Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Isn't New Island on My GPS?

New Islanders claim there are too many nosy satellites!

When you look up the co-ordinates 98 degrees 5 minutes East Longitude by 35 degrees 40 minutes South Latitude, you'll likely find a blank area of the Indian Ocean. However, New Islanders know this to be roughly the location of downtown Putney, New Island's largest city. The rest of the world simply doesn't know...

A recently-retired CIA operative told me that satellite imagery is often edited in some parts of the world. Certain features in Area 51 in Nevada, and similar places in Russia, North Korea, China and Iran, come to mind. The governments there simply don't want us to see these places, so they are carefully deleted off printed maps, live-stream digital maps, and from your GPS system!

New Island was deleted around 1940 from most maps worldwide, except those classified for military use. (see previous post, "You probably Know This, But...") This policy has continued into our age of digital mapping, mostly from prior demands of the military, but also at the request of the people of New Island.

In 1992, when the island became independent, Island residents voted to keep the island "off the map". They would rather not have airliners coming and going, cruise ships docking, or private planes and boats showing up unannounced. Secrecy can save a lot of headaches!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to Get Here

To travel to New Island, book a cabin (or deck space) aboard a Rudyard Line ship, either the Charles Ames or the New Ireland.  These vintage 50's-era cargo-liners were "donated" to New island in the early 1970s from Poland. They have been well-maintianed and recently restored. Usually the C.A. leaves the Port of Fremantle, Western Australia every Thursday at 3 pm; the N.I. every Sunday at 3 pm. Cabins or deck accomodations are available and all meals are local New Island cuisine.

This enjoyable means of passage to New Island is also the only way to get there!

The SS Charles Ames

The Rudyard Line office is on a quiet street not far from the Fremantle docks. Tickets, passenger status and shipping information are available by inquiring in person. Inquire locally as to the location; most Fremantle cabdrivers know where to go. (PS: see posts from July 2011 where I took the steamer to New Island.)

Ticket window hours are 9 to 3 weekdays.
Doors open one hour prior to ships' arrival, and 4 hours prior to departure .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Better Picture by NASA

Another view I found of the island is this gorgeous photograph taken by a NASA astronaut/photographer on the June 1985 mission of the shuttle Discovery. Here you get an idea of the island's topography...
New Island from 450 Miles Up - taken above the southwestern coast looking northeast.
In the photo at left lies the sandy, relatively flat Sheffield Desert. Putney Bay fills the lower center, and Lake Riga is clearly visible to the right. TheWicklow-Blue Highlands, a vast plateau with an average elevation of 3,000 feet, dominates the upper center.

The island is an old piece of an ancient continent that the paleo-geologists call Gondwana. New Island's age explains it's limestone plateau as well as its generous beaches and sand dunes. Where there is a lot of sand, you know the place is old. It's climate is primarily Mediterranean, or similar to that of Southwestern Australia and California. The island's winters are rainy, with some snow above 2,500 feet. Summers are dry and mild, and the hotter areas are to the north. New Island is in the Southern Temperate Zone; indeed, the city of Putney is almost the same latitude south as San Francisco, California is in the north.      
Next: How to get here. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

You Probably Know This, But...

The Commonwealth of New Island is situated in the southern Indian Ocean, almost 1,000 miles west of Cape Leeuwin, Australia. I found this older satellite view of the island, quite by luck. The island has since been removed from these images, which brings up the story of the island's secretive history...

The one and only satellite image I know of that includes New Island.

Beginning in 1799, New Island's first European residents were shipwrecked convicts bound from Britain to Australia. Once they began to thrive on the island, they really didn't want the British to find them again. Their stricken ship had been blown far to the north of the favored shipping routes, which is why the island had evaded discovery. Then quite by chance, Fabian von Bellingshausen, a Russian explorer, found the island in 1821 and immediately claimed it for Russia, which effectively kept the 400 or so English-Irish pioneers free from the British penal system.
The Russians, in turn, felt the island was nobody's business, and declared it off-limits to other countries. This was fine with the now-established shipwrecked natives. The Soviet Navy later intensified the island's secrecy during World War II and the Cold War, effectively cutting off all communication to the island except via channels authorized by Moscow.  In the late 1950s, the American CIA joined with the Soviet KGB in a covert "partnership" whereby the island was kept off all maps of the area. It seems that both sides at that time were using the island for strategic military purposes, including a submarine base (Soviet Navy) and a missile tracking station (CIA). Satellite imagery was later (and still is) modified to create the appearance of  deep blue water in that part of the Indian Ocean. But once in a while someone blinks and the island appears briefly!

