Monday, April 20, 2009

Sailing and Diving on Tinian Island, Mariana Islands

View of the west side of Tinian Island. Barcinas Bay (Turtle Bay) is on the left, Tinian Harbor in the center and Taga Beach Bay to Carolinas Point on the right encompasses the newly created Tinian Marine Preserve. We anchored in Barcinas Bay (in the sand alleys between the coral heads of course!) and Taga Beach. Barcinas Bay has numerous turtles and has a local name of Turtle Bay the beach is a protected turtle egg laying area.
Two stripe Juvenile Dusky anemone fish (Amphiprion melannopus) on the reef off Taga Beach.

Hawks bill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata bissa) gliding over the coral heads on Barcinas Bay.

Single stripe adult Dusky anemone fish (Amphiprion melanopus) on Taga Bay Reef.

Typical 15 to 20 knots north east trade winds sailing to Tinian Island. Sooke loves to have a single reef in the mainsail in these perfect sailing conditions.

B-29 Enola Gay on Tinian North Field. US Army photo 1945.
We rented motor scooters and visited the old WW II airbase, North Field to view the atomic bomb pits where the B-29 Enola Gay loaded the atomic bomb "Little Boy" for the first atomic mission to Hiroshima, Japan on August 7, 1945.

"Little Boy" in the concrete bomb pit No. 1. US Army photo August 1945.
The bombs were too large to fit under the B-29's, concrete pits were constructed and the weapons were raised up in to the bomber bay doors by hydraulic lifts.

Atomic Bomb Loading Pit No. 1 that housed "Little Boy" prior to the mission to Hiroshima. There was some controversy over which was actually Pit No. 1 as the two pits were filled in with earth until 2005. During the 2005 excavations and construction of the viewing enclosures the problem was resolved. An astute National Parks employee observed and compared the location of ladder access rungs in various old photos of the bombs located in the pits and determined which was the correct one.

Atomic Bomb Loading Pit No. 2 that housed "Fat Man" prior to the mission over Nagasaki, Japan August 9, 1945. US Army photo

"Fat Man" was carried by the B-29 "Bock's Car". US Army photo August 1945.

One interesting site on Tinian is the ancient House of Taga located in San Jose village. These 16 foot high pillars (haligi) and cap stones (tasa) were hand carved from limestone quarries on the island and transported to the site. The coral latte stones are unique to the Mariana Islands. Ancient latte stones are found on Pagan, Anatahan, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam islands. The caps shown here weigh 22 tons and the pillars weigh 32 tons. Latte stones were first constructed starting around 800 B.C. and were still in use during the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Most sites were abandoned by 1700.

There are no accurate theories on what the function of the large stone formations were used for. Some think they were used to support large ceremonial houses and burial platforms. Smaller practical versions can be found over the island and historians say they were used as structural bases for homes, food storage, and sailing canoe storage in the ancient island villages.

Sooke in idyllic sailing conditions on the way back to Saipan. Photo by diving friends at the Tinian Grotto.
The Chamorro people of Tinian are very gracious and proud people. Many are descendants from Yap, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the USA as various nations controlled the island throughout Tinian's history.

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