Monday, August 16, 2010

New book on Wau/Bulolo goldfields


A powerful new book on the history of the famous Wau/Bulolo goldfields of Morobe province, to be launched by renowned Papua New Guinea friend Professor Ross Garnaut at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney on August 19, promises to tell the story of the goldrush as it has never been told before.
Not A Poor Man’s Field (book cover below), by Australian Michael Waterhouse, explores Australia’s colonial experience in New Guinea before World War 11 – a unique but little-known period in PNG and Australian history.
Back in May 2008, Waterhouse (pictured below) corresponded briefly with me about the book he’d written on the Morobe goldfields pre-war, and although things had moved ever so slowly, it is my pleasure to report that the book has finally become a reality.
It is a big book of 120,000 words plus end notes, 150 photographs and seven maps and has been financially supported by Barrick, Morobe Mining Joint Ventures, Bank South Pacific, Lihir Gold Ltd and PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.
Waterhouse has close family ties to the pre-war goldfields, his grandfather Leslie Waterhouse having been a pivotal player in their development, as a director of the largest gold-mining company, Bulolo Gold Dredging, and the biggest airline, Guinea Airways.
“My relationship with Wau and Bulolo is through my grandfather, who from his Sydney base oversighted the development of BGD’s operations from the time of his first visit in 1929 to his death in 1945, at which time he was planning the resumption of its operations after the war,” he tells The National.
“He travelled there regularly but left day-to-day management in the hands of a general manager.
“He was a director of Placer Development, Bulolo Gold Dredging and Guinea Airways and so was pivotal to much of what happened pre-war.
“I embarked on researching and writing the book after being asked to write an article on him for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.”
First copies of A Poor Man’s Field are expected to arrive in Port Moresby next month for sale at the University of PNG Bookshop, and the PNG launch to will be on October 15 at the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby.
Waterhouse and his wife are coming to Port Moresby on October 4, overnight, and then travel on to the fabled Morobe gold towns of Lae, Wau, Bulolo and Salamaua – in a historical tour de force - before returning to Port Moresby for the book launch.
He says that Not A Poor Man’s Field is not simply another “white man’s history” as he explores the experience of villagers and indentured labourers as best as he can in the absence of written records.
“For the record,” Waterhouse expounds, “while the sub-title refers to it being an ‘Australian colonial history’, this is because the main market is in Australia and the book has to be positioned as ‘Australian history’ to be commercially-viable.
“However, I’ve gone to considerable lengths to bring a New Guineans perspective to the history.
“This is not simply another ‘white man’s history’.
“I do feel strongly about this – it is your country’s history as well, and I’ll make this point at every opportunity.”
Not A Poor Man’s Field is a dramatic account of small miners, an extraordinarily rich gold discovery, visionaries and the construction of giant dredges, power stations and townships in a remote jungle area
It is also the story of how risk-taking pilots, flying aeroplanes ranging from single-engine plywood biplanes to large Junkers G31 freighters, opened up an otherwise impenetrable country.
New Guinea led the world in commercial aviation throughout the 1930s; world records were often set and as often broken.
The book discusses early encounters between villagers and Europeans from both white and black perspectives, as well as the indentured labour system which drew New Guineans to the goldfields from all over the country.
Other themes include the camaraderie of white settlers in an alien environment, race relations in a colonial society, the ineffectiveness of Australia’s administration of New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate and the Japanese invasion and its consequences.
The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach, analysing the colonial experience from economic, social, ethnographic and political/administrative perspectives.
 It also conveys a compelling sense of time and place by extensively quoting participants, both black and white, and through the judicious selection of old photographs.
The result is a portrait of unforgettable contrasts.
Not A Poor Man’s Field takes its name from the Administrator of New Guinea, Brigadier General Evan Wisdom, who when trying to discourage Australians rushing to the goldfields in 1926, wrote: “A poor man’s field in Australia is understood to be a field to which a man without anything can go with his swag and live by the gold he gets from the field; he is not dependent on anyone helping him. He can go out with a swag and a tin of ‘dog’ and get enough gold to keep him going. But you must have natives here to help you, and money to pay them, money to carry you there, and on when you get there; therefore it is not a poor man’s field.”
The title conveys a sense of why this goldfield was so different to any other and encapsulates a theme that re-emerges throughout the book and prevails to this day.
The author decided to write this book after being asked to write an article about his grandfather, Leslie Waterhouse, for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
He soon realised that he was uncovering, layer by layer, the dramatic story of a little-known period in Australia’s and PNG’s history, one largely obscured by the passage of time and the destruction of records by the Japanese during WW11.
“Many Australian publishers have a view that ‘books on Papua New Guinea don’t sell’,” Waterhouse elaborates.
“This raised the important question as to how a country such as PNG can develop a sense of its own national identity if no-one will publish its history.
“A second question was how Australians can be expected to engage practically with its nearest neighbour if they know so little of the historical relationship between the two countries.
“A primary objective, therefore, has been to provide Papua New Guineans with a fresh perspective on their own history and Australians with a better appreciation of our historical relationship at a time when political and economic relationships are becoming more complex.
“The book has been written for a general audience, although it breaks new ground in a number of areas and is multi-disciplinary in its approach.”
Waterhouse hopes his book will encourage academics in both countries to embark on further research into, and help develop a broader understanding of the history of the Australia-PNG relationship.
Waterhouse has recreated a period that has been largely obscured by time and the destruction of records during WW11.
In doing so, he has drawn on diverse and often unexpected source, with insights gained from studies in anthropology at Sydney University and in economics and economic history at the Australian National University.
His experience in senior positions with government (the Commonwealth Treasury) and in business (with Westpac and as a consultant) has also enabled him to explore the commercial, financial and government dimensions in depth.
Not A Poor Man’s Field is available through bookshops in Australia and from the UPNG Bookshop in PNG.
In Australia, the recommended retail price is $59.95.
You can also purchase copies through this website  for only $50 plus postage and handling.
Please note that the book is unlikely to be available until mid-August in Australia and October in PNG.
One hundred copies of a Special Limited Edition of Not A Poor Man’s Field are also available for purchase.
Each copy contains four Bulolo stamps, showing a Junkers G31 flying over the goldfields flanked by a Spanish galleon and a white miner panning for gold, with a New Guinea villager looking over his shoulder.
The stamps are mounted in a panel on the front of the book, which is bound in maroon reconstituted leather, with headbands and marker ribbon, decorated and lettered on the spine and decorated on the front, all in gilt.
These stamps were used by Bulolo Gold Dredging to post gold bars back to Australia in the 1930s and early 1940s and are therefore genuine artefacts from the pre-war New Guinea goldfields.
The Special Edition also includes a brief statement by the acting chief post master at Rabaul in 1935 on the cost of posting gold bars, together with a first-hand account by one of the pilots of the unusual way the gold was transported.
As the gold was carried in all sorts of conditions by plane from Bulolo to Port Moresby and then by ship to Australia, some of the stamps have minor perforation damage or slight staining.
 In selecting the stamps, preference has been given to those whose image is largely unobscured by the post office cancellation.
The cost of each Special Edition copy is $A300, including postage and handling within Australia.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

