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...