Bilikiki's latest adventure was of a different kind. For the last 7 days we were joined by 17 enthusiastic guests from the USA to revisit some of the important battle sites of WW 2 in the Solomon Islands. We were lucky enough to be under the expert guidance of Anderson Giles, a retired professor from the University of Maine Presque Isle. Andy has been leading expeditions to the South Pacific WW2 sites for more than two decades and has been on the Bilikiki many times. It was fascinating to get an insight into the events of this time from him. Many participants had an emotional connection to this area, having had a relative of their families fighting on the American side during the war with Japan.
We visited the wreck of the LST 342 now resting in the mangroves of the Florida Islands where a big saltwater crocodile surprised us by taking a sunbath on the wreckage. We then visited Ghavutu and Tanambogho, the locations of the first land battles in the Solomons.
We stopped briefly on the beach of Savo Island, where a fierce naval battle took place and then headed off to the Russell Islands where an adventurous ride on the back of two old pick-up trucks brought us through the jungle to the abandoned Banika airfield.
A long crossing took us to New Georgia in the Western province with visits to the airstrip of Seghe, where we snorkeled on an American plane that was bumped off the runway, and Munda airfield, built in less than two weeks by the Americans. It was the longest airfield in the Southern hemisphere at the time!
Another highlight was certainly our visit to Skull Island, a sacred tiny island where dozens of skulls of tribal chiefs from the days of head hunting in the Solomons are kept. From there, we continued to Kennedy Island, named after the late US president J.F. Kennedy, who was eventually rescued after his torpedo boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Initially declared dead, he and his crew first swam to this tiny speck of land and then on to the next island until they were found by local Solomon scouts several days later and saved. This historic swim to the beach was performed by all our guests with great enthusiasm!
It was a fascinating trip and we can't thank Andy and his guests enough for being such a fun group and great sports in sometimes difficult weather conditions. We learned a lot during this trip about the events during the war here in the Solomons! Another massive thank you goes to all the Bilikiki crew for all their hard work, especially to our two captains Alan and Joe who spent long hours in the wheelhouse to get us to all the locations.
We hope to see you all again very soon!
Tina & Oli