British volunteers build facilities along Black Cat Trail

Volunteers with local childrenTrekforce leader Adam Hickman and a local child
Toilet construction
Rafting Francisco River
Jungle training at Gabesis
Jungle training at Gabensis
Group in the toilet pit
Entertainment at Komiatum
Construction of shower facility
Cement wall for the toilet
It may not exactly be in the same league as the high rise property developments in the major cities of Papua New Guinea, nevertheless, it is property development in a remote part of Papua New Guinea.
Thanks to an enthusiastic group of young men and women from Great Britain, villagers along the Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe province, can now offer proper toilet and shower facilities to trekkers of the fast-developing tourism icon.
The group of 11 young men and women came to Papua New Guinea in February this year and has been living in villages along the Black Cat Trail over the last four months, setting up facilities for trekkers, as well as teaching at Salamaua High School and Komiatum Primary School.
Last year, the first Trekforce group built a guesthouse between Skin Diwai and Banis Donkey outside Wau, while there from July-September 2008.
They were supported in their endeavours by the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority, Huon Gulf MP Sasa Zibe and Bulolo MP Sam Basil.
The last group of five – Claire Orton, Paul Tidbury, Tom Turner, Callum Heitler and Angus Collins – left PNG last Friday after having the time of their lives in the mountains above Salamaua.
“Trekforce is volunteer organisation which works worldwide, sending groups of 10-15 people, aged 18-25, to areas like Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Belize in Central America,” Collins told me before leaving.
“We came here on Feb 5.
“We had five days jungle training in Gabensis (a village along the Wau-Bulolo Highway).
“From there, we went to Salamaua, had one night in Salamaua, and then walked to Komiatum.
“The first month was spent on building toilets.
“We dug a seven foot hole, so that no flies will go in – it’s supposed to be the most-hygienic way of building toilets.
“The second month was spent on building washrooms around the toilets.
“These will be used by trekkers.
“We’re trying to make it more comfortable for trekkers.”
The group planned to walked the Black Cat Trail, however, the recent violence in Wau put a halt to all that, and they instead spent time at Lababia Island further south of Salamaua.
After that, they came back to Salamaua, and taught students at Salamaua High School and Komiatum Primary School.
“We taught subjects such as social science, science, maths, English, arts, personal development, and making a living,” Mr Collins said.
“We were living with the teachers at the school, and after teaching, enjoyed playing basketball and football with the kids.”
All good things, however, must come to an end, and the young Britons were farewelled with a big feast at Komiatum before leaving last week.
I asked them of their best memories of PNG.
Paul Tidbury: “Spending time at Lababia Island and seeing the sights there was quite special.” Tom Turner: “The school (Komiatum Primary), at the end of our teaching, had some dances and singsings, and some food.”
Angus Collins: “The opening of the toilets was nice.
Callum Heitler: “The people, cultures.
Claire Orton: “I really liked Salamaua, especially swimming on the reef.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tribal clash puts Black Cat Trail operations on hold

