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22 November 2016


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Great tidal bores testimony in PNG. I've been in West Papua to witness Kepala Arus, which is a bore in Indonesia there. Head of the tide. Any photos or more information would be very much appreciated for my next book.

I first met the Bamu Bore one morning when I and Rhudi Behrens from APCM Kawito were going from there to visit Mrs Standen.

We were travelling in Pasuwe Ltd’s flat bottom one-tonne river-truck driven by a 35hp Johnson outboard motor. The two of us were sitting on the back seat after having called in to the Mapodo Christian Training Centre where I had delivered some cargo to one of the eleven stores I supervised for the mission owned company.

While I had busied myself in the little store, Rhudi went on the radio to check with pre-war misso Mrs Standen about when the today’s bore was due.

She assured us that we had well over an hour to get to her place and get our boat anchored safely before the waves came. So having said goodbye to the Mapodo workers we set off in our lightly laden vessel for Bamu.

We had left the last Gogodala hamlet behind us and were in a straight narrow jungle clad river channel when in the distance I saw this wall of water rushing towards us.

There was no way we could turn and run before it and stern first we’d have been in the worst possible configuration to survive the coming fury.

Rhudi looked at me and said, “Hold tight.”

I stiffened and tried to brace myself in the opposite corner to the driver. I was thinking, ‘Today Arthur you are going to get very wet.’ I guessed I would lose my briefcase but was pleased that there was little in it of any real value.

Rhudi, rushed a brief prayer, and then gave full throttle, which because all the weight of us two plus the engine was at the back allowing the boat's front to lift. Almost at once we were in a head-on collision course with the three-foot wall of water rapidly approaching us.

Then it hit and the whole boat seemed to be suspended as the wave went under the high angled flat bottom of the boat and we literally flew for a few seconds until we started to descend and bumped over the smaller following waves rushing underneath us.

Rhudi slowed down and gave thanks for our survival. I told him that I had no idea that the Bamu Bore also came up the Aramia River but obviously it did even if thankfully smaller than the main one.

We continued leisurely on our journey and, upon meeting Eva Standen, told her that despite her very many years on the Bamu she was not an expert on the timing of the bore.

The experience had taken perhaps two minutes but I had become an instant respecter of the Bamu Bore.

I last saw Eva on a visit to her home on the Bamu Rive in 1980 or 1981. By then she had been a widow for over seven years.

As you sat in her lounge you couldn't fail to notice how there was a distinct slope to the corner of the room. The house was slowly settling into the muddy ground on which it had been built not many metres away from the slowly moving eternally muddy river.

Eva told me that in the early days there had been a cricket pitch sized grassy area between the river and her home but time and erosion had eaten up the land.

I was surprised some years back to find out that she had reached almost 100 before dying in 2006. Amazed as she had looked so frail 25 years earlier.

No alcohol or smoking and I guess plenty of local organic food and no cream cakes must have worked for her.

More on our Bamu Bore of 10 March 2016 and a little insight into what the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) medical ships are doing in PNG

Bob, lovely story. And Chris, I have first-hand experience of the bore (Ubuo, in the local dailect) too on the Turama when my late dad was an aid-post orderly there in the 1960s.

My family would paddle for many days along the river systems(Kikori, Omati and the Turama) in a single dug-out canoe to get to the aid post after getting medical supplies from Kikori.

We would take shelter from the approaching Ubuo in small tributaries until the wave had passed.

March this year on MV YWAM PNG in the Bamu Delta we experienced a tidal bore. Skipper Steve's story and photos are at

Chris I've crossed that bore a couple times on the Turama to and from Kuri to Paia Inlet.

Got rolled in a canoe further upstream and in a much smaller bore. My fault, I was being a smart arse paddling my own canoe. Took weeks to get the sand out of my ears and nose. The people on the bank clapping and cheering didn't help either.

Good story, Bob. I met a tidal bore on the Fly River once. We were motoring along in the government trawler, the river surface dead flat calm, when we gradually heard a roaring sound ahead.

It got louder and louder like continuous thunder, and then I saw it coming. A wall of water about six feet high.

I was petrified, as I thought it would smash right over us and swamp us. But the Kiwai crew took no notice and steered the trawler directly bow-on into the wave.

When it hit us, the trawler went up like an elevator - one second six feet lower, next second six feet higher, and then we continued on as if nothing had happened. But for a novice like me, it was a terrifying moment.

Great yarn Bob. I had a similar experience when taking the MV Ruby, the Urunga's sister ship, up the Turuma River to Omati Base Camp in 1970.

Having been born and raised on the Murray River, I loved messing about in boats and so enjoyed my time in the Gulf of Papua. I was truly sorry to leave it for the highlands.

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