from The Essential Paradise, series sourcebook

Doc. 1.0. A slice of Heaven Edit

The British Paradise Islands, overview Edit

In 1775, after an unsuccessful search for an Antarctic land mass, Captain James Cook sailed due north and came upon a small archipelago at about eight degrees south of the Equator. The crew of Endeavour were so enraptured by the lush green valleys and abundance of freshwater springs that they named their oceanic oasis The Eden Islands. Increased traffic on the Pacific trade routes soon made the place a heaven for pirates, who built several fortifications, some of which still stand. It remains a mystery why they abandoned these lucrative outposts, apparently in a hurry, sometime before 1825.

With most of the original Polynesian populace killed off or chased away by buccaneers, the islands seemed to have dropt off the map for over a century. But during the 1939-1945 War, the RAF legitimised the colonial claim with the establishment of an Allied observatory and intelligence base on what is now Morning Island. A few score English and Scottish veterans, joined by expatriated Austrians who had staffed the base during the War, became the core of the ‘New Settlers’ whose legacy continues in the islands to this day.

Over the next three decades, development came quickly to Paradise. Much of this was necessary improvement: roads were paved, a few villages incorporated into townships, and the Race and Hell Gate bridges constructed. In 1950 the British government under George VI installed Sir Harvey Headley as viceroy and formally recognised a change in the islands’ name to The Pacific Paradise Islands. A territorial parliament were elected and Cook House built for them in New London. The viceroyalty was abolished in favour of the office of Governor-General in 1963, when the territory was finally renamed The British Paradise Islands.

The American yachtsman Paul Cavaliere is generally credited with the ‘discovery’ of modern Paradise. He and the young crew of Starchase dropped anchor here in 1983 and were quick to realise that the ongoing rash of development, mainly by off-island speculators, was threatening the preservation of vital natural resources. His cousin, the entertainer Jonathan Cavaliere, was knighted by HM Elizabeth II for his impassioned efforts in organising support for the rescue and resurrection of this nearly-forgotten arm of the British Empire and subsequently became first Earl of Paradise. The new transoceanic airport terminal on the site of the still-active RAF base was dedicated to Sir Jonathan upon his acceptance of the territorial baronetcy in 1989.

Since that time, the natural beauty and purity of the islands have always taken precedence over the nurturing of commercial tourism. As a result Paradise can boast of no large-scale resorts or theme parks; and gaming casinos and tourist areas are confined to specific (and well-taxed) zones. High-rise buildings are prohibited; and there are no high-density apartment or resort complexes. In fact much of the land not used in agriculture is designated as wildlife sanctuary, public nature preserves, or privately-sponsored estates and gardens. Few people live more than two kilometres from the water; and the large, relatively protected Paradise Sound within the spiral-shaped archipelago is home to yachting, fishing, and commercial cargo operations as well as a Royal Navy base in Avon Township.

The permanent population of Paradise is mostly homogeneous, made up of descendants of Austrian, French and Commonwealth natives engaged in home or international commerce, with a large percentage active in agriculture. Herding, dairy, orchards and vegetable or grain farms take up much of the private space, as well as a few dozen very large plantations such as in sugar cane, coffee, and grain produce. The monetary unit is the British pound, even in tourist markets. English is the accepted language; although French, German and Polynesian dialects are spoken in some areas. Immigration is very restricted and nonresidents are prohibited from investing or landing a job. Paradise is essentially self-governing through a two-house territorial parliament which fosters its own diplomatic relations with political allies and trade partners. Taxes paid to the mother government are primarily for military defence and national programmes which directly affect the territory.

Local law in the islands lends itself to a casual, comfortable lifestyle, deliberately reminiscent of the earlier Polynesian culture in which members were left to their own responsibility and recognizance. Whilst belongers are only minimally restricted in the operation of motor vehicles and watercraft and there are no formal standards for the consumption of alcoholic beverages, firearms are strictly regulated, cigarettes are heavily taxed and laws banning narcotic substances are formidable. The dress standard can appear extremely lax, with swimming attire being acceptable almost anywhere at any hour and there are numerous public lidos where nudity can be the norm. In spite of such liberties, however, problems with public drunkenness and lewd behaviour are conspicuously rare, and social etiquette is generally high all over the territory.

The British Paradise Islands are a naturalist’s dream, thick with unmolested tropical rain forest, teeming with uncommon animal life, and surrounded by a fertile coral reef, bathed by an ocean which is sparkling clean and an Equatorial climate which never grows cold. Truly Captain Cook had been accurate when he called his first original discovery ‘a Slice of Heav’n right here on Earth’. This was, and is, the essential Paradise.

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