The good news is, since 1992 when the Soviet Union fell, the island gained its independence, and it now welcomes travelers form all countries.    Next: New Island From Space!     

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Letter from New Island

It was completely by chance that I found New Island, or, that it found me.

I had a hunch it existed, and roughly where, but there was no trace of it on any of my maps, or on GoogleEarth. Then I received a letter from the island's tourism department! (They still communicate with real mail...) It seems one of their employees had acquired a small drawing I had sold to an Australian resident, which then found its way to the island. Here is the letter:
Dear Mr. Mothes,
My name is Margaret Mullen, and I have come into possession of a drawing I believe you made. I am able to write to you because your name and address are on the back. The drawing is an exact rendering of my childhood home and my favorite old cargo trike. Were you there when I was a child? Have you ever been to New Island? Have you more drawings like this?
Please respond to my address where I work:
Attn: Margaret Mullen
Ministry of Trade, First Floor
15 Government Hill Mall
The Commonwealth of New Island 1005
 Yours Truly,

Enclosure: Copy of the drawing in question:

 An imaginary coastline I drew fourteen years ago that seems to be the
childhood home of Margaret Mullen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Me on New Island

OK, I've talked a lot about this island in the last 70-some postings. Now I'm going to take you with me all over the island. I'll fill you in with some of the background, but mostly we'll just wander around. 

My wind-blown self-portrait, at the Beltane site, a Celtic sacred place
on the island's southeastern coast.
To begin, I have been making drawings and paintings of beaches and coastal scenes for most of my life. The images originally came to me through a haze of dreams and memories that, for whatever reason, have been important to me. I felt these scenes were probably in the south Indian Ocean, mostly because it's a relatively unknown place, and also a region of the world where wonderful stories like "Dinotopia" originated. Also, the climate there is much like my home-land of coastal California.

I then realized I was wandering and drawing this place called New Island, and didn't know it until I received a strange letter...

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's wildflower season on New Island!

Red miandra, yellow poppies and serge cover this hillside near Brandonhead,
on New Island's southwestern coast
The wildflowers are blooming on New Island! This natural event is celebrated as the annual Wildflower Holidays, when people take time off just to hike in the hills and enjoy the colors for a day or two! The official dates this year are from October 6-20, so tell your boss you want some time off!
New Island's mild Mediterranean climate and isolation from the rest of the world's life-forms has allowed the evolution of many unique species of plants and wildlife. Red miandra grows in thick clumps on New Island's coastal and lowland hills, usually mixed with patches of yellow poppies and turquoise serge. A close cousin, night-blooming miandra, thrives in the cooler, drier highlands. The poppy is a ground-hugging drought-resistant variety similar to its California cousins. Blue or turquoise serge is also ground-hugging with tiny blue-green "buds" that cover the plant in spring.
The first New Island springtime must have been quite a spectacle for the early shipwrecked settlers.  While struggling to grow edible crops on this new place, the settlers foraged these and other indigenous plants for food, and learned early on the psychedelic powers of the little berries of the red- and night-blooming miandra. When red miandra berries (which are actually purple - the flower is a magenta-red) are brewed as tea or chewed, they can produce a near-delirious calm, but with an endorphin high. This lasts for about an hour before tapering off with no side affects afterward. No one thinks much about it, it's just a local custom.

Monday, September 10, 2012

House in Putney Completed

Travelin' Gal's stone-and stucco house has been completed! The view below shows the roof tiles being applied, and some of the windows are ready to install. Like all new Island houses, this one was custom-built with all indigenous materials. The tiles are of local clay, and the windows were made by the Samover Window Tribe in Portmore.
The view beyond is of Putney Bay to the west.
The completed house, below, as seen from the street corner. The lady with the baby buggy is very interested in what goes on in this house - the neighbors have been talking and something might appear in the The Putney Tattler, a local scandal/gossip sheet.
Putney has been restoring its elegant Russian streetlamps, imported in 1914 from St. Petersburg.


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Visit to Hopp's Store

Hopp's Store today.

Bernard Hopp opened his "Travelors' Conveniences" store soon after buying it at auction during the time of New Island's independence in 1992. It was originally a Soviet military outpost guarding the tracking station further up the road, on the northern coast.

At first he lived here very quietly, seeing perhaps one traveler every three days or so. After settling into the spacious quarters upstairs (There were still Soviet navy rations in the pantry!), he began to stock the old guardroom with groceries, camping and walking gear, candles, some tools, socks, underwear and tire repair kits.

