Monday, August 16, 2010

New book on Wau/Bulolo goldfields


A powerful new book on the history of the famous Wau/Bulolo goldfields of Morobe province, to be launched by renowned Papua New Guinea friend Professor Ross Garnaut at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney on August 19, promises to tell the story of the goldrush as it has never been told before.
Not A Poor Man’s Field (book cover below), by Australian Michael Waterhouse, explores Australia’s colonial experience in New Guinea before World War 11 – a unique but little-known period in PNG and Australian history.
Back in May 2008, Waterhouse (pictured below) corresponded briefly with me about the book he’d written on the Morobe goldfields pre-war, and although things had moved ever so slowly, it is my pleasure to report that the book has finally become a reality.
It is a big book of 120,000 words plus end notes, 150 photographs and seven maps and has been financially supported by Barrick, Morobe Mining Joint Ventures, Bank South Pacific, Lihir Gold Ltd and PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.
Waterhouse has close family ties to the pre-war goldfields, his grandfather Leslie Waterhouse having been a pivotal player in their development, as a director of the largest gold-mining company, Bulolo Gold Dredging, and the biggest airline, Guinea Airways.
“My relationship with Wau and Bulolo is through my grandfather, who from his Sydney base oversighted the development of BGD’s operations from the time of his first visit in 1929 to his death in 1945, at which time he was planning the resumption of its operations after the war,” he tells The National.
“He travelled there regularly but left day-to-day management in the hands of a general manager.
“He was a director of Placer Development, Bulolo Gold Dredging and Guinea Airways and so was pivotal to much of what happened pre-war.
“I embarked on researching and writing the book after being asked to write an article on him for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.”
First copies of A Poor Man’s Field are expected to arrive in Port Moresby next month for sale at the University of PNG Bookshop, and the PNG launch to will be on October 15 at the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby.
Waterhouse and his wife are coming to Port Moresby on October 4, overnight, and then travel on to the fabled Morobe gold towns of Lae, Wau, Bulolo and Salamaua – in a historical tour de force - before returning to Port Moresby for the book launch.
He says that Not A Poor Man’s Field is not simply another “white man’s history” as he explores the experience of villagers and indentured labourers as best as he can in the absence of written records.
“For the record,” Waterhouse expounds, “while the sub-title refers to it being an ‘Australian colonial history’, this is because the main market is in Australia and the book has to be positioned as ‘Australian history’ to be commercially-viable.
“However, I’ve gone to considerable lengths to bring a New Guineans perspective to the history.
“This is not simply another ‘white man’s history’.
“I do feel strongly about this – it is your country’s history as well, and I’ll make this point at every opportunity.”
Not A Poor Man’s Field is a dramatic account of small miners, an extraordinarily rich gold discovery, visionaries and the construction of giant dredges, power stations and townships in a remote jungle area
It is also the story of how risk-taking pilots, flying aeroplanes ranging from single-engine plywood biplanes to large Junkers G31 freighters, opened up an otherwise impenetrable country.
New Guinea led the world in commercial aviation throughout the 1930s; world records were often set and as often broken.
The book discusses early encounters between villagers and Europeans from both white and black perspectives, as well as the indentured labour system which drew New Guineans to the goldfields from all over the country.
Other themes include the camaraderie of white settlers in an alien environment, race relations in a colonial society, the ineffectiveness of Australia’s administration of New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate and the Japanese invasion and its consequences.
The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach, analysing the colonial experience from economic, social, ethnographic and political/administrative perspectives.
 It also conveys a compelling sense of time and place by extensively quoting participants, both black and white, and through the judicious selection of old photographs.
The result is a portrait of unforgettable contrasts.
Not A Poor Man’s Field takes its name from the Administrator of New Guinea, Brigadier General Evan Wisdom, who when trying to discourage Australians rushing to the goldfields in 1926, wrote: “A poor man’s field in Australia is understood to be a field to which a man without anything can go with his swag and live by the gold he gets from the field; he is not dependent on anyone helping him. He can go out with a swag and a tin of ‘dog’ and get enough gold to keep him going. But you must have natives here to help you, and money to pay them, money to carry you there, and on when you get there; therefore it is not a poor man’s field.”
The title conveys a sense of why this goldfield was so different to any other and encapsulates a theme that re-emerges throughout the book and prevails to this day.
The author decided to write this book after being asked to write an article about his grandfather, Leslie Waterhouse, for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
He soon realised that he was uncovering, layer by layer, the dramatic story of a little-known period in Australia’s and PNG’s history, one largely obscured by the passage of time and the destruction of records by the Japanese during WW11.
“Many Australian publishers have a view that ‘books on Papua New Guinea don’t sell’,” Waterhouse elaborates.
“This raised the important question as to how a country such as PNG can develop a sense of its own national identity if no-one will publish its history.
“A second question was how Australians can be expected to engage practically with its nearest neighbour if they know so little of the historical relationship between the two countries.
“A primary objective, therefore, has been to provide Papua New Guineans with a fresh perspective on their own history and Australians with a better appreciation of our historical relationship at a time when political and economic relationships are becoming more complex.
“The book has been written for a general audience, although it breaks new ground in a number of areas and is multi-disciplinary in its approach.”
Waterhouse hopes his book will encourage academics in both countries to embark on further research into, and help develop a broader understanding of the history of the Australia-PNG relationship.
Waterhouse has recreated a period that has been largely obscured by time and the destruction of records during WW11.
In doing so, he has drawn on diverse and often unexpected source, with insights gained from studies in anthropology at Sydney University and in economics and economic history at the Australian National University.
His experience in senior positions with government (the Commonwealth Treasury) and in business (with Westpac and as a consultant) has also enabled him to explore the commercial, financial and government dimensions in depth.
Not A Poor Man’s Field is available through bookshops in Australia and from the UPNG Bookshop in PNG.
In Australia, the recommended retail price is $59.95.
You can also purchase copies through this website  for only $50 plus postage and handling.
Please note that the book is unlikely to be available until mid-August in Australia and October in PNG.
One hundred copies of a Special Limited Edition of Not A Poor Man’s Field are also available for purchase.
Each copy contains four Bulolo stamps, showing a Junkers G31 flying over the goldfields flanked by a Spanish galleon and a white miner panning for gold, with a New Guinea villager looking over his shoulder.
The stamps are mounted in a panel on the front of the book, which is bound in maroon reconstituted leather, with headbands and marker ribbon, decorated and lettered on the spine and decorated on the front, all in gilt.
These stamps were used by Bulolo Gold Dredging to post gold bars back to Australia in the 1930s and early 1940s and are therefore genuine artefacts from the pre-war New Guinea goldfields.
The Special Edition also includes a brief statement by the acting chief post master at Rabaul in 1935 on the cost of posting gold bars, together with a first-hand account by one of the pilots of the unusual way the gold was transported.
As the gold was carried in all sorts of conditions by plane from Bulolo to Port Moresby and then by ship to Australia, some of the stamps have minor perforation damage or slight staining.
 In selecting the stamps, preference has been given to those whose image is largely unobscured by the post office cancellation.
The cost of each Special Edition copy is $A300, including postage and handling within Australia.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Greetings from Salamaua

