Deeper Into Jeopardy! VI: Islands of the Pacific – $400

The 2014 College Tournament wrapped up this week, which I believe means back to regular programming, and back to Mr. Chu, tonight. For now, we’ll talk a look Islands of the Pacific from Wednesday, February 19th’s Double Jeopardy! round. The reason I chose that category is because I recently read the book Pacific Worlds by Matt Matsuda, a fascinating and very well-written survey of the history of the Pacific Ocean and its place in global history. Highly recommended, especially for people looking to expand their historical horizons into less-well-known parts of the world by most English-speaking standards.

Jeopardy! category: ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC (19-02-2014)

$400 clue: A brand of water named for this Pacific island nation is bottled at the source, the Yaqara Valley on Viti Levu

Correct response

The gist: Military dictatorships, thug squads, journalistic intimidation, rampant corruption, and international intrigue might not be the sorts of things you’d readily associate with a bottled water company. But all those and more are what Anna Lenzer discovered in Fiji while writing a story on the Fiji Water company for Mother Jones in 2009. I don’t think I need to document here all the goings-on about the company in question – more germane, I think, to talk about the country itself.

While many islands that currently comprise the nation of Fiji have been inhabited for thousands of years (the exact timeframe is still being debated), the modern state was established in 1970 when it was granted independence by the British government after 96 years of foreign rule. The islands were first discovered by Europeans when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (for whom Tasmania is named) visited them in 1643, along with lots of other places in the neighborhood. The British claimed the islands in 1874 and established an lucrative and exploitative sugarcane industry – plantations were manned with cheap labourers imported mostly from India, such that about 40% of Fiji’s modern population is of Indian descent and Fijian Hindi is a common language, though not an official one; those are Fijian and English. 1970 saw the establishment of Suva as the national capital.* Modern Fijian history has been characterized by tensions between the indigenous and Indo-Fijian communities. Frequent coups and counter-coups have been undertaken in the country, often with the ethnic division as the underlying cause. The current government was established after a bloody revolution in 2000 which installed Commodore Frank Bainimarama as President for his brief first tenure until mutinies ended his reign, but he would take over the office again in 2006 and switch titles to Prime Minister in 2007, the post he remains in today. Viti Levu, the island from which the water company draws their product, is the largest of the Fijian islands, and includes the capital Suva.

Fiji relative to Australia, New Zealand, and southeast Asia. Viti Levu is the southwestern green bit – it’s the largest island for about 1200 kilometres until New Caledonia in the west, and much, much further to the east.

The clue: As most Jeopardy! viewers are probably most familiar with Fiji through the bottled water, the clue gives only very obscure information regarding the actual country of Fiji, the name of its largest island. Less a clue about the island itself than about a global company operating there – and sanitized of the less savoury aspects of that operation.

In Jeopardy!: Every country shows a fair amount in the J!Archives; Fiji does so 54 times, plus several more for people guessing it when another Pacific island is what’s being sought. Many mention Suva or Viti Levu (though the latter is usually not the only hint), Vijay Singh (a Fijian golfer of Hindi descent), Britain, and Queen Elizabeth II. Fiji is among the most common of the Pacific island nations to be asked about, but as it’s not a country viewers are likely to be very familiar with, it’s still on a relatively superficial level.

* Remember to pick up a Suva-nir when you visit Fiji!

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