Meanwhile he collected and read comic books. He loves them, especially Little Lulu, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. from the 1940s through about 1960. He also collected old Mad magazines from the '50s and '60s, then later the best underground comics such as the entire Zap series and anything by Robert Crumb - the best from the late '60s through the '70s. He has them all! After a while, Bernard put up a sign on his counter advertising comic books, with a few on display. Since then he has slowly become known as the go-to guy for comic books on New Island.

He sells a lot more groceries and sundries these days, since traffic has climbed to about six to eight vehicles a day, and they always stop.

Since our first visit, he has planted some ghost-gum trees, and he is proud of the new outhouse. The road people paved a few hundred feet in concrete to keep the dust down. We parked our solar-booster recumbent bike in the lot with a new Felix-hauler (by the building) and someones horse. We arrived today just after a rare desert thunderstorm, so everything was wet, and we expect wildflowers in a few weeks!
Hopp's Store is in the Sheffield Desert.
To get there, take the dirt road off of Route 3 at Davoo,
then proceed north about 21 miles and you'll see it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bernard Hopp's Privy

Bernard Hopp, owner and sole resident of Hopp's Store, needed a privy for his traveling customers, so he called on Faramond the Architect to design one. Water is scarce so a flush toilet would not work. Faramond came up with the His and Hers Privy shown above. It is built with pressed sand-and-cement blocks made from local dune sand. The doors, windows and clay roof tiles are all recycled. Local craftsmen did the job in about a week, not counting the pit. It is rumored that some ancient artifacts were found by the guy who dug the privy pit, but he has since disappeared.

Hopp's Store is the only settlement (pop. 1) in this part of the Sheffield Desert. Travelers on their way to the North Bight beaches and to Roger's Dreamland often stop in for refreshments. Bernard does what he can, but is often short on these. However, he has the finest comic book collection in this part of the world - just ask him for anything from vintage Disney, all the DC Superheroes, R. Crumb to obscure series such as "Animal Crackers". Bernard also owns the only known copy of  "Kaiser Spinks Comics". If he is not in the store should you visit, ring the hand-bell on the counter.

Hopp's Store with the distant ocean beyond, as pictured a few years ago.
The new privy is in the back by the burn barrel.

Below is Hopp's location in New Island's Sheffield Desert.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Soltaire's Ocean View

This is the view from Soltaire's Thistledown Plot shortly before construction.
New Island's eastern coast can be seen as far as East Cape, about 55 miles to the north.
That's Otter Bay in the foreground and the Wicklow Mountains to the right. 

Architect Alan Faramond designed Soltaire's house to be built in the hill itself, so this view is still intact, except now you are on the roof of the house. (see previous post) 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Soltaire Moves into his New House and Studio

Soltaire the Assembler's house in the Wicklow Mountains near Blum's Inn was completed in late June 2012. The goats are keeping the turf trimmed on the roof, when they can be convinced to stay up there. Soltaire has a fine view of the Indian Ocean to the east, and a pleasant climate at 1,200 feet elevation. 

Alan Faramond, New Island's self-appointed architect, designed
Soltaire's home, at right, and the studio-gallery, at left.
The village of Blum's Inn is seen in the lower right corner.
The twice-daily M25 Islebus is passing by the driveway, at left.

Here is Faramond's floor plan of Soltaire's house: 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Soltaire's Discovery

A new resident of New Island tells his story...

