Hongdo Islands, off the Korean coast (WS)

Touring the world with French Line, PMSSCo and Messageries Maritimes, a poster by G. Schindeler (old press)

Vancouver, replica of the steamer "Empress of Japan" (WS)

Estimates of early South Pacific crossings from the Asian side are a fascinating subject of research. Obviously, America had been settled c.15000 years B.C. by migration from Asia via the Bering Strait and Alaska. In China, more than 2000 years B.C. the oldest culture still alive had developed. In Japan, the cult of the ruling Tenno is going back to c. 600 B.C.

The Bering Strait was named after Vitus Bering, who crossed it on sleds in the early 1700s. The way around Siberia to the Bering Sea was explored by Adolf Erik Nordenskiold in 1879 and the North West Passage around North America was successfully finished by Roald Amundsen in 1903-1906. Both ways are unsuitable for regular sea traffic - good for nature.

Magellan Strait (Dr. Henning Saul)

Stormy weather near Valparaiso (Kyriaki Soelch)

After Columbus had discovered the coast of Venezuela and Panama, Vasco Balboa was in 1517 the first European who saw the Pacific from Panama's west coast. Around 1520 the Portuguese Fernao de Magalhaes crossed the South Atlantic and having passed the stormy straits of South America, he was getting into a "peaceful" sea, hence given it the name "Pacific Ocean". When exploring the Philippine Islands he was killed on Macton Island by hostile natives in 1521. Out of his five vessels only the flagship "Victoria" completed finally the first circumnavigation of the world. Australia was discovered by a Dutch expedition in 1605, which named her "New Holland". Abel Janszoon Tasman of the Netherlands explored New Zealand in 1642.

Sydney Opera, seen from the "Rotterdam" (WS)

"Queen Elizabeth II", Auckland 2004 (Matthias Beck)

New Zealand became a British colony in 1762 and Australia was a place for British convicts from 1788, before free settlement started in 1829. China was frightened by the British opium war of the 1840s. Spain lost the Philippines in 1898 to the United States after the battle of the Manila Bay and in 1900 the USA took possession of the Hawaiian Islands. In 1901 the colonial powers knocked down the Chinese "Boxer" upheaval in a brutal way. Japan had remained a tightly isolated state, keeping on tradition up to 1853, when the USA forced to open two harbours. In 1905 Japan defeated the Russian Baltic fleet near Tsushima, in 1932-33 the Japanese army conquered Manchuria and in 1937 the full-scale war on China was started. America's strategic way from the Atlantic to the Pacific is the Panama Canal, completed in 1914. More and more America became the dominating power on the Pacific.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (WS)

Paramount Hotel, San Francisco (WS)

Japan's sudden attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 and the following occupation of wide areas of East Asia and the Pacific region ended eventually up with Japan's defeat. The capitulation was signed on board the U.S. battleship "Missouri" on 2nd September 1945. The United States was now the dominating naval power. Transoceanic passenger shipping on the Pacific however, never as important as on the North Atlantic, had almost completely disappeared before Japan and then China became the new economic powerhouses.

The war memorial Rozen Kannon Temple at Kyoto (WS)

South Pacific coast at Bali (WS)

See also John M. Maber: North Star to Southern Cross. Charles R. Vernon Gibbs: British Passenger Liners of the Five Oceans. Howard Robinson: Carrying British Mails Overseas.

For the trains connecting in America, Asia and Australia see