Samoa's master mariner thanks Samoa College

A Samoan maritime pioneer, Captain George Clarke, has thanked the Samoa College Old Pupils' Association (S.C.O.P.A.) in New Zealand for honouring his achievements at sea. 

Captain Clarke was named one of the recipients of the S.C.O.P.A. New Zealand "Outstanding Achievement Award" for a distinguished career that led to him being named Samoa's first ever master mariner or international ship captain.  

"[I owe] thanks to Samoa College where I learned the basic requirements of mathematics that helped me in later years while studying in London for a nautical certificate," he said.

Captain Clarke was the second Samoa College Head Boy in 1954. 

His class was the school's second ever intake after Samoa College was established in 1953. 

The recognition comes less than one month after he answered a written invitation from Blind Foundation of New Zealand to fund raise on their behalf by sky diving off an open door of a plane 13000 feet in the air. 

The 84-year-old was cleared by his doctors to fly for the 55 second free fall at 200 kilometers per minute.

"The doctor stated that my blood pressure will rise before jumping and then said to give it a go which means I was in good health," he said.

"Shortly afterwards I was a fund raiser for this good charity and will sky dive free if I raise $800. 

"The response when I had circulated the link to my many friends around the world was great and within days the Foundation had received over $800 and now had to prepare myself to reduce my weight below the allowed maximum 100 kilos from 103 kilos."

On the 7th of December, he went skydiving and raised $2201.85 and weighed in at 97.4 kilos.

"I was asked if I will do it again and gave in a whisper perhaps in six years when nearing  ninety," he said.

Captain Clarke's schooling was completed in Samoa, where, during his time at Apia Intermediate, he was picked after sitting a scholarship exam to study in Fiji to become a radiologist. He says he does not recall why he changed his mind.

His first employment was as a mess boy on a Norwegian motor vessel, Thorsisle, trading between the Canadian and American west coast to the South Pacific islands of Tahiti, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia. 

"The Apia Harbourmaster received a cable from the Master of the Thorsisle wanting a Mess Boy and as a result I was asked if I was interested," he recalled. 

"The very next day I walked down the steps of Samoa College as an ex student and boarded my first vessel with excitement for I was heading to America," he said. 

That was the beginning of his journey to becoming the first Samoan to serve at the helm of international vessels. 

"As a child I used to watch the two Union Company vessels, Matua and Tofua when in port and never dreamt that one day of being a navigation and cargo officer on both vessels," said Captain Clarke.

"The Matua started trading to the islands in 1936 and the Tofua in 1952 and the records showed that I was the first island born to hold the three ranks respectively of 3rd, 2nd and Chief Officer on the island banana route of the two vessels. 

"Early 1967 was the highlight during my eight years with the Union Company which came as a surprise to my fellow officers and myself when I was posted Chief Officer on the Tofua without having a Master’s certificate. 

"Through all trials of my success from Mess boy to Master was the knowledge gained from Samoa College which gave me the power to work hard and the belief in myself that I can make it to the top."

Despite being British citizen, Captain Clarke would always use his Samoan Passport when arriving in Papeete and Suva on the ship's crew manifest to show authorities that a Samoan was in command.

His last employment was with the Samoan Government around 2014 when he served on the board of the Samoa Port Authority.

"This was the first time having to pay income tax to my country of birth and perhaps now I am entitled for a Samoan pension," he smiled.

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