12 Jesuit inventions and discoveries that might surprise you


Something to think about as you sit beneath the beach umbrella, sipping a G-and-T.

If not for the Society of Jesus, we would not be enjoying some basics taken for granted in the modern world. Nerdy academic Jesuits and their swashbuckling, globe-trotting missionary brothers have made significant contributions not only in astronomy, seismology, mathematics and technology, but also in theatre, botany, medicine and international cuisine.

Click here to read the article.

A Jesuit Taking the First Japanese Surrender of Hong Kong 1945

Yesterday,  August the 30th, a day that should be remembered by everybody connected to Hong Kong, the day of liberation by the Pacific Fleet of the Royal Navy from Japanese occupation since Christmas Day, 1941.  Little known is the fact that the Japanese first surrendered to a Jesuit way before the official surrender on 16 September!  The following is an excerpt from “Jesuits in Hong Kong, South China and Beyond – Irish Jesuit Mission – its Development 1926 -2006”  Thomas J. Morrissey, S.J.  Xavier Publishing Association Co. Ltd, Hong Kong 2008.

<<On 15 August 1945, the Japanese Emperor made his historic announcement: “ Moved by charity and in order to save further loss of life, his Imperial Majesty has decided to put an end to the war…”  … “Then one day at the end of August”, as Bourke (Fr. Edward, Rector of Wah Yan) recalled, “ we saw the spectacle of of British warships slowly, very slowly, entering the harbour…”… The Japanese army and gendarmes had interred themselves, for their own protection, in camps under their own officers.HMS Anson

The British ships, which had come from Australia, included the 45,000 ton battleship, H.M.S. Anson (see photo of the ship in HK), which had on board a fellow student of Bourke at University College Dublin, Fr. Matthias (Matty) Bodkin, the only Irish Jesuit chaplain in the British navy.   Some hours after Bourke had seen the arrival of the H.M.S. Anson, he heard someone trampling heavily up the stairs.   To his astonishment it was Bodkin, dressed as a naval chaplain.  All his Irish colleagues were overjoyed and “listened spell bound” to all the news he had for them. Bourke expressed to him his concern about Ricci Hall.  If the Japanese gendarmes were no longer there, there was grave danger of it being looted again.  Bodkin suggested that they go and see.  “On our way”, Bourke remarked, “we saw looters everywhere, and the sight of a British uniform caused some of them to run away.  We passed by the university which was being looted.  Then we came to Ricci Hall.  The Japanese flag was still waving so we realised the gendarmes were still there.

“When the gendarmes saw the uniform they all lined up, bowed low, and saluted Fr. Bodkin.  They held their swords flat on their hands as a token of surrender, and one lowered the Japanese flag.  Fr. Bodkin was very kind to them and I think they were surprised.  We asked the, to let us know when they were vacating, so that we could take over and prevent looting.  Fr. Bodkin afterwards jokingly referred to the incident and claimed that he took the first surrender of Hong Kong”.>>

VJ Day 70

VJ70-150x150[1]Today we celebrate our victory over the vicious enemy,  let’s don’t forget those who suffered and those died from their brutality and those who fought and gave their lives for our freedom we take for granted.  Happy VJ Day!

(Photo – RN)

Scenic Hawaii #4 – Kauai (with 24 photos)

Kauai is the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands.  Similar in origin to the other islands of the chain, Kauai was also formed by volcanic activities.  However, being the oldest geologically, all its volcanoes are now extinct.

Also known as the “Garden Isle’ due to its plush green vegetation benefit from its abundant rain fall,  this picturesque island is where many Hollywood movies and TV shows, including Avatar, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Blue Hawaii, South Pacific, King Kong, among over seventy others are filmed.

Kauai is also well known for its red dirt.  The volcanic soil with its high iron content was oxidized easily due to the heavy rainfall of the island and turned red over time.

Situated on the west side of Kauai,  with a drop of over 3,600 feet and a width of 1 mile and a length of over 10 miles, nicknamed ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ by Mark Twain, is the magnificent Waimea Canyon.  It was formed millions of years ago by an abrupt cave-in of that part of the island, with erosions eventually set in to create those majestic gorges that we see today.  Lookout points around the canyon rim give you panoramic views of this wonder of nature in multitude of colours created by the exposed volcanic soil and tropical vegetation.  Later in the day, the higher and cooler elevations attract more low lying clouds creating a mystic sensation of floating in the midst of the haze (in Chinese depiction 騰雲駕霧).   These spectacular sceneries without doubt will take your breath away.

In the close by town of Waimea, Hawaii first came into contact with western civilisation.   Royal Navy’s Captain James Cook first set foot here in 1778 and named the island chain Sandwich Islands in honour of the sponsor of his trips of discovery, the Earl of Sandwich.  A statue of the Captain was erected here to commemorate this historic event.