Received this New Year card from my old mate, Post-Courier Lae bureau chief Patrick Levo, who visited Salamaua and fell in love with the place.



'Asalu Ngayam' from Salamaua


New Year Greetings from Salamaua Point. As they say in the local Gawac lingo – ‘Asalu ngayam’ or ‘good day’ which is the same as ‘sare lareva’ in my Toaripi of Gulf, ‘jobe’ in Garaina, ‘awinje’ in Menyamya and ‘zoang biang’ in Kote of Swit Finsch.

From Malalaua to Salamaua is a long, long way. There are many rivers to cross and many more mountains to climb and an ocean to swim. But after many years of wondering in amazement and wandering around in circles, I finally set foot on the narrow isthmus that joins Salamaua peninsula to the mainland.

I fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting this legendary place on Boxing Day last year in the company of another first timer Dadarae Logona and his son Titus. The Logonas are from Tubusereia in Central Province.

They say Salamaua is magical. I say it is still salacious and I will be going back. In its heydays, it was the place to be. Even now, it still has that magnetism.

Lae expats have holiday homes here and they say the fishing is good, so good they always keep coming back for more refreshing Huon Gulf sea breezes and to test their angling skills where once warships zigzagged to test the accuracy of allied bombers in WWII.

Sadly the isthmus that connects Salamaua is slowly being washed away. Where once a road connected Salamaua point to the mainland, rising sea levels have eroded much of the land and the point is in danger of being cut off from the mainland.

Valiant attempts have been made to save the isthmus including dumping huge tyres and rocks as a sea wall but to no avail as nature carves a future for the peninsula.

Will Salamaua point, original home of the Buakap people become an island as a result of global warming and rising sea levels? I don’t know but if it does, one piece of history and my footprints will be washed away forever.

My old man was a colonial era teacher. One fine day, he brought a text book home which had pictures of Salamaua, Rabaul, Wewak and Goroka. It was post card perfect, the coconut palms dancing in the breeze, a boat in Salamaua harbor and locals walking along the isthmus carrying coconuts.

