One Ton race in Heligoland (2nd in 68, first in 69) then in Fastnet. 
Founded in 1899 by the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, the One Ton Cup is the oldest French trophy of sailing race, which rewarded in the beginning the winner of the first regatta in real time for the boats measuring a ton. The One Ton Cup designates since 1999 the World champion of IC 45, (monotype of regatta of 14m length). It gathers approximately twelve boats representing about ten countries and attracts the world elite of the race as a crew. 



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