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Oriana 1970's - It's Not Cricket

And Memories of the South Pacific

Following the terrible devestation caused by the Volcanic eruption on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, some of my old seafaring friends have been in touch with memories of their visit to the South Pacific in the 1970’s which I would like to share with you. Gill Angrave recalls the cricket match between the ship’s company and the Royal Household. Not a leval playing field or should l say cricket pitch.


By Gillian Angrave

My Blog

TONGA: Eruption on Hunga Tonga, and

MyReminiscences of ‘The Friendly Islands’

Residence of the Tongan Royal Family

I was so sad to read of the devastation and loss of life caused by the volcanic eruption (and resulting tsunami) on Hunga Tonga, one of 36 uninhabited islands (there are 176 islands in total) in the west of the Tongan archipelago. This volcano had been fairly inactive since 2014, but it erupted on 20 December 2021, quietened down, and then finally destroyed the island on 14/15 January 2022. Its power was twice that of Mount St Helens, and ash and shockwaves spread around the earth. Meteorologists in West Sussex even reported a large spike in atmospheric pressure on their barographs. King Tupou VI and family were evacuated from their Royal Palace, (above) on 15 January because of the danger from the tsunami and returned on 17 January.

A huge relief operation is underway to try to clear the ash and debris, but this brings its own problems. Tonga, like many isolated Pacific islands, has remained completely Covid-free, and the fear is now that aid workers/military helpers etc. will unwittingly bring the virus to the islands. The Tongans will have no defence against it.

During my seven years as an Assistant Purser with P&O, I was lucky enough to visit Tonga many times, both as a destination on our mainline voyages, and as a port of call during Pacific cruising.

The name has its origins in the Hawaiian word ‘kone’ meaning leeward; and because of their very warm welcome for Captain Cook on his first visit in 1773, they became known as

‘The Friendly Islands’.

I cannot think of a more apt name for them. The people are delightful; kind, gentle, and helpful to a fault. They are also a very tall race, and in many cases ‘substantial’.

Oriana's Cricket Team.

We were to find this out to our cost during the much-heralded cricket matches The King’s Household v Ship’s Company when I was in ORIANA. As the photo shows, we were fearsome opponents (!). Our Baker was Umpire; and our Hostess kept score, which went down very well with the opposition. Part of the boundary was the sea, and the Tongans, being big hitters and knowing the problems this would cause us, invariably aimed for that area. The outfielders had to wear swimming gear, but the chances of finding a ball in the waves was virtually nil, so the sixes stacked up against us. We needed a good supply of balls for these matches! The King’s Household always won, eagerly cheered on by a retinue of followers, including King Tupou IV, but I think the highlight for the players was the tea on board afterwards. They just loved our salmon and cucumber sandwiches, but much preferred beer to a cup of tea!

Then there was the market! How could one resist such an array of ‘tropical delights’,I certainly couldn’t, and one of the best selling items was a grass skirt, really useful for our demonstration of the Hukilau at Hawaiian Night a few days later.Mind you, the shells around the waist were really itchy and scratchy and I soon got the ‘lawn mower’ out afterwards. A trip to the International Dateline Hotel was also a must; I wonder how that has fared during this catastrophe.

Also my wonderful Immigration Officer, if he is still around. .It was a joy to work with him, and I pray he, and his family, are safe.

From the images of the terrible destruction and damage, unsurprisingly the capital, Nuku’alofa, seems to have changed a great deal since my visits from1968-74. I can only hope and pray that with foreign aid, resilience and good governance from their Royal Family (which has been in power continuously for 1000 years), they can get their lives back together soon, and rise up even stronger. They deserve no less.


Gill is a self-published author of her book

Read my review of Gill's book Here

"Live your life like a butterfly. Have a rest sometimes

but always remember to fly

Contact her either through

or email her on

Stuart Bennett worked with Gill and I on Oriana back in 1974 when we vistied

the Tongan Island of Vava'u and remembers the following incident.

When we were in Vava'u on that call in 1974 there was a lot of nervousness on the bridge as we had to anchor adjacent to a long coral reef ( =can opener) and the forecast was for wind to get up during the morning.

Mid morning, our illustrious leader Captain Wacker went up to the bridge and whilst there phoned the Engine room himself. The conversation went something like this;

"Bridge here, we need to get up steam", to which the north country 3/E/O replied "Ah, for foooks sake". "Do you know who you are speaking to?" Silence as the realisation sunk in . He replied "Do you know who you are speaking to?" Wacker replied "No." "Thank foook for that". Phone slammed down.

John Martin worked for the Overseas Development Agency as a Marine Training Officer at the Tarawa Marine Training School on one of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands he recalls time spent in the Pacific Islands.


‘Strange’ I thought, ‘that’s the emergency generator being started up – but it is not emergency drill day or the usual time’.

We were on Tarawa Marine Training School’s training ship ‘Teraaka’, en route to visit the Gilbert & Ellice Islands ‘Northern Line Islands’, normally an eight-day sailing across the Pacific from Tarawa at 12 knots. We had been reduced to 8 knots as we were towing a fishing vessel to Christmas Island nearly 2000 miles away. Probably the biggest distance to cover from one location to another in the same country.

The Gilbert Islands which includes the Phoenix and Line Islands (all 33 in black) is now known as Kiribati. Christmas Island is now renamed locally as Kiritmati. The Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvulu.

I was on the boat deck doing a ‘throw-out’ from the big walk-in freezer that was situated there when our newly joined Scottish 2nd.Engineer, who was also on the school’s training staff, arrived to say that he was going to have to turn off the freezer and all the electrics in the galley. A generator’s cooling water pipework had burst, and the engine room was flooding with sea water. They needed enough power to keep the pumps working.

It transpired that of the three main generators in the engine room, one had a cracked crankshaft, another a bent crankshaft and it was the one that was providing our electric power that had the faulty pipework. Thus the emergency generator start-up. EXCEPT that it was not connected to the main electrical switchboard. The national Chief Engineer was seen on the main deck on his knees praying. The generator with the bent crankshaft could JUST generate enough power to manage the pumps so that the main generator could close down long enough to fit a cement box around the faulty pipework.

Our Chief Officer was also doing his first trip after a stint instructing in the school. A very correct Prussian from Hamburg Sud. He had been spending his days in all four lifeboats and was rather shocked to find that the sheaves on the gravity roller davits had suffered a lack of maintenance and were unlikely to roll the boats out should they need to be lowered. He had been doing his best to free them.

All rather disconcerting being in the middle of the Pacific, away from any shipping lanes and too far away from the range of any rotary winged planes. Especially with a wife and daughter on board. There was great relief all round when the ministrations of the Second Engineer worked and we could continue on our way for the colony’s Commissioner of Police and Senior Magistrate to undertake their inspection of the three islands we were due to visit.

Safe arrival on Christmas Island after a two week voyage. Here with the catering trainees in mufti.

Discovered by James Cook on his third world voyage on Christmas Day 1777, en route northbound from Tahiti to try and discover the North West Passage. Further north he came across the Hawaiian Islands. Christmas Island was used for ‘Operation Grapple’, the testing of nuclear bombs 1957-58.

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