Island-hopping in cyberspace

Do you have end-of-the-fiscal-year burnout? Tap into the World Wide Web to do some armchair island-hopping. This tour of federal island Web sites will take you far away with just a few key strokes.

Start with Diego Garcia a remote atoll in the Chagos Archipelago located north of Mauritius and east of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. This 37-mile-long speck of land part of the British East Indian Ocean Territory has emerged as a key U.S. supply and forward staging base for units operating in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. This remote location according to the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station makes the island "the Navy's best-kept secret " according to the opening screen of the Diego Garcia Web page (www.nctsdg.navy.mil).

After noting some painfully obvious facts - all tours on Diego Garcia are unaccompanied entry is restricted the ship's store has a minimal inventory and "leather-soled shoes do not survive the island's coral well" - this well-designed Web site puts a positive spin on the place. Click on the "Things to Do on Diego Garcia" link and up pops an aerial shot of the V-shaped island and a list of activities including sports clubs beaches parks and shows.

Leaving Diego Garcia you can zip around the world to Guam which looks like a paradise of a duty station compared with Diego Garcia with just a brief stop at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station-Iceland Web site (www.nctskef.navy.mil/indexb.htm). The Iceland site rates a visit because it's the first federal site I've encountered that's been "optimized" for Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

The main Defense Department Web site on Guam at Andersen Air Force Base (www.andersen.af.mil) links to mostly bare-bones Web pages hosted by outfits such as the 36th Communication Squadron and the 36th Air Base Wing. The "News" button however opens up a wealth of surfing opportunities. This well-thought-out page can take users to such well-known news providers as CNN and the U.S. Information Agency as well as the Pacific Stars and Stripes (www.twics.com/~stripes/home.html) and the Government of Guam home page.

Pacific Stars and Stripes an authorized but unofficial newspaper published by DOD first rolled off the presses in Tokyo in 1945. Click on the "Pacific Focus" button on the Pacific Stars and Stripes home page and the links will take you to Web versions of stories filed by the paper's bureaus in Guam Japan Okinawa and Korea.

The Government of Guam's Web site (www.gov.gu) shows that when it comes to Internet technology they're not asleep on the island "where America's day begins." This page was rated in the top 5 percent of all Internet sites by Point Survey and was included in the Awesome Universal T@p 500 Web Sites. Links from here will allow users to download Chamorro Language Translator software and tap into weather sites as well as link to the Web site operated by Rep. Robert Underwood Guam's congressman (uog2.uog.edu/underwood.html).

Skip a bit east - which is easy to do on the Web - and you'll come to American Samoa home of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (wave.nos.noaa.gov/nmsp/fbnms/html/Samoa.html).

This information-rich site offers an informative cybertour through a fragile and pristine coral reef ecosystem that only the most peripatetic would be able to visit in person.

Now zip back around the world one more time to the Azores in the Atlantic another off-the-beaten-path spot easy to visit via the Web at the Lajes Air Force Base site (www.lajes.af.mil) maintained by the 65th Communications Group. Designed for Web visitors as well as Lajes users this site offers one of the best pages of PC links I've encountered providing one-stop shopping to Web pages operated by the likes of Government Technology Services Inc. Zenith Data Systems and Microsoft.

Lajes Field located on Terceira Island supports military aircraft transiting the Atlantic offering on-base services as well as a key station in the Air Force Global High-Frequency System. Pop into the GHFS page and you'll encounter a friendly invitation for a tour of the station if you're ever on the island.

This site offers a cornucopia of information about the Azores in general and Terceira in particular including a compact history of this oldest of Portuguese possessions. The food section detailing the delights of linguica sausage and a beef stew called carne de cacoila is enough to make one wish that Web technology had evolved to the stage where you could download food.

Diego Garcia may be the Navy's best-kept secret but the Lajes page contains enough hints of an interesting culture and tour of duty to qualify Terceira as the Air Force's best-kept secret.

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