A moment in time

THERE are moments in time when we must look back into history to get our bearings. Sometimes, when we do this, we get to learn and appreciate our place in history.

This is the second week that we get to read about a chief who left the beautiful island of Kadavu to live out the rest of his life in the northern most part of Canada.

Ratu Asesela Robanakadavu was a Fijian chief who lived in the arctic in the late 1890s.

It is when we get into his life and times in the arctic that we discover that he was a crucial member of the historic Canadian Arctic Expedition between 1913-1918.

Also known as Jim Fiji, the Nakoronawa, Nakasaleka, Kadavu native, was part of the crew from August 1915 to September 1917, when he joined the leader of the expedition Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist.

As our Page 1 report notes, the Canadian Arctic Expedition is considered one of the major scientific exploration ever undertaken. New lands in the western and high arctic were discovered and mapped including the collection of natural specimen during the five-year expedition.

Ratu Asesela was part of this very important exploring team tasked with exploring new land north and west of the known lands of the Canadian Arctic.

When we read the full report in the Discovering Fiji section of today’s edition, we get to realise that there were diaries and journals kept by most of the scientists during the expedition.

This Fijian man struck quite a friendly relationship with the scientists and the crew and was paid a salary of $75 per month.

From the beautiful white sandy beaches of his homeland where coconut trees swayed as a backdrop to the never ending splashes of clear blue waters on the beachfront, he adapted to the harsh environment of the arctic.

He fell in love with the cold and bitter condition and lived out his life there.

The expedition helped define Canada’s northern boundaries and provided information about the North and its people.

At a time when Fiji was at the throes of just becoming a nation, the Fijian national was travelling the world as a sailor, harpooner, trapper and member of the Canadian Arctic Expedition.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson described Ratu Asesela in his journal as one of the “finest men in the North, and considers him — ‘one of my good friends'”.

Today, we pay tribute to an explorer who placed Fiji’s name on the map in the most unlikeliest of places.

Such times surely should remind us of the resilience of Fijians, and must remind us of our place in the early days of history.

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