Photograph of Noumea, January 1943
U.S. Army. Via Leighton and Coakley (1955)

Noumea (166.44E 22.26S) is the capital of New Caledonia, with an excellent harbor at Moselle Bay.  It was the most important rear base during the Guadalcanal campaign, due to its location halfway between Guadalcanal and New Zealand. The population was about 11,000 and the city was supplied with hydroelectric power and had a natural gas works. The port had three berths at Grand Quay and a single berth at Nickel Dock for loading ore. The defense consisted of a single French destroyer (Le Triomphant) and a single battalion (800 men) when war came to the Pacific, and the nearest airfield was at Tontouta 33 miles (53 km) to the north.

American forces first arrived at Noumea on 12 March 1942, and included the first of the "Seabees." However, the base fell under the administrative command of the U.S. Army, and as a result the port facilities were underdeveloped and nearly overwhelmed in the first months of the Guadalcanal campaign. Estimated ship handling capacity was 24 ships per month, but by 23 September 1942 there were 86 ships at anchor. Many of these were effectively floating warehouses. The berths had no heavy cranes for large items like 20-ton radar sets.

In October 1942 the U.S. Navy decided to relocate its principal South Pacific fleet base here, and rapid improvements began. This included a fuel tank farm and an auxiliary airfield at Magenta Bay three miles (5 km) northeast of the city.

Climate information

Elevation: 30'  Temperatures: Jan 86/72, Apr 83/70, Jul 76/62, Oct 80/65, record 99/52
Rainfall: Jan 10/3.7, Apr 13/5.2, Jul 13/3.6, Oct 7/2.0 == 43.5" per annum

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Frank (1990)
Leighton and Coakley (1955)

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