Wake Island PDF - Egypt Panorama Tours
A TRAVELERS CENTURY
CLUB VISIT TO
By Ted Cookson
The author in cockpit with pilot
Charter flight posted in Guam
Disembarkation in light rain
descended from the gleaming
white Continental Airlines 737800 in the light rain. As his feet touched
the freshly-laid blacktop on the runway,
he turned to the right, kneeled in a
shallow puddle, and kissed the ground.
At 8:38 AM on 11 December 2009
Burley, an Englishman living in Hong
Kong who pilots 747-400s for Cathay
Pacific Airways Ltd., had become one
of a relatively small number of tourists
in recent decades to visit Wake Island.
But the grinning Burley had also just
joined a much more exclusive club. By
participating in this tour operated by
Military Historical Tours of Woodbridge,
Virginia, he had become one of fewer
than 20 people to visit all of the
destinations on the list of the Travelers
Century Club (TCC)
Based in Los Angeles and boasting over
2,000 members, the club‘s list currently
contains 319 destinations worldwide.
Part of Wake Atoll from the air
What made this occasion even more
unique was that five other club members
among the 97 paying passengers on
our chartered Continental aircraft that
morning also completed the TCC list
when they stepped onto the tarmac at
Wake Island. Bill Altaffer, Dr. Dieter
Deppe, Bob Spehar, Audrey Walsworth
and Ray Woods -- four Americans and
Deppe, a German -- also attained the
travel goal of a lifetime. Never have so
many club members finished the very
difficult TCC list at one time. In all,
53 TCC members from 14 countries
participated in the tour. Some remarked
that this might have been the greatest
concentration of well-traveled people
Most TCC participants had signed up
many months in advance for this seldomoffered one-day Wake Island tour, which
was priced at USD1,295 including round
trip air from Guam, another American
possession situated 2,417 km (1,502
miles) southwest of Wake and 2,507
km (1,558 miles) southeast of Tokyo.
In fact, some persistent and patient
travelers had even carried over deposits
they had made for a longer tour in 2006
which was to have included Wake but
which had to be cancelled after powerful
Typhoon Ioke devastated Wake Island’s
air traffic control system in late August
of that year.
Lying one-third of the distance from
Guam to Hawaii, Wake has been in US
hands since it was taken from Spain in
1898 in the aftermath of the SpanishAmerican War. President Roosevelt
awarded jurisdiction of the atoll to the US
Navy in 1934. Shortly thereafter, in 1935,
Pan Am established a seaplane refueling
station on Wake in order to enable the
airline to begin operating its fabled
twice-weekly trans-Pacific Clipper
flights. The Clippers were amphibious
Sikorsky, Boeing, and Martin aircraft
that would depart Alameda or San
Francisco, California for a 6-day, 60hour trip to Manila via Hawaii, Midway
Island, Wake Island, and Guam.
Construction of a naval base on Wake
had been underway for eleven months
when the Japanese invasion took place
Museum in airport
Invasion Beach with tour bus Drifter’s Reef island bar
Gen. MacArthur was fired by President
One of several war memorials
Revetments built by American POWs
Rock where 97 American civilian
POWs were murdered
on 11 December 1941; and Japanese
The tour’s finale was a wreathforces then occupied the atoll for the
laying ceremony to commemorate
remainder of the war. The atoll was
the sixty-eighth anniversary of
designated a US national historic
the Japanese invasion of Wake
landmark in 1985. Today Wake Island
Island. In addition to the large
is administered by the U. S. Air Force
TCC contingent, 42 relatives and
from Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
descendants of war veterans were
Generally there are round trip flights
in our group. Only two individuals
from Honolulu to Wake twice a month.
who had fought against the
In addition, a supply barge is towed to
Japanese on Wake participated in
the island as required.
the tour. Since Military Historical
The author at Wake
Our tour of the island included visits
Tours only operates groups to
to Invasion Beach, the Japanese-built revetments where enemy Wake at irregular intervals every few years, ours might have
aircraft were kept, Drifter’s Reef which is the current island been the final tour to include those who had seen action on
watering hole, and the airport terminal building containing a Wake.
US post office, a one-room museum, and a well-stocked gift
At the conclusion of the ceremony all tour participants were
shop. Four memorials, a chapel and several old bunkers are all wanded and our handbags were searched as we re-entered the
situated within a short walk of the terminal building.
airport terminal. After a flyover of Wake at dusk, Continental
Technical Sergeant Tom Czerwinski was one of a dozen or Captain Tom Campanelli smoothly pointed our aircraft toward
so support staff from the US Air Force and Continental Airlines the blazing sunset in the southwest for the three hour and seven
who accompanied our Military Historical Tours group from minute flight back to Guam.
Guam. In preparation for our tour, Czerwinski had ridden one It had been a unique day.
of the supply flights over to Wake round trip from Hickam Air
ABOUT TED COOKSON: Egypt’s most widely-traveled
Force Base. During the aircraft’s two-hour turnaround, he had
travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world! taken a quick tour of the island himself to ascertain which sites
He has also visited 310 of the 319 destinations on the list
would be of most interest to a group of about 100 tourists. An
of the Travelers’ Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and
Air Force medical specialist and a public affairs official also
refer to World Travel Club). A travel agent in Cairo since
accompanied the group on the day of our visit.
1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a fullservice travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and
Our local escort, who joined us for the tour in a yellow US
10, near the “El Maadi” metro station) in Maadi. Contact
school bus and who hailed from Salem, Oregon, had been
Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM)
employed on Wake for a decade as an environmental specialist.
at: Tel. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301. Fax 2359Normally his work involved such things as performing bird
1199. E-mail: [email protected] Web site: www.eptours.
counts and conserving natural artifacts. Our escort advised that
com. The password for residents is eptcool. Both text and
certain areas around the island which are the responsibility of
PDF versions of all of Ted’s travel articles published since
the US Missile Defense Agency are designated as off limits.
2002 are archived online at www.eptours.com under “Ted’s
However, when questioned, he was unable to confirm whether
International Travel Articles.” Many of the archived articles
missiles are in fact positioned on Wake at present.
also contain video clips!