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133

SECTOR 5

NEW CALEDONIA (INCLUDING OFF-LYING ISLANDS AND REEFS)

5.0

Plan.—This sector describes the island of New Caledonia

and several off-lying islands. The descriptive sequence is S to N on the extended sides of New Caledonia, with a ESE and NNW arrangement at the ends for the off-lying islands.

General Remarks

5.1 New Caledonia, also known as Nouvelle-Caledonie, is

located about 750 miles NE of Brisbane, Australia. It is the principal island of the French Overseas Territory, and the fourth largest island in the South Pacific. The island is almost com- pletely surrounded by a barrier reef, submerged in places, but nearly level with the sea, having many narrow passages through it. The distance of the reef from the main island varies; about 85 miles in the middle of the SW side the reef practically adjoins the shore; in other places it is from 1 to 15 miles off the inter- vening waters, being studded with reefs and shoals of coral and sand. There are several islands inside the line of the reefs, and on the seaward side there are various dangerous spots.

5.1

On neither side of the island do the reefs afford protection

from winds blowing up or down the channels lying within the barrier reef and leading generally parallel to the coasts. These winds produce a choppy, disagreeable sea which rises quickly and quickly subsides. On the SW side of the island the inner channels are protected from a sea coming from the SW, as the barrier reef is on a level with the sea; on the NE side, where the barrier reef is largely submerged, there is little protection from a NE sea.

5.1

Outside the reefs the sea becomes steep and confused, par-

ticularly in the channel between New Caledonia and Iles Loyaute (Loyalty Islands). The general depth between the barrier reefs and the land varies from 37 to 91m. The bottom is nearly all hard rock or broken coral.

5.1

Although New Caledonia is a mountainous island and very

broken in places, it has broad interior plateaus and coastal plains. The highest points of the mountain ranges are Mount Humboldt in the S, about 1,634m high, and Mount Panie in the N, about 1,642m. There is no central range, and the longest unbroken range is on the upper N and E side of the island. There is a lot of serrated land, barren and practically impass- able. Great erosions, the result of torrential rains on a crumb- ling soil, are constantly going on and the land is cut and scarred in all directions.

5.1

The first impression of the navigator, who has been accus-

tomed to the luxuriant vegetation of most Pacific islands, is that New Caledonia is bare and arid. The prevailing growth is a small, drab tree, the Niaouli, similar in appearance to the ubi- quitous eucalyptus scrubs of Australia. The coconut palm grows on the coast, and many of the great valleys are filled with a luxuriant growth of the beautiful kauri pine.

Vessels navigating the inner channels should keep as far as possible to the weather side of the passage. Be at all times on guard against the effects of variable winds and strong tidal cur- rents, and the resulting eddies and tide rips. It should be borne

5.1 5.1

in mind that in the reef-encumbered waters of the inner chan- nels the number of hidden dangers is great and the existence of undiscovered hazards is probable, necessitating the mainten- ance of a sharp lookout from the masthead.

Photos de Nouvelle-Caledonie

http://www.photos-nouvelle-caledonie.com/albums.php

Winds—Weather.—On average, about three severe hurri-

canes a year affect some part of New Caledonia, mostly between January and March. They are sometimes of such small dimensions that they do not affect the whole island. They are usually moving in some direction between SW and SE. Storms approaching the island from the NE are often deflected by the high land and move SE.

5.1

Squally W winds accompanied by rain may occur on the W

coast in all seasons during weak trade winds, while the E coast which is sheltered, has a breeze from SE.

5.1

On the W coast, the winds are deflected by land and sea

breezes near the shore, the land breeze being the more prom- inent. The effects of these breezes often does not extend be- yond the barrier reefs. It is reported that when vessels leave Noumea with a NW wind, they sometimes find a W or SW wind outside the passage. When leaving with a wind between E and SE, it is frequently between SE and S outside.

5.1

On the E coast, land breezes are rare and never extend to the

barrier reef. With a SSE wind blowing in the W coast a fresh wind from SW often blows offshore, especially at night on the N and E coast of the island. The trade winds from ESE are said to reach its maximum strength near the shore at about 1400, but in the offing and beyond the reefs its greatest is reached between 1800 and 1900. Close inshore it subsides at sunset. Tides—Currents.—New Caledonia is nearly surrounded by

5.1

a barrier reef at about sea level with narrow openings; its coasts and anchorages are affected only by the tidal current. Outside the barrier reef the main oceanic currents are encountered, but close to the reef these become unpredictable.

5.1

Within the barrier reef the tidal currents are moderately

regular, though they are accelerated or retarded by a strong breeze. The flood current runs NW and the ebb SE. On the E coast, during strong SE winds, the ebb current runs out through the passes and the flood sets in.

5.1

During 50 per cent of the flood and 50 per cent of the ebb, the

currents are setting in directions almost at right angles to each other at the entrances of Canal de la Havannah and Passe de la Sarcelle. The result is violent eddies and a heavy breaking sea across the entrance of each passage, rendering it difficult to steer a ship except at high speed. At springs, the currents run at the rate of 4 knots through each passage and 2 knots in the offing. The S subtropical current, having a predominate W set and a

5.1

S limit in this vicinity at about the 26th parallel, divides on nearing New Caledonia and Iles Loyaute (Loyalty Islands). One branch, called the Rossel Current, sets NW along the

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