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07 June 2017


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I received this from Professor Hugh Davies who has just published the wonderful " AITAPE STORY - The Great New Guinea Tsunami of 1998 " .
When we "camped"at Telefommin for 6 Months in 1971, with helicopter to assist with our geological mapping, we were visited by Abid (Pakistani perhaps) who after a meal with us disappeared into the Star Mountains to collect the mites that live on bush rats. He was dropped into a remote area by the Kennecott exploration team helicopter based at Tabubil and the chopper was to pick him up after a month. I think someone forgot and as I recall he walked out, and arrived at our camp - carrying his traps and specimens. Another hardy soul after the style of Mr Brandt. I recall he cooked a magnificent chicken dish for us in return for our taking him in.

I got a shock when I opened the blog and found this piece, Keith. I had put it together for family and friends. and you of course, as you are interested in everything PNG.

Thank you for tidying it up and adding the map showing Aitape in pride of place as it should be. Aitapeans in the West Sepik and around the world will be thrilled to see this map.

Under the German Administration, Aitape was very important and had a full time German and staff in charge of a massive Telefunken Radio Station, call Sign VZX, which could contact Germany.

It was the only radio station in German New Guinea at Bita Paka outside Rabaul.

Aitape was the capital of Sepik District and Wewak was referred to as Number 2 Aitape by the thousands of Sepik workers recruited to work on the copra plantations in New Britain and elsewhere.

Sir Michael Somare was always so gracious when he would come to Aitape as would refer top Wewak as No 2 Aitape. Tenkyu tru, Sir Michael.

As you know, Aitape people have always been loyal to you right back to the late 1960s when that great leader Hon Brere Awol MBE was our member of parliament.

Always think the naturalist anoraks are perhaps the most unusual of people. Us one-time train spotters were almost normal humans. (Still a bit weird even now say some of my family.)

I met Geoff Swainson on our initial acclimatisation days living in the old calaboose at Kwikila. Any spare time he would disappear into the local jungle and sit for hours among hordes of mosquitoes noting movements of birds.

Once asked me to read an article he had got published in a scientific journal. Must have taken hours of bird watching to have put it together. Almost unintelligible to me.

To combat malaria he never swallowed the chloroquine tablet but insisted on chewing it..ugh! He disappeared from my view when posted to Maprik at the end of 1970. Wonder what happened to him?

When working in Lavongai and living with Father Bernie Miller we had a visit from a wooden legged anorak whose forte was bird song.

Just before dawn he would leave us and head off into the jungle behind the mission station taking along his audio/visual equipment. Alas for him the curiosity of the station kids was aroused by this strange whiteman and they would accompany him.

Their voices and giggles would scare away any likely bird and so our visitor eventually gave up and left us for a more quieter location.

While up in Tari in early days of the exploration there, I was invited one day to an evening meal by some of the oilmen. Their encampment at the end of the airstrip was in air-con container units and surrounded by a large security fence complete with very high powered security lights.

One of the guys told me how one moth-man visitor had set up a large white bed sheet underneath one of these tall lamps. Always amazes me how these silly winged creatures love to spend their time flying round and round such a light source before becoming weak and collapsing to the ground.

Thus the anorak concerned was able to obtain a wonderful collection of the moths of Tari at 5,000 feet in the highlands of PNG. The tale was he had found at least one new species which he was proudly allowed to be named after him.

The missos at Orokana apparently paid 10 toea for x-amount of leeches but not out of increasing scientific knowledge but just to try and decrease the population of the blood suckers.

When my predecessor kiap left his house behind him in Taskul for me to occupy he forgot to switch the lights off because it was done each night at 2200 by the power-boy anyway as he sent the station into darkness. 2300 on Saturdays.

Thus for several weeks my home had been a blaze of light for a few hours every night. Of course it happened during the flying insects mass migration and so every room had a pile of dead insects who were small enough to have safely passed through the mosquito wired windows. There were piles too under the lights beneath the house.

Even today my ex recalls her urban horror of seeing these heaps of ‘things’ that greeted our arrival along with stained mattresses, rhino-beetles or even the ‘millions’ of baby frogs near Dick Randolph’s home above the croc pool. She was definitely not made for the tropics.

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