Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saipan is in the South Pacific

(My Saipan Tribune column from yesterday. Some links show up here because I copied the text straight from Wikipedia.)

I have previously shared my view that we need to boldly state that we are located in the South Pacific. I think it helps our marketing in that the term “South Pacific” evokes an accurate image of what we are all about – sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, lush vegetation, coconuts. I’ve also argued that “South” does not need to be strictly defined in relation to the equator. It’s just in relation to some other place that’s north of us. We are certainly in the “southern” Pacific. There is no arguing that. The word “North” is not a good word to depict a tropical island.

Nevertheless, any time I say I live in the “South Pacific,” some wisenheimer pipes up, “We’re in the NORTH Pacific.” Arrrrgh. Think outside the equatorial box! I finally did a bit of research on the matter and I am now vindicated in saying we’re in the South Pacific. This phrase needs to be integral to all our self descriptions.

Now, granted, the only place that I could find anything on a Google search for “Where is the South Pacific” was on Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia whose entries are written by anyone that wants to write them. But still, unless you’re deciding about life and death, it seems to be a pretty accurate place for information, and I rely on it regularly.

Wikipedia’s entry on South Pacific states the following: “The South Pacific is an area in the southern Pacific Ocean.” Okay, that is good enough for me, but if you need more, the article gives you three options. It states that the term, South Pacific, may refer to

  1. Australasia, an area including Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and other islands including the eastern part of Indonesia;
  2. Oceania, a geographical (often geopolitical) region of many countries/territories (mostly islands) in the southern Pacific Ocean;
  3. Strictly taken, that part of the Pacific Ocean area south of the equator bordered by Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, the 60th south latitude, the west coast of South America and the equator. South of the 60° latitude, it is part of the Southern Ocean.

We fall into the “Oceania” category. If you click on Oceania, you’ll find the following definition: The exact scope of Oceania is defined variously, with interpretations often including Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and various islands of the Malay Archipelago. Ethnologically, the islands of Oceania are divided into the sub-regions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The term is also used by numerous authors and in many languages to define one of the continents.

Clearly, Oceania is a term that’s used rather loosely, but it does include the islands of Micronesia, and right there on the list in the article, you’ll find that the Northern Mariana Islands are part of Micronesia. I don’t think anyone disputes that.

It’s not that I was doubtful by my own inclination to place us in the “South Pacific,” but now I have something to help nudge anyone who is sitting on the fence, confused by the equator. At least someone else out there agrees that it’s appropriate for Saipan, Rota and Tinian to be called part of the South Pacific. There will still be the sticklers who will reference our location to the equator, and continue to say we’re in the North Pacific. But for the rest of us, the South Pacific is where we are. And for many of us, it’s okay to be in both the North and the South Pacific, depending on who we’re talking to, and what the situation is. For tourism and travel, and anyone north of us, we’re in the South Pacific.

1 comment:

Gregory said...

Marianas Eye said...

“I have previously shared my view that we need to boldly state that we are located in the South Pacific. I think it helps our marketing in that the term “South Pacific” evokes an accurate image of . . . .

* * * *

“[A]ny time I say I live in the “South Pacific,” some wisenheimer pipes up, “We’re in the NORTH Pacific.” Arrrrgh. Think outside the equatorial box!

* * * *

“I have something to help nudge anyone who is sitting on the fence, confused by the equator.”

---------------------------

Sorry, David, but may I suggest that it is you who needs to “think outside the north-south box”? The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is in the WESTERN Pacific, colloquially known by millions of Americans as WestPac.

The proposal to be “bold” in our “marketing” is actually an invitation to lie, mislead and deceive. This is hardly a sound basis for promoting ourselves, at least if the CNMI wants to be known as the home of people with integrity.

The primary argument in favor of the proposed geographical slight-of-hand seems to be image-making. Perhaps we should focus on actually improving the Commonwealth, and not on slick marketing ploys? Guam seems to do just fine attracting tourists in the Western Pacific.

I work in a profession where people will argue any position, so I recognize that I am highly unlikely to dissuade you of your viewpoint. If you prefer your tropically evocative “South Pacific” to the more geographically correct “WestPac,” so be it.

Just be aware that you are sewing the seeds of confusion rather than coming up with a bold, new solution to the world’s widespread lack of knowledge of where the CNMI is located.

As for me, I prefer to rest upon a firm foundation of truth and integrity, and strive to carry this over to my daily life in matters big and small. Hence I will continue to use the more geographically accurate WestPac (not South Pacific), OAG (not AGO), see 1 CMC § 2151, and Capital Hill (not Capitol Hill) on Saipan.

Thanks for providing a forum to discuss such “important” issues.

/s/

Greg Baka