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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Unforgettable Salamaua

Salamaua as seen from the hill overlooking it
Salamaua guesthouse
Salamaua isthmus
Salamaua Pt
Salamaua street
Another Japanese WW11 gun at Salamaua
Chalet at Salamaua guesthouse
Father and son fishing at Salamaua
One of the earlist graves from 1930
One of the expat owned houses at Salamaua

Salamaua, Morobe Province, played a pivotal role in the history of Papua New Guinea.
World-famous Salamaua Point, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of World War 11 in PNG, on September 11 in 2003 marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture from the Japanese.
This jewel in Morobe’s crown, an icon that time has forgotten, is now more or less a forgotten ghost town.
In 2002, Kokoda celebrated its 60th anniversary with commemorative ceremonies in both PNG and Australia, which rekindled interest in its history.
What many do not know is that the Japanese launched their attack on Port Moresby over the Kokoda Trail from Salamaua, and when the attack failed, turned the port into a major supply base.
It was eventually attacked by Australian troops flown into Wau.
Japanese reinforcements failed to arrive and the town was taken in September 1943 in what has become known as the Battle of Salamaua.
Salamaua – the “town of gold”- has never regained its shine.
The Australians recaptured Salamaua in September 1943 but by then, it was too late, as places like Lae and Port Moresby had taken its glory.
Veterans in both Australia and PNG called for similar recognition to be accorded the battlefield of Salamaua as it marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture in September 2003.
It was the main port and airstrip for the goldfields of Wau and Bulolo during the gold rush days of the 1920s and 1930s.
It was headquarters for the all-powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd, had its own shops liked the famed Burns Philp, New South Wales and Commonwealth banks, named streets, hospital, bakery, theatre, bars where characters like the legendary Errol Flynn once strutted his stuff before becoming a Hollywood legend, and was a famed port of call for swashbuckling gold miners from all over the world.
It was here that expeditions into the undiscovered hinterland – including the famous exploration into the Highlands of New Guinea by the Leahy brothers and Jim Taylor – were launched.
Rivalry between Salamaua and Lae for the capital of New Guinea following the demise of Rabaul in the 1937 volcanic eruption was legendary.
But for all that Salamaua has contributed to the development of PNG and the world – through the millions in gold that was taken out - it is one of the greatest ironies that it is now a forgotten backwater, left to the mercy of the vast Huon Gulf which threatens to swamp its narrow isthmus any moment, despite repeated calls for a seawall to be built.
Development is limited despite efforts by the Morobe Provincial Government, there is little economic activity, and the price of outboard motor zoom has skyrocketed recently contributing to massive inflation.
The people, to this day, are resentful at the mining companies that made millions from their land and left them with nothing, and at both being made victims of a war that was not their doing.
Never mind that these days its beautiful bathing beach and coral reefs are havens for people from Lae – mainly the expatriate community - who have built weekend houses on the peninsula to get away from the traffic, phones, and bustle of the city.
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 capital of the Morobe District.
The rigorous walk between Salamaua and Wau took up to a week, the flamboyant Errol Flynn writing of how the gold fields had to be approached from Salamaua by 10 days’ march through leech-infested jungle, in constant fear of ambush, and at night wondering “whether that crawly sound you heard a few feet away might be a snake, a cassowary or maybe only a wild board razorback…I have seen Central Africa, but it was never anything like the jungle of New Guinea”.
Lae was but a “company” town and was very much a satellite of Salamaua.
Salamaua sprang up before Lae and because it was the administrative and commercial centre of the District and also the port for the goldfields, it continued to dominate its sister across the Huon Gulf right up till WW11.
Shipping interests refused Lae as a port, probably because they had already established themselves at Salamaua before Lae developed.
The powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd – following a dispute with Guinea Airways – purchased its own plane and established its own aerodrome on Salamaua in 1929.
The government also resisted pressure to have Lae built up as the chief town of Morobe District, and at times, even affirmed its preference for Salamaua by stubbornly refusing to use either the aviation or shopping facilities at Lae.
Following the disastrous volcanic eruption in Rabaul in May 1937, a protracted and bitter debate over the merits of Salamaua and Lae ensued, when Australian minister for territories W.M. Hughes – who in his days as prime minister had been responsible for New Guinea coming under Australia’s mandate - chose Salamaua as both port and capital.