The Story of My Arrival on New Island

by Soltaire the Assembler
"While it is highly unlikely that any citizen of New Island, let along passers-thru, would have any interest in knowing the facts surrounding my introduction and romance with New Island, perhaps my offspring would like to know how it is that they have inherited my five acres on Gresl Ridge in Mulhenry County, above the Sacred Otter Wandering Preserve.
"Before the year 2000 I had no knowledge of New Island, none in the slightest. I was not much of a wanderer, nor did I have any desire to remove myself from my comfortable small home in Wisconsin. It was an odd quirk of fate that brought New Islandto my attention...and it was due to my particular form of art-making...and some considerable improbable good luck.
"I had taken on the appellation of 'Soltaire, the Assembler' as a result of my fascination...perhaps fixation, compulsion, and/or passion with all manner of artifact...natural, ancient, popular, recent, valuable or valueless, depending on who was the viewer. I found a need to gather together these many elements from many milieus, and join them in assemblage sculptures. Some of these sculptures were small, perhaps two feet or smaller, but most were large, reaching to twelve feet in one or more directions.
"In one of these assemblages I incorporated the bill of a sawfish which I found in some forgotten curiosity shop. This particular sculpture was a tribute to one of my grandfathers who passed well before I was born, but who was held in high esteem by my entire family...who was spoken of as a bit of a mystery man and an adventurer. In fact I titled it 'Grandfather's Souvenirs', and created it to appear as an old cabinet of curiosities, ostensibly consisting of objects he might have acquired on his travels around the world. (For anyone who wishes to see this finished sculpture, go to and search the site.)
"It was only in casually studying this sawfish bill, with the toothy and sharp protuberances along its sides, that I noticed some printing in faded ink. Someone had written this phrase: 'Bill from a Saw Tooth Shark, taken off the southeast coast of New Island'. And, more surprisingly...unbelievably in fact...I found the faded and bleached name...of my grandfather. Yes! On this oddity, this remnant of a beast from the other side of the world which I had found in a rural shop in Wisconsin, was the name of my fathers' father.
After recovering from the shock, and reading the words many times, I was convinced that this marine artifact had once been owned by my grandfather. This astounding turn of events led me to seek out where this place, New Island, was on the globe. I was further surprised that I had chosen a somewhat difficult chore, to locate this place, as not all maps included it. That alone intrigued me, and with some effort I eventually I learned more about the unique history of the Commonwealth. I was drawn to visit it. After all, my adventuring grandfather had been there, and this island in the Indian Ocean was one of the few links I had to him.
"So it is that I was introduced to this remote place of oceans and dreams, this island of things seen out of the corner of one's eye...not all clear and solid. It was a place that reminded me of tales told to young children, drawn out of fairy tales, stories built out of imagination, sunshine and clouds.
"How could I not move here?"
From Soltaire, The Assembler, New Island resident on Gresl Ridge, Thistledown Plot Studio and Gallery.

   This area is at the lower right on the road map:

Soltair's five-acre building site is about a six hour solar-bike ride (mostly uphill)
or a two-hour bus ride from Victoria harbor.
By bus, take the Ignatz-Hockney Islebus and get off at Gresl Ridge,
just before the Blum's Inn stop.
Then walk the quarter-mile path to Thistledown Plot Atelier.
Soltaire the Assembler will greet you when he completes his studio-gallery.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Soltaire's House Progress

      Soltaire the Assembler's mountain home and studio is well under way...

      Architect Faramond says, "Things are going well enough. My original plan of steel beams fell apart when I learned of the cost. Then I remembered ferro-cement, which uses a mesh of thin steel rods and mesh, then cement-stucco, then a polyvinyl sealer-coat. Beautiful technique, and, it's cheap!
      "We've completed the stone walls and arches for the openings, and now my expert cementman is installing the roof. The sod will go on soon after; and when the grass is strong, bring in the goats!"

Faramond's Sketch of  Thistledown Atelier as of June 16.

Here is th location of Thistledown and Gresl Ridge
Soltair's five-acre building site is about a six hour solar-bike ride (mostly uphill)
or a two-hour bus ride from Victoria Harbor.
By bus, take the Ignatz-Hockney Islebus and get off at Gresl Ridge,
just before the Blum's Inn stop.
Then walk the quarter-mile path to Thistledown Plot Atelier.
Soltaire the Assembler will greet you when he completes his studio-gallery.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Putney House Under Construction

The unique house commissioned by the woman known as Travelin' Gal and designed by Faramond the Architect is well under way. The stone walls are complete, workmen are putting tiles on the roof, and the windows are going in. The view is of the back of the house, which faces Putney Bay, seen in the distance down Rigby Street.

The house progress hasn't gone un-noticed. The neighbors have been commenting on its unusual roof line, and one woman was heard to say, "I'd like to know why this house doesn't conform to the sidewalk like all the rest do in Peagarden - It is crooked!" The house is at the corner of Rigby and Joplin Streets (Lot 6), in the Peagarden Park neighborhood, the oldest in Putney: 

If you are lost, Peagarden Park is in this part of Putney:

If you are still lost, this is where Putney is located on New Island:

And this is where New Island is located on the planet:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New House in Putney

An adventurous soul know as Travelin' Gal has decided she just loves the old Peagarden Park neighborhood in Putney. She found a vacant lot there a few months ago and has recently appointed the mysterious New Island architect Alan Faramond to design her house. The lot, it turns out, is the very one with the story posted in April of this year. Faramond is hard to find, but New Islanders who know where to look hire him for his "build with nature" skills.