By PISAI GUMAR in The National

ETHNIC fighting between Biangais and Watuts two weeks ago are believed to have delayed the operations of a British volunteer team that has come to PNG to set up tour facilities in Morobe province.
Trekforce Worldwide has been in the province for the past two months to set up equipment along the World War II Black Cat Trail from Salamaua to Wau.
The volunteers – four women and seven men, who are based at Komiatam village, Salamaua, Huon Gulf – are involved in educating gateway villagers along the trail on ways to improve hospitality standards.
They have also been assisting the community in projects funded by the Morobe Tourism Bureau.
However, the conflict between Biangais and Watuts was said to have put Trek Force’s plans on hold.
Projects that have been postponed include the installations of a radio base at Kamiatam and contact points along the track in accordance with the development plan launched at Lae International Hotel in March last year.
Three of the volunteers left for Britain last Friday.
The others will remain in the province for about two months to teach in community schools in the district, including Salamaua High School.
During their time here, the volunteers completed a community project – a bio eco-friendly bathroom – for Komiatam village.
The semi-modern facility, containing a shower room, washing place and toilet, was launched last week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

K2 million 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, October 1, 2008

Feedback to Black Cat Trail story

Gavin Campbell wrote in reply to the post below:

I was part of the expedition. PNG is a fantastic country, one of the most amazing places I have ever visited - I will come back one day, hopefully to see what we done on the Black Cat being put to good use.

Friday, September 5, 2008

UK trek group to return

A UNITED Kingdom (UK) based volunteer group Trek Force, will return to Papua New Guinea in November to explore more of PNG’s exciting sites, The National newspaper reports.

The group left last month after completing a two-month tourism trekking project along the Black Cat Trail in the Morobe province.

Black Cat Trail extends from Wau to Salamaua.

While trekking, the group also provided basic health and education services to the locals along the way.

Trek Force leader Dr Tom Sheddon said Black Cat turned out to be a very challenging feat for the young volunteers, most of who were in their early 20s.

Dr Sheddon said his team also did jungle survival training, trekking and diving and were looking forward to returning to PNG in November.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Black Cat Trail war relics

Australian WW11 soldier's boot found at a dump at Skin Diwai
Live ammunition at Skin Diwai
Live bombs at Skin Diwai
WW11 plane wreck at Skin Diwai
The thick jungle between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe Province, is littered with relics from World War 11.
Students of history as well as WW11 enthusiasts would not be disappointed at what is there to be seen.
Live bombs from 1942 and 1943 are prolific along the old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau.
Villagers told me of huge unexploded bombs in the jungles and rivers that they avoid like the plague.
Australian and PNG bomb experts have yet to defuse these bombs.
In 1997, during the El Nino, bushfires sparked off by dry bushes detonated WW11 bombs as terrified villagers fled.
Huge bomb craters from WW11 testify to the ferocity of the battles along the trail between Salamaua and Wau.
At Skin Diwai – a major Australian base during WW11 - locals showed me unexploded bombs, live ammunition, Australian army boots, as well as the bush covered wreck of a DC3 supply plane.
All along the Black Cat Trail, you can see the helmets of Australian, US, and Japanese forces that fought here in WW11.
Those dark days of WW11 are well and truly over but their legacy lives on in the jungles between Salamaua and Wau.
The jungle also conceals many secrets of the gold mining days of the 1920s and 1930s.
Local lore has it that somewhere between Wau and Salamaua lays the wreck of a gold-laden plane.
Whether true or not, the fact is that locals avoid the thick jungle, saying that it is masalai (spirit) place where dark forces await unwary human beings.