Hughes was accused of being bribed by Burns Philp and New Guinea Goldfields, the Australian government was accused of apathy and irresponsibility in its attitude towards New Guinea affairs, and the Pacific Islands Monthly and Rabaul Times led the anti-Hughes and anti-government debate.
It became a matter of great controversy that that Canberra press corps, which had been faithfully reporting new developments for six months, in December 1938 produced a satirical newspaper Hangover containing a parody of the controversy under the title “Lae off Salamaua: Capital crisis causes crater cabinet confusion”.
The article reads: “A new crisis has arisen overshadowing the budget, the coal strike, and Hitler. Alarming tensions were created when the Prime Minister received the following urgent message from Mr Hairbrain, M.H.R: ‘Lae off Salamaua, Joe! Natives hostile!’Mr Hairbrain’s message has created the profoundest sensations in Federal political circles. It is feared that the natives may try to make capital out of it. The situation is fraught with grave possibilities and impossibilities. Mr Lyons summoned cabinet immediately. ‘Wow!’ said the Prime Minister as he staggered from the cabinet room after the tenth day with the problem apparently nearer no solution. ‘That’s it!’ yelled a chorus of weary ministers. ‘Why the hell didn’t we think of Wau before?’ Mr Hughes collapsed. The crisis had passed.”
Rabaul, however, continued to remain as capital of New Guinea until 1941 when renewed volcanic forced the transfer to Lae in October 1941 right up to the Japanese invasion in January 1942.
War, however, had begun in the Pacific with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.
Rabaul was bombed on January 4, 1942 followed by Lae, Salamaua, and Bulolo on January 21.
This was the beginning of the end of Salamaua’s ephemeral reign as the “town of gold”.
To go into detail about the long and bitter fighting that took place between Salamaua and Wau in 1942 and 1943 would fill pages.
Many hundreds of Japanese, Australians, as well as Papua New Guineans were killed in the two years of fighting.
To this day battlefields like Salamaua Point itself, Mubo along the famed Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, The Pimple, Green Hill, Observation Hill, Bobdubi Ridge, Komiatum Ridge, Nassau Bay, Tambu, Mount Tambu, Ambush Knoll, Orodubi, Salus Lake, Lababia, Davidson Ridge, and Roosevelt’s Ridge bear the scars of those bloody battles.
Briefly, the Japanese landed at Lae and Salamaua on March 8, 1942.
The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and survivors of the 2/22nd Battalion from Rabaul destroyed all military supplies and withdraw into the hinterland where they observed the Japanese build-up.
In May, Kanga Force, which included the 2/5th Independent Company, was airlifted into Wau to operate as a guerrilla force against the Japanese in the Markham Valley.
On June 29, Kanga Force raided Salamaua inflicting heavy casualties and capturing the first Japanese equipment and documents taken by the Australian Army.
On August 31, a strong Japanese group arrived at Mubo but with the Japanese on the offensive along the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay, reinforcements were not available for Kanga Force until October when 2/7th Independent Company joined.
The 3rd Australian Division slowly fought its way towards Salamaua in a series of exacting and grim battles from April to August 1943 in a campaign largely overshadowed by the Papuan campaign the preceded it and by the capture of Lae that followed.
The Salamaua campaign was designed to screen the preparations for the Lae offensive and to act as a magnet to draw reinforcements from Lae to Salamaua.
The capture of Lae, the centre of the Japanese defensive line in New Guinea, was the allied target after the defeat of the Japanese in Papua.
General Sir Thomas Blamey, the Australian Commander-in-Chief, directed that Salamaua be starved out after Lae was captured.
On August 26, 1943, Major General Savige and his 3rd Division headquarters were relieved by General Milford and his 5th Division headquarters.
The 5th Division conducted the final operations around Salamaua, which was occupied by the 42nd Battalion on September 11, a week after the Lae offensive opened and five days before the 7th and 9th Australian Divisions entered Lae.
The legendary Australian cinematographer, Damien Parer, captured some of these dramatic moments for posterity in his famous works “Assault On Salamaua” and “Frontline At Salamaua”. Following Kokoda’s 60th anniversary, many Australian veterans of Salamaua also want their battlefield to be accorded the same recognition, as it too had its 60th anniversary in September 2003.
The same call has been echoed by old men in the Salamaua villagers – many of whom have died without being justly compensated – who served as carriers for both Australians and Japanese during WW11.
Maybe then, at least for a day, Salamaua will rise again.