Sunday 19 July 2009

Ep 109: Tongan blowholes and whales

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean comprising 169 islands stretching over a distance of about 800 kilometres. It is the only sovereign monarchy in the Pacific and takes pride in its claim that it was never colonised.

I recently spent a wonderful two weeks in Tonga - the islands completely live up to their billing as the Friendly Islands - Captain Cook gave Tonga this moniker after his first visit in 1773 when he was treated to various festivals. It was only later that it was revealed local chiefs wanted to kill Cook but could not agree whether to attack by day or night.

This is the first in a series of podcasts about Tonga that include my own recordings from Tonga and also interviews with experts in the scientific areas we tackle. In this show, we look at:

  1. The Mapu a Vaea blowholes - these blowholes are created by the ocean pounding into the coastal rock and moving through natural tunnels creating a fountain;
  2. Tongan singing - not much science here, but it's beautiful!
  3. Whale behaviour and migration - I chat to Scott Portelli, an award winning photographer and diver who runs whale-watching tours in Tonga. Scott recently won the prestigious Scuba Diver AustralAsia - Through the Lens Underwater Photography Competition with an outstanding photo from Tonga - see more of Scott's photos on his webpage. Scott runs Swimming with Gentle Giants, a company which conducts whale diving tours each year between August and October off the islands of Vava'u in northern Tonga. I chat to Scott about:
    • his experiences swimming with whales,
    • when to swim with whales,
    • whale behaviour and migration patterns,
    • the oceanic animals of Tonga,
    • a little bit of whaling politics,
    • the threats to whales, including whaling, global warming and pollution, and
    • the fact that I once ate whale...
There are very few places left so get booking if you would like to swim with whales this year.

Stay tuned for more on Tonga in upcoming podcasts, in which we will talk about, and experience, the intoxicating drink Kava, the Stone-Henge of the South Pacific, the effects of global warming and rising sea-levels on Tonga, the local animals and more on whaling science and politics.

Listen to this podcast here:

And see below for some very cool traditional dance (also here if you can't see the video):

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