I asked the old chalk: “Where is this beautiful place?” He replied: “Son, Salamaua is near Lae. And Salamaua is very far from Malalaua.”

From then on, even as a little kid back in the early 70s, I promised myself that one day I would walk on that same isthmus. I left my Kerema footprints there on the morning of Dec 26.

When you stroll through that former colonial outpost, there are certain reminders of the past; a history steeped in affluent times gone by where the tapestry of the New Guinea coast and its inland growth was once weaved forlornly, fluently and feverishly through here.

Salamaua was the one time staging post for the gold rush into Wau Bulolo in the 1920-30s and a wartime foothold captured by the Japanese on March 8, 1942 and then retaken by the allies a year later after much fierce aerial bombardment and ground offensive.

The town was recaptured by Australian and United States forces lead by the fearless General Douglas MacArthur on September 11, 1943 during the Salamaua-Lae campaign. During reoccupation the town was destroyed.

Salamaua was originally built by the Germans and given the exotic south seas name Samoahafen just as Dregerhafen and Finschhafen up the north east coast remain today as reminders of the Kaiser’s influence in New Guinea of the 1800s.

When gold was discovered at Wau, miners came from all over the world and made for the goldfields through Salamaua via the rough Black Cat Track which is today a major tourist attraction and an epic test of endurance for those foolish enough to retrace history.

Today the villages of Kela and Laugwi still occupy the site as well as well as a variety of holiday homes, mainly for Lae based expatriates eager to escape the potholed city.

Walking through the narrow strip, I could not help noticing adventurous names such as ‘Gilligans’ where you can get a cold drink, and ‘Margaritaville’ where they say the food is exceptional.

Even the nearby Salamaua Guest House, owned by the Morobe Provincial Government offers a self contained room for K44 per night and you can always find the friendly caretaker manager Mathew Gomuna from Garaina ready to help you.

Local legend has it that when the Japanese captured the town, they built an underwater tunnel under Salamaua Point to save their submarines and light landing craft.

Our hunt for this piece of history turned up fruitless as our guides could not agree to the exact location. So we turned our attention to just enjoying the Huon Gulf cool breezes.

According to the online free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, early in 2007, a video production company from California explored the rain forests of Salamaua.

The "Destination Truth" expedition team was looking for the ropen, a cryptid that is described in terms suggesting a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur, whatever lareva that is!

The explorers, including the leader Joshua Gates, videotaped a glowing flying object that seemed to correspond to local native ideas about the glowing ropen.

I did not see one such prehistoric creature but I came away happy at having fulfilled my childhood dream.

On the dinghy back to Busamang village, we passed the villages of Asini, the mission station of Malalo perched high on a hillock and the village of Buakap and the beautiful Buki Lakes.

I have a sentimental attachment to Asini but I know that I may never get to set foot on its beach. Perhaps, I will try one fine day.

Finally, farewell to sportswoman Florence ‘Floss’ Bundu, who was a team mate at the Stars Club in the 1980s at Hohola basketball courts, and to Ovia ‘OT’ Toua of HB, who was the first PNG Chief of Staff of this paper and to my good mate the late Henry ‘HK’ Kila, who was never ever short of jokes! Thanks for the happy memories.

Join me next week as we attempt to reel in the big one in one big fishing misadventure in Busama Bay. for more.

Patrick Levo is Post-Courier Bureau Chief in Lae

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Concern about rising sea levels in Salamaua

The once-sandy coastline at Aleawe in Salamaua, Morobe province, which is gradually being eaten away by rising sea levels.-Picture by NAMON MAWASON

Rising sea levels are eating away at the roots of trees along the Salamaua coastline.-Picture by NAMON MAWASON
A life buoy from the ill-fated mv Lihir Express, which had a mishap last October off the Salamaua coast.-Picture by NAMON MAWASON
A man from Salamaua, Morobe province, has expressed concern about rising sea levels in this beautiful and historic part of Papua New Guinea.
Lae business executive Namon Mawason, who is from Laukano village in Salamaua, was greatly shocked to see the rising sea levels when he spent the New Year weekend there.
At a popular picnic spot, known to Laukano villagers as Aleawe, rising sea levels have swamped the beach and eaten away the roots of trees along the coastline.
He has called on provincial and national authorities to immediately carry out an investigation into rising sea levels in Salamaua.
Mr Mawason took photographs of the rising sea levels and sent them me.
“The photographs show the possible effects of climate change on the water front in Salamaua, particularly in Aleawe,” Mr Mawason said.
He said they also found a life buoy from the ill-fated mv Lihir Express, which had a mishap last October off the Salamaua coast.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

