Touring Tinian

Trip Start Mar 16, 2007
Trip End May 02, 2007

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Flag of US Minor Outlying Islands  ,
Monday, April 23, 2007

After diving, we went back to the hotel to get the salt off, got the rental car, and went to the dive shop. I'm pretty religious about my dive log, so I wanted to have Mr. Shin sign it. I finished the entries while we were at the hotel. Also, for those who don't know diving, it's common for dive operators to have stamps or stickers you can put in your logs. It makes for a nice souvenir, helps jog the memory about who you dove with when, and can give some publicity for the dive shop.

Suka is such the people person and saleswoman. There are only two dive operators on Tinian, and I quite accidentally happened to pick the Korean one, not the Japanese one. Suka hit it off very well with Mrs. Shin when we first went to the shop to get gear. The whole family was actually very friendly. When we went back, they brought out drinks and we sat around the table chatting for a little. When they found out where Suka works, they started talking about meats and produce, and Suka left with a probable new customer for Global.

We asked the Shins for a recommendation for lunch. They gave us discount coupons for JC Cafe. Pretty good food, but don't order the shakes. I don't know how to describe them, but just take my word for it: you don't want them.

After lunch, we made a quick stop by another of Suka's customers on Tinian, the Long Fong Grocery Store. I guess they always joke with her that she should come to visit them when they call to order, so they were very surprised when she actually showed up. They asked why she was there. When she told them she was visiting with her boyfriend, they lady left the counter with customers waiting to try to get a glimpse of me in the car. She seemed pretty excited about it.

Our first tour spot was Blowhole. It's a natural feature where the waves crashing against the shore force water and air up through a crack in the rock. The result is a blow hole (imagine that!). There's a actually a hissing crack much farther up that's an extension of the same thing.

Next we hit the WWII historical parts. Tinian was the island from which the US launched the planes that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. The battles for Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan were some of the bloodiest in the Pacific. Tinian had some major Japanese airfields. We took them over and significantly expanded them. Runway Able in North Field is the actually runway the bomb planes were launched from. These days you can actually drive through the entire runway complex. The smaller of the West Field runways were converted to the current Tinian Airport.

We saw several other artifacts of the Japanese and US military and airfield presences. This included a short jungle hike to a blown up Japanese munitions bunker and several air administration and control buildings.

Most notable was the atomic bomb loading pits. The bombs were too large for the conventional methods of loading the B-29s at the time, so they build custom pits for the process. They lowered the bombs into the pits, rolled the planes over the pits, and winched the bombs up into the holds. We saw both pits. They're in an area just north of Runway Able.

We made a brief stop at Unai Chulu (Chulu Beach). Not really much to see except a Japanese bunker that's been used for a lot of partying lately. The significance of Unai Chulu was that it was the Marines' landing point when they first took Tinian.

The drive back to San Jose was pretty uneventful. the north-south roads were mostly set up as boulevards when the Seabees built them in 1944. Pretty much only one lane is maintained now. "Maintained" is a little generous outside of the area between the Dynasty and the airport, including San Jose. It mostly means that they've kept the grass from growing over the road. You can see what happens when they don't even do that when you look at the other side of the boulevard. We drove on it for awhile. It doesn't have the freeze-thaw cycle to totally destroy it, but let's just say that our muffler was in very intimate contact with grass and the occasional coconut palm frond. I used some creative steering to make sure it didn't get intimate with the actual coconuts in the road. Coconuts and a Toyota Yaris would not be a good combination. I think the coconuts would win.

Back in San Jose we visited the Korean Memorial and the Sta. Lourdes Shrine. It's not clear that the shrine is in a natural grotto or why it's there. Like the Korean Memorial in Saipan, the memorial is to the thousands of Koreans drafted into military service by Japan, since Japan had colonized Korea from 1910 until they were forced to relinquish it after WWI.

Both of those sights were next to each other. Right next door to that was the Tinian campus of Northern Mariana College. The Tinian campus has been closed for lack of students and tight budgetary times. The one or two professors who were there have been recalled to Saipan.

In San Jose, we saw the Latte Stones at the House of Taga. We also visited the Old San Jose Bell Tower. Interesting to see, but not much to say about their significance.

We'd had enough sight-seeing, so we returned to the hotel to clean up for the evening.
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