Sunday, December 25, 2011

We are slightly amused.

(Note: This is a special "Boxing Day" present for Dr. Beachcombing.  His site can be linked from here, and is a daily parade of strange and quirky history.)

Earlier this year I posted  here on the aggravation of, well, computer cooties.  I was careful to only describe the problem, not to mention anything specific.  I am still of the opinion that sinister foreign based search engines seek out words and phrases and latch their little cyber mandibles onto them.

And it appears there is some truth to this, although it is not always a particularly malignant situation.

Bloggers are naturally curious as to where their audience comes from.  So it was interesting when both spouse and I noted recently that our respective blogs were starting to see visitors from an odd internet suffix.  This is, or can be, an identifier of origin.  We are all familiar with the "dot com" suffix, but there are also country codes such as "dot au" for Australia, "dot ca" for Canada.  I am not typing the exact format here, because I was quite leery of the "dot tk" traffic I had been seeing.  Where was it from and what did it mean?

As to the where-here.

This is Tokelau.  It is described as a "Non Self-Governing Territory".  Basically that means it is three specks of coral atoll with a supposed population of 1400 if everyone happens to be home.  It is, when anybody notices, under the general supervision of New Zealand.

The history of the place is odd.  You get the sense that there are centuries of monotony, just waves crashing on the beaches, then the outside world stumbles in and does something weird.

The Royal Navy visited a few times in the 1700s, either by accident or in 1791 when in search of the Bounty mutineers.  There seemed to be no permanent inhabitants, and the few natives present gave the Westerners a prudently wide berth.

The U.S. Navy ship Dolphin paid a call in 1825.  Apparently on this basis the United States would later claim the island under Guano Islands Act of 1856.

Yes, there was such a thing.  Bird droppings were a strategic resource back then, extremely valuable for the manufacture of fertilizer and high explosives!  The Guano Act reads in part:

"Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States."

I am pleased beyond expression to report that the Guano Act is still on the books, and was invoked in a recent attempt by a colorful entrepreneur to obtain a Caribbean island for free! But Your has guano on it!

But back to Tokelau.  In 1863 pretty much the entire male population was carried off by a class of villains I had never before suspected- "Peruvian slave traders".  Polynesian immigration and various European and American "beachcombers" made good the problematic shortage of Y chromosomes.  I am assuming that the term beachcombers is a euphemism for shiftless, libidinous beach bums, as you can see from the photo that there is not enough island to fully occupy even one beachcomber.

Britain claimed the islands in the 1870s.  America did not seem to notice.

There really just isn't much there.  No port, no airstrip, no arable land.  There must not have even been much guano.  It currently has the smallest economy of any "nation" on earth.  Its annual revenues from sales of stamps and copra are about that of an average American convenience store, the balance of public expenditures being made up of financial support from New Zealand.

So they were very receptive when a Dutch fellow with the marvelous name of Joost Zuurbier came along and offered to buy the domain name straight out, giving the micro nation a cut of the advertising revenue from such sites.

Not surprisingly the "dot tk" sites became very popular with folks who wanted to keep their real location secret.  It is not unlike the practice of flagging cargo ships under Liberian registry, few questions are asked and the regulatory environment is "flexible".  A few years back it was estimated that "dot tk" sites accounted for ten percent of the "questionable" sites on the internet.

Now it is a bit less toxic.  I still suggest you steer clear, but as an experiment I set all three of my protective programs to maximum shielding and actually took a look at a couple of the tk sites.  They appear to be the usual counterfeit designer handbags and software packages that you should under no circumstances down load.  Caveat Mus (Let your mouse be wary).

I think I could block this suffix from my site. I probably ought to really.  But I guess I feel a bit, well, wistful.  Its cold and snowy  outside and that beach looks so inviting.  And do I feel badly for the local lasses, what with all the menfolk being hauled off by those darned Peruvian slave traders. Ah, to have been a "beachcomber" back in the day...

And heck, I suppose there is even a minuscule chance that somebody from Tokelau is actually a devoted reader!

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