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28 April 2015


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Phil, some of the boats that worked in that part of PNG arrived in Milne Bay Province.

Locals modified them to suit the savage seas. Others built in Australia were brought to Milne Bay including MV Koonwarra.

Excellent website Mori.

That certainly looks like the Jade. The only difference is that the Jade didn't have the mast and the canopy at the back and was open and more in line with the cabin. Probably modified by the administration. Otherwise the proportions like right.

Has anyone out there got a photograph?

Fascinating story about the government launches in Papua. I have been compiling a register of Australian and New Zealand Ships and Boats. For more information see my website at

Of particular interest are the launches Jade, Emerald, Ruby and Uranga. These may have been former WW2 40' Army workboats.

A webpage describing the WW2 workboats can be found in my website at There are photos and plans accessible through the webpage.

Can anyone confirm whether these four launches were former 40' Army workboats? One of boats listed in Number AM1833 has the name Urangah. I wonder whether this is the Uranga mentioned by Bob Cleland.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Lot's of great memories but why oh why are we not referring to government officers as gavamani instead of kiaps - it really irks me that commentators forget that they are talking after, all of Papua before Papua New Guinea - it is almost as galling to me listening to young Motuans talking to each other in Pidgin.

You have revived many memories of river travel around Kikori in the early sixties.I remember landing in the
river on a DeHaviland Otter to be met by yhe local transport-an ex military Bombskow.Iremember taking my standard 6 class to the defunct kutch factory at Aird Hills in the station boat Bareto to show them how rail transport functioned Iremember atrip with John Godson on the Johnmac from Ogamobu he wsa recruiting labourers from places around Goaribari Island I remember many trips with Tom Ingledew in the hospital canoes powered by cantkerous Archimedes outboard motors on one trip we .
passed Middletown Junction where OilSearch had scuttled a few riverboats A sad memory remains of a tearful farewell from the schoolkids as I left finish on the Pipi Gari bound for Moresby.Yes boats were pretty important inthose good old days

I've just finished writing the next Inspector Metau book John. After that I'm writing about being a ten pound Pom growing up in Oz. Time, time, time.

Hi Phil

I was thinking all the tales of your travels in PNG during your time, should fill a book.

Any thoughts on that one yet?

Thank you Phil. I do not know Western very well and only spent a few days over there on two separate occasions and must have been well down the coastal side as I never saw anything like this.

It looks just the same as the river just before Victory Junction up the Sirebi. Old boats have a special place in my memory. Thanks for posting.

Once again Phil has conjured up memories from the distant past.

The most common image of the kiap is of a lean, flinty eyed character, dressed in khaki, striding out manfully across the mountains at the head of a long line of Police and carriers.

This image was largely a fiction, especially in the vast estuarine swamps that make up so much of the Western and Gulf Districts.

There, your standard kiap was more likely to be dressed in shorts, a yellow South Pacific Lager T sheet and thongs, perhaps topped with an army surplus "giggle hat" and sun glasses.

Not quite consistent with the official position on patrol attire, but eminently sensible when travelling on one of the boats Phil has mentioned.

The Kikori Sub-District's biggest patrol craft was the MV Ruby, which was, as its name suggests, a Gem Class work boat and sister ship to Phil's MV Jade and MV Emerald.

I was told that these boats started life towing cargo lighters during World War 2 and were bought cheaply as a job lot in its aftermath.

They were certainly tough and reliable craft, but lacked all of the creature comforts.

Patrolling in them required a high tolerance for the continuous rumble and accompanying smell of their large diesel engines, which hammered away at a relentless 1200 revs per minute for hour after hour at a steady 10 knots or thereabouts.

I preferred the MV Aveta, a clinker built, 19' launch which was undoubtedly a sister ship to Phil's A6, being identical in every respect.

The Aveta boasted an asthmatic 2 cylinder Petter's diesel, which had to be hand cranked to start. It gave a maximum speed of about 6 knots in dead calm water, considerably less against any sort of current.

The Aveta had a disconcerting habit of throwing off her propeller shaft from time to time. The diesel engine would suddenly start of roar like an A380 and it was imperative to shut it down before it self destructed.

It was then necessary to paddle to shore where, resigned to their fate, the two rather elderly crewmen assigned to her, would grope around underneath her stern till they could relocate the shaft and tighten the bolts that held it (unreliably) in place.

I always sat in a deck chair of the roof, the Australian flag flapping listlessly behind me, fondly imagining that this conferred a certain presence to the Aveta: a sort of slow, unreliable, harmless, unarmed gunship type presence.

No doubt the local people saw yet another adolescent prat come to annoy them with a census or ask apparently pointless questions about copra production or deliver an unwanted political education harangue.

However, they knew that, having stoically endured a visit from the "gavman", I would sail away with a farewell wave and life could once again resume its normal, slow routine.

Like Phil, I greatly enjoyed my time in one of the world's largest and most fascinating swamps and remember it fondly despite the many discomforts and tedium that patrolling there sometimes entailed.

Reminds of Mick, Col, Reg and Fishbum travelling up the Purari in Jade on that rescue mission in The Floating Island, Phil.

Since I knew the Jade, she's grown a bit up top. I recall (unreliably) she was a half-cabin vessel like her twin, the Urunga.

The latter was supposed to be 'the Balimo workboat' in 1960 but she spent much of that year on the mud at Daru waiting for some part or other.

The Balimo vessel took its name from the northern NSW town of Urunga, where she, the Jade and many others were built for the army in WW II. They called them T-boats.

I'm sending to Keith another story of Western District (Province) patrolling by boat, which he may care to publish.

Love to, Bob. Thanks - KJ

Terrific story, Phil. I remember when patrolling the villages of Lake Murray, the only way to escape the savage mosquitoes, was to take the patrol in the work boat and anchor in the middle of Lake Murray.

No mosquitoes there, and we would spend a pleasant night fishing and lying on the cabin roof under the stars, while the gentle rocking of the work boat put us to sleep. Thank you for these memories. Best wishes.

Soari River Kevin. It is a tributary of the Aramia River, running out of that vast rainforest between Balimo and Nomad River.

Geoff Smith found the Beechcraft Baron and its unfortunate occupants but in the process came across several large longhouses occupied by previously un-contacted people.

Phil great story. The first picture Western Province or in the Sirebi off the Kikori in Gulf..... query....

Aha! A lovely memory from the Ancient Mariner.

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