K2mil to promote tourism still unused

NEARLY K2 million to develop culture and tourism activities in the country has been sitting unused for the past six months in a trust account at Waigani, The National newspaper reports.
Minister for Culture and Tourism Charles Abel revealed this at the 11th Mamose governors’ conference last Friday in Salamaua, Huon Gulf district, while presenting a cheque for K50, 000 to develop Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau.
Mr Abel has called on all culture and tourism promoters and developers to document and compile proposals and submit them to make use of the funds.
He said the master plan for the Black Cat Skin Diwai track was documented and compiled.
The launching was held recently at Lae International Hotel and an initial funding for the track worth K70, 000 was given.
Mr Abel said the Kokoda Track alone had attracted 6,000 tourists this year.
“If we want to further promote and market tourism in the country, we have to change our behaviours, characters and attitudes,” he said.
“The tourism and culture business is a total community participation venture and it benefits all.
“Why are we killing ourselves committing hold-ups and hijacking our visitors?” Mr Abel asked.
“If Salamaua local level government leaders and communities are serious about developing their two significant historical sites, they must wake up from their slumber,” Morobe Governor Luther Wenge said.
Community leaders and people should work collectively with the Government to introduce a product to attract tourists, he added.Mr Wenge also accepted a petition from the Salamaua people to develop Black Cat Trail and build a sea wall to protect historical sites at Salamaua, the former colonial administrative centre of Morobe

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Malalo celebrates 100 years

Singsing group at Buakap
Laukanu villagers on the beach at Buakap
Laukanu villagers, in a reanactment of the arrival of the first missionaries
Malalo as seen from the sea
Part of the large crowd at Malalo

It was one of those typically-beautiful Huon Gulf days on Friday, October 12, 2007, when we sailed from Lae to Malalo on Lutheran Shipping’s MV Rita for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the historic Malalo Lutheran Mission Station.

It was a sunny day, not a cloud was in the sky, as if they did not want to spoil the celebrations.

Hundreds of people from all over Salamaua, Morobe Province, converged on Malalo that Friday for the centenary celebrations.

Work started on this icon - overlooking idyllic and historic Salamaua – exactly 100 years ago on October 12, 1907.

Surrounding villagers and guests from Lae, other parts of Morobe, and Papua New Guinea, converged on Malalo for the 100th anniversary celebrations.

The people of my mother’s Laukanu village rekindled memories of yore when they brought a kasali (ocean going canoe) to Malalo in a re-enactment of the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries.

The people of Laukanu were among the greatest mariners of the Huon Gulf, making long ocean trips throughout the Huon Gulf to exchange goods, long before the arrival of the white man.

When the first Lutheran missionaries arrived in Finschhafen in the late 1880s, the Laukanu made the long sea voyage to Finschhafen, and helped to bring the Miti (Word of God) to the villages south of Lae.

The launch of the kasali celebrated not only the great seamanship of the Laukanu, but more importantly, coincided with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Malolo Mission Station - overlooking idyllic and historic Salamaua – on October 12, 1907.

The people of Salamaua and surrounding villages, who make up the Malalo Circuit, converge on Malalo that week for this momentous occasion.

It was a time for all to celebrate the important role the church had played in their lives, as well as remember the many expatriate missionaries and local evangelists, who worked through the dark days of World War 1 and World War 11 to bring the Miti (Word of God) to the people.

These legendary missionaries include Reverend Karl Mailainder and Rev Herman Boettger (who started actual work on the Malalo station), Rev Hans Raun, Rev Friedrich Bayer, Rev Mathias Lechner, and Rev Karl Holzknecht.

Rev Raun suffered the humiliation of being interned by Australian authorities during WW1 while Rev Holzknecht (whose family has contributed much to the development of PNG) suffered the same fate during WW11 – their only crime being Germans.

Rev Bayer was taking a well-deserved leave in his homeland of Germany when he lost his life on July 24, 1932.

The heart-warming and touching story of Rev Bayer and his wife, Sibylle Sophie Bayer, is told in Sophie’s autobiography He led me to a far off place.

Rev Holzknecht replaced Rev Lechner in 1939 and was there when World War 11 broke out and wiped out Malalo and its famous neighbour of Salamaua.

Missionary’s wife Helene Holzknecht accompanied her husband on all but the trips along the Black Cat Trail into the Wau and Bulolo valleys, ministering to village women and helping the sick she found in these areas.

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 brought this idyll to an end.

