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When exploring the uncharted waters of the world's largest coral reef lagoon the weather is always a concern; even when anchored in a reasonably well protected location, like the V-shaped "Coude" (Elbow) reef on the southern tip of New Caledonia's Great South Lagoon. None of the New Caledonia reef anchorages are protected from every direction and should the wind shift in the night you could be in serious trouble before dawn. So when I woke up just at sunrise the first thing I did was go on deck to check out what the weather had in store for us. And this is what I saw - we were completely surrounded by rain squalls and towering thunderheads. Fantastic! What a magnificent sky! The dawn colors, a flock of boobies headed back towards the remains of an old wreck on the reef after a night's fishing, and the water just glowed all around us in the dawn light. I don't think I've every enjoyed such menacing looking weather so much. While I was photographing this sphere image the VHF radio weather broadcast came on and told us that it was a lovely day and we could expect light SE winds. Surprisingly, they were right and after these showers passed by the day cleared up beautifully.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.