The Loyalty Islands comprise the Province Iles Loyaute of New Caledonia. There are 4 major islands, Ouvea in the north, Lifou in the middle and Mare in the south. 40,000 people live on these islands, with over half on the largest island of Lifou. All three islands began as atolls - a circular ring of islands with a central lagoon. About a million years ago the sea floor bulged under these atolls upwards. Ouvea, on the northern slope of the bulge, still retains the characteristics of an atoll, a circular group of islands with a central lagoon, but it is tilted, with the southeastern side raised up into two long islands and the lagoon getting progressively deeper to the northwest. The coral reefs and islets of Lifou were lifted about 80 meters out of the sea with the central lagoon now a forested plateau. Mare was also lifted right out of the water and also has a central forested plateau. The ancient, uplifted coral has left a multitude of caves, cliffs and sink-holes that are fun to explore. The coastal areas have new reefs around them and there are a number of very pretty beaches. The people of the Loyalty Islands speak French and their own tribal languages, a mixture of Melanesian and Polynesian. Many also speak some English. The physical infrastructure of roads, schools and medical facilities are modern and high quality. The people of the Loyalty Islands honour their cultural heritage and this is especially evident in the construction of their homes, their respect of custom, celebrations and family life.
Guest Photographer feature:
“Discover Loyalty Islands through Richard Chesher's Eyes.”
"If I had three wishes, they would be to stand in front of the most beautiful scene I can imagine, at just the right time, and take the ultimate photo of it."
I built a darkroom in the cellar of our Scarsdale New York house in 1948 and absolutely loved the experience of seeing images slowly appearing in the tray of chemicals bathed in red light. It was like magic - a spell woven from the darkness by a precise ritual involving light and lenses and special instruments. Cameras became my magic wand and science my alchemy to transfer visions from mind to mind.
My enchantment with camera technology kept me trying all sorts of systems. I used little tiny cameras, great big telescopic cameras, movie cameras and a range of camera formats from 35-mm to 8 X 10 inch large format cameras. I played with high speed photography, low light photography, and time lapse images. I even made my own cameras and lenses for special projects. In 1958 I began making underwater camera housings so I could take photos underwater. Photographs became a critical part of my career as a marine biologist. I especially enjoyed macro and microphotography, specimen photography, and what I called behavioural photography - images that showed the behaviour of creatures.
In November of 1966 my first underwater image was published in National Geographic magazine - a photo of two bluestriped grunts kissing on a reef in the Florida Keys. Although a succession of photo agents have sold my underwater images to encyclopedias, magazines and books, I never thought of myself as a professional photographer. I am a scientist, and for me cameras are tools of exploration and photographs are for illustration and documentation of scientific reports, publications and presentations. I like taking photographs, mind you, but they have to serve a purpose. My images have to live up to my childhood expectations of transferring a vision from mind to mind.
In 1975, following my investigation as chief scientist for the US Department of Interior on research into the Crown of Thorns starfish in the north Pacific and environmental studies in the Florida Keys, I embarked on an exploration of the South Pacific aboard the research vessel Moira. I realized then that the coral reefs of the world were in trouble and that doing anything about the problem was going to take some major shifts in our collective viewpoint about life on our planet.The report on the expedition of the Moira was a photographic exploration of "This Magic Sea" - a photo-essay on the evolution of life of our planet. A companion website/report provides information about ways to experience a more integrated view of life on Earth.
In 1984 I began a series of experiments in community science projects, aimed at changing the behaviour patterns of islanders towards their marine environment. During this same period I was a consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, documenting the state of the environment in the South Pacific Islands and the environmental diagnostics for the islands of the South Pacific showed a continual decline in just about every parameter we could measure. The year 2000 was a crisis point for our global environment. The Small Island Developing States were hoping to initiate a program to develop 100% renewable energy economies; the first technological step in an attempt to remedy global warming. It was all looking good until the energy companies installed their champion in the White House and progress towards critical environmental reform was stalled for 8 years.
My wife and I decided to put our efforts into sustainable tourism development for Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Mostly because I thought it would be extremely worthwhile to put myself in front of the most beautiful views of our planet possible and take photos of them. Our new career as professional tourism photographers was very successful. Our travel guides are geographic information systems (much like Google Earth had become) designed as educational tools for travel agents. The Vanuatu Tourism Office distributed over 110, 000 copies of the Rocket Tourism Guide to Vanuatu to travel agencies around the world and the tourism office of New Caledonia distributed more than 60, 000 copies of the Rocket Tourism Guide to New Caledonia. They are now available online for anyone who wishes to travel to Vanuatu or New Caledonia. Our tourism photos have been published on hundreds of travel websites, magazines, posters, and billboards.
We set up on-line photo libraries with our tourism images of New Caledonia cultural and scenic highlights, New Caledonia Hotels and Resorts, and New Caledonia tours and diving activities plus VR Sphere Images of New Caledonia Hotels, places and activities. The Vanuatu travel guide has sphere images of Vanuatu plus over a thousand images of Vanuatu cultural and scenic highlights, Vanuatu accommodation, hotel and resort photos, and Vanuatu tours and diving.
We also created and publish the world's most advanced cruising guides for cruising yachts and superyachts visiting Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The nautical guide to New Caledonia includes the world's first underwater sphere images of the New Caledonia Lagoon The nautical cruising guide to Vanuatu provides images and information on all the Vanuatu islands and includes the first underwater sphere images. Sphere images, like those you see on arounder.com, are the leading edge of photography. I sometimes call them Memory Bubbles - a term invented by the writer John D. McDonald - because they allow you to visit a place and time and look all around just as if you were there yourself. This makes them the perfect mind-to-mind medium. And like the images slowly appearing in the darkroom magic of my youth, the process of taking and processing the images is enhanced by wizardry.
» More about Richard can be found at: Rocket-guides.com.