Faramond complied with these sketches.  Travelin' Gal is pleased and construction will start in a couple of weeks.
The house will be built of  hewn Wicklow limestone, that is brought in by barge from quarries near Silent Bay. The porch pillars will be branches and the base from a deceased fig tree that once grew in the rear of the lot. The carvings in the tree's trunk tell their own story!

Though the house faces Rigby Street on these plans, it will be tuned to face more westerly toward Joplin Street and the view of Aussie Slough and the harbor.

Travelin' Gal, originally from California, arrived on New Island in 2011.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Earth Home in the Wicklow Mountains

Wisconsin artist Soltaire the Assembler has begun construction of his new home in the Wicklow Mountains. He claimed five acres of land on the ridge named after a distant relative of his, and has selected the site below for his house.

The site has a stunning view of Otter Bay, Ignatz Island and the Eastern Coast.

The new studio-residence will be known as Thistledown Plot Atelier.

Mr. Soltaire has approved the concept and plan sketches, 
and construction will begin in the next week or so. He will also be constructing solar and wind -energy sculptures to provide heat and power.

Soltaire comments:

"Thistledown Plot looks dreamy...yummy...integral to Mother Earth...and "Bah" to conservatives who want to live in traditional houses.

They have their freedoms to live their lives happily under circumstances of their choosing...but must let others live out theirs in other happy ways.

New Island...I established for that purpose."

                                                                                               -- Soltaire, The Assembler

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Crazy New Island Project

It began in 1992 when I made a painting of a woman dancing on a bluff, and then decided that this event was taking place on an island somewhere - a big island with a variety of landforms. I just had to explore this place so I made many more paintings and drawings of places on the island, including some of the towns and settlements.  Later I made up a map of the island, and then started writing about its history and culture.

In 2003 I self-published The New Island Relocation Guide, a 155-page book about the island and its cultural history. Now I am rewriting the book as a kind of adventure story that will also document the island, including all maps and illustrations, this time in color. I've already posted a few short segments, about a fellow named Alan Faramond who physically lives in the Midwest but lives in his imagination somewhere else.


Monday, April 23, 2012

A Vacant Lot in Putney - from the Putney Times

Many Putney Times readers have been asking about Peagarden Park since our last article. Times city reporter Melvin Kox took a walk around there and filed this report.

Vacant lots have stories
Have you ever walked through an old neighborhood and found a vacant lot amid elegant old, perhaps eccentric homes? A large lot with big trees in the back, and perhaps some forgotten cement work or an overgrown, weedy walkway leading to nowhere?

On the corner of Rigby and Joplin streets in Putney's Peagarden Neighborhood sits such a lot. When I walked by it the other day, I first discovered the old formal walk beginning at the street corner, proceeding up some cracked steps, then disappearing under scrub oaks. Then I heard voices and noticed about eight teenagers huddled back in the trees, having what seemed to be an intense conversation. Bees were buzzing everywhere, likely attracted to the flood of poppies and miandra blooming just now. Have you ever had miandra-blossom honey by the way? Uuuum!

I asked the lady waiting at the streetcar stop if she lived near here, and knew anything about the lot. "Well, I believe a Russian navy man named Valeri Polyakov once owned it, but he had to leave back around 1905, or 1906, one of those years. Now, I think someone has just bought it, but no one knows who...but just the other day my neighbor told me she noticed a woman walking around the property with who she thought might be Faramond the architect." Then the Seville - Library trolley showed up and she had to go.

This is the Peagarden park neighborhood.
The vacant lot above has a number 6 on it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Putney Sees Major Improvements

It's not the same old Putney anymore!

The downtown area of Putney, especially the Peagarden Park district, has seen many improvements in the last year. A new light rail line was added to make it more convenient for commuters to get to the West Putney neighborhoods from Downtown Station. More trains have been added to decrease the maximum waiting time from 30 minutes to 15.

New streets and buildable lots have also been added in the Peagarden neighborhood bordered by Jones Street, Cecelia Avenue and the railway lines. We'll have stories about what the residents are doing here, in good time.

A bike road has also been built all around Putney Bay, complete with a  ferry ride available at the mouth of the bay. Commuters love it! Also, some interesting bicyles have been seen using this new path, particularly some belonging to the dedicated surfers who travel during the wet winter months to catch the big waves off Putney Head. Our roving reporter found this home-built specimen:

With thanks to a  creative, dedicated and very real surfer somewhere in the Sunset District of San Francisco!