Karl Holzknecht – being a German - was taken prisoner as an enemy alien by Australian authorities, leaving a pregnant and heartbroken Helene at Malalo.

Her eldest child and only daughter, Irene, was born at Sattelberg, on February 1, 1940, after Karl’s removal to Australia.

Helene and Irene were returned to Malalo, but were eventually evacuated after Japanese bombers attacked Lae and Salamaua.

Helene often talked of seeing those planes skimming the hills on their way to Salamaua, and the horror of the bombing of Salamaua.

Soon after their evacuation by DC3 to Port Moresby, Japanese aircraft also bombed the Malalo Station, destroying all the family’s possessions.

Reverend Karl Mailainder and Rev Herman Boettger started work on the Malalo Mission Station exactly 100 years ago on October 12, 1907.

They had already checked out other places from Busamang to Kelanuc before settling at Asini at a place called Poadulu.

At Poadulu, work started on Malalo.

The local people were very happy and gave a large piece of land to the Lutheran Church.

The Laukanu people had two kasali so they sailed all the way to Finschhafen and brought missionaries’ cargo back to Malalo.

When Rev Mailainder was clearing land at Malalo, he had a surveyor, Mr Mayar, who worked alongside him.

Work had already started when Rev Boettger arrived and the station was established.

At that time, a church was made of sago leaves.

This was after the congregation membership increased to 500.

Work started on Malalo Mission Station on October 12, 1907, and the opening was on December 20, 1907.

In 1908, the work of confirmation started and work started on a new church building with proper roofing iron.

One missionary gave 1000 German Marks, while Munchen in Germany gave a big bell and a bowl for baptism.

Work started on the new church building and on January 30th, 1910, it was opened with Holy Baptism.

Malalo 100th anniversary organiser Elisah Ahimpum was pleased with the hundreds of people who turned up for the occasion, which also featured a cultural show.

Plaques with the names of all missionaries and evangelists who worked at Malalo were unveiled that Friday.

Invited guests to the 100th anniversary celebrations included Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG leader Reverend Dr Bishop Wesley Kigasung, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, Lae MP and prominent Lutheran Bart Philemon, Huon Gulf MP and Health Minister Sasa Zibe, as well as Bulolo MP Sam Basil as the Miti filtered into his area from Malalo.

Unfortunately, not all were able to attend, with only Assistant ELPNG Bishop Zao Rapa representing the church and Mr Philemon and Tewai-Siassi MP Vincent Michaels representing the government.

However, that did not spoil the occasion, with hundreds turning up to witness celebrations marking the centenary.

Old Salamaua cemetery a relic of a bygone era

A graveyard from the 1930s
A soldier who died before WW11
Another graveyard from the gold mining days
One of the earliest graves from 1930
Resting in peace on beautiful Salamaua

The old Salamaua cemetery is a relic of a bygone era of the 1920s and 1930s when fevered gold miners from all over the world converged on this idyllic part of the world.

To visit the old Salamaua cemetery is to step back in time, to rip-roaring period when gold fever struck men from around the globe.

The discovery of gold at Edie Creek above Wau in 1926 sparked off a gold rush of massive proportions, which led to the development of Salamaua as the capital of the then Morobe District.

Thousands of Europeans flocked to the jungles of Salamaua and Wau in search of gold in the ‘20s and ‘30s.

Their legacy lives on today through the infamous Black Cat Trail, later to become scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of WW11.

In those days, foreigners were regarded as insane by the village people because of the joy the strange yellow dust brought to them and the trouble they went to get it

Gold-fevered foreigners from all around the globe were landing at Salamaua!

The goldfields lay eight days walk through thick leech-infested jungle and steep razorback ridges.

There was a real threat of being attacked by hostile warriors.

And when they got to the fields, they were faced with the prospect of dysentery, a variety of ‘jungle’ diseases, and pneumonia brought on by the extremes of temperature between day and night.

Blackwater fever, a potent tropical disease akin to malaria, claimed the lives of unaccustomed European gold miners by the score.

Gold Dust and Ashes
, the 1933 classic by Australian writer Ion Idriess, tells the fascinating yarn of the gold fields and of the trials and tribulations faced by the miners.
Idriess, in his book – which remains a bestseller to this day – also writes of many of the colorful characters that now lie on a hill overlooking the sea in the old Salamaua cemetery.

It provides probably the best insight into the history of the development of the Morobe goldfields, and is a must- read for students of colonial history.

Today the old Salamaua cemetery, or what remains of it, is well tended to by the local villagers.

The graves are mute testimony to the days when European man, running a high gold fever, was claimed by a fever of a different kind.