TUMBY BAY - In 1964 Patrol Officers Bob Hoad and Warren Dutton and their seven-man police contingent were hard at work building an airfield and a patrol post at Olsobip.
This remote dot on the map is at the headwaters of the Fly River in the rugged foothills of the Star Mountains in what is now Papua New Guinea’s Western Province.
Working alongside Hoad and Dutton was an enthusiastic labour force of about 90 villagers drawn on a rotational basis from the small Faiwolmin population of about 1,500 thousand people in the surrounding mountains.
The Faiwolmin were delighted to have a patrol post in their area and just about every man woman and child was lending a hand.
The local population was too small to provide a lot of food from its gardens so the kiaps and police brought in their own supplies.
These were transported by motorised canoe and then helicopter from Kiunga or on foot from Telefomin through the awe-inspiring Hindenberg Wall.
In between the arrival of supplies by these means, air drops from Kiunga filled the gaps.
The new patrol post was located on a small plateau between two rivers that spilled into Gum Gorge.
The approach by air, which sometimes required negotiating the gorge when the clouds hung low, was one way.
There was little room to manoeuvre; once the aircraft was committed to land on the small airstrip there was no opportunity to go around and try again.
It was either make it down first try or crash.
Some five years later, I had the privilege of serving at Olsobip.
By this time all the hard work of establishing the patrol post and its associated facilities had been done.
Until recently, when I came across a collection of Bob Hoad’s photographs from that time, I must say I took for granted the work done in establishing the station.
Fortunately for us today, Bob is a talented photographer and he has provided a great collection of images.
But what most impressed me most was the sheer physical aspect of the work involved in creating that base for the administration of the Olsobip area.
I include a few of Hoad’s photographs are here to give you an idea of how patrol posts like Olsobip were established.
The collection has been digitised by Bob and passed on to the Australian National University's Pacific Research Archive, which collects, stores and in some cases digitises original manuscripts and images from the region.
Bob career took him on to Nomad River to establish the patrol post. I enjoyed his hard work there too.
Hoad still marvels at how lucky he was to have been in Papua New Guinea in those historical and golden times.
Many of us feel exactly the same.