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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 22, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A unique underwater capsule was immersed last weekend off the capital, Noumea, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The Plexiglas and steel module, which is said to be the first public attraction of this kind in the world, arrived recently in the French territory.

It is poised to become a unique tourism attraction, allowing divers and non-divers to spend up to half an hour underwater in the Noumea Lagoon.

The immersion operation took nearly six hours. It was under the supervision of the "Alis" ship, from the scientific Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), and a team of professional divers from a local club.

The "Divescope," after its immersion five meters (16.5 feet) deep, was finally emptied and made airtight.

It will be opened to the general public in early October.

"Now we have to define operating and safety procedures for the general public," Véritas South Pacific (certification) director Marc Guilhaurre said.

It is anticipated non-divers will have to undergo basic diving training before they are allowed to spend time in the capsule.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 22, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia’s Islands Province Maritime Company is planning to introduce an Australian-made luxury liner for inter-island service, targeting the American market, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The plan is to build a 75-meter (247.5-foot), 80-passenger ship, which would tour New Caledonia's islands on a four to five day basis and neighboring Vanuatu for cruises of up to twelve days.

The ship would also benefit from special tax-free provisions allowed by France for development investments in its overseas territories.

"We have had this project in our pipeline for two years. But now that an air link is to be established shortly between the United States and New Caledonia, we thought the time was right," company manager Arnold Lèques said.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 22, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---Australian and New Caledonian rodeo federations heads are to sign an agreement this week aimed at harmonizing their respective rules, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports on Monday.

The agreement, which was signed between newly created FAPOR (New Caledonian rodeo organizing association) President Arnold Chabaud and Australian counterpart ABCRA head Fred Paterson, sets out common rules to be applied in both Australia and New Caledonia.

Rodeo is a regular feature in the New Caledonian outback and agriculture shows organized on the French territory.

Just like in Australia or the United States, it stems from the stockmen who are still very much present in the French territory's country farms.

Apart from the Bourail and Koumac shows, New Caledonia even has its "Beef Festival" organized yearly in Païta (north), where the inter-rodeo agreement is to be signed on Wednesday.

The agreement also provides for cooperation and training between Australian and New Caledonian rodeo clubs.

"We have to get away from amateurism and harmonize our rules to the international standard, even for insurance matters, just like the Australians and the Americans," Chabaud said.

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