In the south shore of Kauai is an area known as the Spouting Horn.  With incoming sea water rushing through lava tubes and shooting spouts of water up over 50 feet high with a hissing sound, it is truly an amazing sight.  Nearby there is a monument to Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, a man who perhaps would be the king had the Hawaii Kingdom not been overthrown and eventually annexed  by the Americans.  Instead he became a 10-term U.S. Congressman.

Interesting enough, ubiquitous on this island are the roaming free range chicken.  With no fear of human presence, it is a chicken here, chicken there, chicken everywhere scenario.  For whale watchers, in the water of Nawiliwili Bay many hump back whales can be observed on the surface breathing and tail flapping.

Scenic Hawaii #3 – ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii (with 24 photos)

The whole archipelago of Hawaiian Islands takes its name from the largest island, the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii.  Formed from five volcanoes with three of them active, it is also the youngest geologically.   Lava is still pouring out continuously from the active volcanoes; flowing downstream to the ocean, creating more land every day.   The Big Island boasts the biggest active volcano in the world, the Mauna Loa and one of the most active, the Kilauea.  In the Volcano National Park that encompasses these two volcanoes, steam can be seen venting from craters and ground cracks and solidified lava flows can be seen everywhere.

Lava tubes are natural channels through which lava travels beneath the surface of the ground.  When the lava flow has stopped and the rock has cooled down a long, cave like channel is formed.   They can be as wide as 50 feet and many miles long.  The famous Thurston Lava Tube is truly a natural wonder unique to Hawaii.

Hilo, the island’s largest city, is located on the windward or east side and has seen its shares of tsunamis and lava flows that destroyed parts of the town.  It is also renowned as one of the rainiest places on earth.   Along its water front which has been rebuilt after being destroyed a couple of times by tsunamis, many humongous banyan trees were planted by celebrities, honouring movie stars, political leaders, authors, adventurers etc and among them a certain Richard M. Nixon whose tree is said to be the most crooked one in the tree-lined Banyan Drive.

Situated on the summit of Mauna Kea volcano, 13,796 ft above sea level, is a collection of world’s highest astronomical observatories.  The ‘Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope’ is one of the twelve international scientific facilities established here.

Located in Hilo is the well known Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts Factory.  The nuts were actually not native to Hawaii but were introduced from Australia in the 1920’s and later became a commercial success.   To savour some exotic taste, do not miss the shredded cuttlefish dipped in chocolate with its exquisite favour and mouth feel, only found here in the Big Island Candy Company.

Kona, the first capital of the unified Kingdom of Hawaii, is on the leeward or the west side of the Big Island and has a drier climate compared to the windward side.  However, it still rains briefly almost every day around 4 pm.  On the water front, Kailua Pier is the starting and finishing point for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.  Kona is well known for its excellent Kona coffee, introduced here from Brazil in early 19th century and planted on the slopes of the surrounding volcanoes.   Abundant fruits are also cultivated around here and their papaya is arguably one of the best money can buy.

Scenic Hawaii #2 – Oahu (with 30 photos)

Duke's statue, Waikiki beach USS Missouri

Oahu is arguably the best known and certainly the most developed and the most densely populated of the Hawaiian Islands.  Honolulu is the capital and the largest city of the state.  A modern American big city by any standard, it has its wide boulevards, high rise office towers, condos and hotels plus expensive designer shops and then of course its share of traffic jam, statistically the worst in the whole USA.

Just off the Aloha Tower, the city’s landmark since the 1920’s, schools of good size fishes can be seen swimming in the pristine water of the harbour.  Farther out from the shore many dolphins can be observed in more open water.  Waikiki Beach, a beachfront neighbourhood of Honolulu, is where people flock to the island for sunshine, beach and surfing. Another landmark, the ʻIolani Palace, built in 1882, is the only royal palace in the US.  It had electricity and running water even before the White House!   Fans of the original TV series Hawaii 5-O can recognise it as the headquarter of this fictitious police task force.  The Supreme Court building across the street, the Aliʻiōlani Hale, with the statue of King Kamehameha the First in front, can also be instantly recognised by fans of the current Hawaii 5-O TV series, being represented in the show as their headquarter.

Of course history buffs won’t want to miss the ‘World War 2 Valor in the Pacific National Monument’ in Pearl Harbor.  In the museum, there are many Pearl Harbor attack artefacts on display and rare film footages being shown in two theatres.  The Arizona Memorial itself is a structure that spans the mid-portion of the sunken battleship. Still lying in shallow water is the wreckage of the USS Arizona, with oil drops still floating up from its leaking fuel tank after being blown up by the Japanese surprise attack on 7 December 1941.  Not far away from the Arizona memorial berths the USS Missouri. It was on this ship that the Japanese signed the document of surrender to the Allies on 2 September, 1945 bringing a close to the war.  Standing on the spot where the surrender took place, looking at the photos and documents, you are really reliving history.  The question is, ‘we won the war but who won the peace?’