The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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Sohano Ocean View Apartments in Buka Passage


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November 15, 2014

A message from the webmaster:

It is perhaps not surprising that this blog and the Bougainville website are dying a slow death. However, as the numbers of ex-Bougainville employees are diminishing, it puts an even greater responsibility on those who are left to keep recording those times which were important to us as well as to the island of Bougainville.

If you have an anecdote to contribute or some old photos, please email me at riverbend[AT]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Goerman
PO Box 233
Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Email riverbend[AT]
Skype riverbend2

Simon Feely emailed:

Sadly, our good mate Ken Nelson - currently Kalimantan in the Honour Roll - died earlier this year.

I’m still around and have been meaning to ask you to add my name to the roll for years: having loved visiting your site for so long.

I was a kus-kus for CRA at Barapinang in my first foray into Bougainville 1968-70, then PR Officer for BCL at Panguna in my second stint 1970-72.

SIMON FEELY (0408 495 994)
email sfpr[AT]

November 13, 2014

Bougainville Sky


On war-torn Bougainville Island, a young Australian songwriter found himself working for the world's first ever unarmed international peace keeping operation. This film tells the story of how he worked with music and humour to help the people of Bougainville find the courage to untangle themselves from the web of a bitter civil war.

When war on the remote Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville ended, the combatants invited the international community to send in a peace-keeping force on one condition: they come unarmed. The invitation was reluctantly accepted, and a young Australian songwriter Iain 'Fred' Smith found himself amongst those working for the world's first ever unarmed international peace-keeping operation.

With no coercive powers at their disposal to enforce the peace, innovation and communication were the only option. Bougainville Sky tells the story of how Smith worked with music and humour to help the people of Bougainville overcome years of fear and distrust to restore peace.

This beautifully shot film allows the Bougainvilleans to tell their own story and captures the struggles, the strength and the humour of a people who brought themselves back from the chaos of war. Here's a preview:

If you wish to order this DVD, please click here.


November 2, 2014

Warwick Cuneo emailed from Sydney:


I’ve looked at your website many times over the years since my wife and myself left Bougainville and not written: for my own reasons, but we had Beverly Jager visit with us in Sydney, Australia. Bev and Dieter both were with us in 1978-odd and again, shortly before Dieter’s death in 2011, if memory serves correctly.

Both my wife Vesna and myself, Warwick Cuneo, lived and worked on Bougainville, for Bougainville Copper, from 1970 until 1975.

Today, 3rd. November 2014, we have visiting with us Colleen and Graham Hoskins, with whom we’ve kept touch since Graham and Colleen returned from Bougainville in 1978, or thereabouts. Graham arrived in Bougainville in late 1969. Graham was an employee of Thiess Bros. and when Thiess finished their construction time in the Snowy, Graham was offered a place on Bougainville and Colleen arrived three months after Graham, from the Talbingo site. Colleen also worked for Thiess.

Some of the information Graham, Colleen and ourselves have seen on your site isn’t particularly informative: that’s not meant in an entirely negative way, but more to ‘put the record straight’. I might mention also that none of us is really computer-literate as some of the younger people on the site seem.

Talking with Graham as I write, one of the bits of ‘scuttlebutt’ concerns Graham’s boat, the St. Joseph.

As an aside, both Vesna and myself spent many, many hours aboard Graham’s first boat, a 23-foot Hartley design, fishing ‘off the reef’ around the Zummes (spelling?), Two-tree island, Puk-Puk and Arovo, to name a few. The fishing was magnificent and probably a subject for keener fishermen than myself!

About early 1974, Graham and Colleen negotiated purchase of the MV St Joseph from the Catholic mission, at Toniva through a Bro. Michael there. The Hoskins first looked the craft over Kieta harbour, having sold the Hartley, which went down to Choiseul with its German owner.

The St Joseph had been a mission workhorse since about 1946, having been bought by Bishop Wade from the US navy 1945. The US navy used her in the Sepik area as a pickup boat for wounded. Due to her shallow draught, it was possible to run her bow ashore for loading. Her original commission was to the Australian Army as defence boat AM 2092, armed with twin Browning machine guns, mounted at the bow and stern. She was originally engined with two Packard-built Merlin aero engines of 2-3,500HP each engine, drinking 100 gallons petrol (4500 litres approx.) at speed, which was 27 knots cruising and 50+ knots full throttle. The Merlin was, of course, the engine of the famous Spitfire and Mosquito aircraft. The Packard versions of the Merlin were built under licence from Rolls-Royce. For further reference, Ron Drane’s PT boat site is good.

As received by the Hoskins, the St Joseph had been re-engined with two Gardner LW4 4-cylinder diesels: Graham relates that she was commonly run at 1200 RPM., giving about 10 knots, 3.5 gallons per hour consumption. Graham actually spent time at Halvorsen’s slip in Ryde, with Harold Halvorsen, who identified her as ‘one of theirs’, one of 12 which went to the Australian Army, out of a total build of 59. She was skinned with double diagonal Oregon planking, with canvas in between layers.

From 1946 onwards, she travelled as a sort of flagship for Bishop Wade of the Chabai mission, visiting outlying mission stations as far afield as Rabaul and the Carteret Islands and of course, what was then the British Solomon Islands.

For myself, I well recall ‘conning’ the St Joseph outside the Bougainville Reefs, steering by the compass card. Relative to many other recreational craft, she was huge at 65 feet long and 15 feet beam, with 4 feet draught. I’ll leave the conversions!

She had twin cargo derricks and a hold and Graham advises that he found a ‘log’ in the bilges, which set out that baroness Von Trapp, of Sound of Music renown, had travelled on the St Joseph at one time.

Having left Bougainville in 1975, I ‘missed the boat’ back to Australia with Graham and crew Peter Finch and Dick (surname), who actually sailed the St Joseph through the Coral Sea to Cairns, in 1976 or thereabouts. Note that all dates are as related to me by Graham and Colleen, pretty much ‘off the cuff’ and might be the subject of more detail. We believe Dick did in fact write of the voyage in some of the boating press. In retrospect, maybe it was a good idea that I’d missed the boat, as I can’t cook and am not exactly the stuff of seafarers, although I don’t get seasick.

The saga of the St Joseph ends with her eventual sale to a Brisbane buyer, who planned to take her to the Swain Reefs off Bowen in North Queensland as a mother ship for general storage of fish catch. Her transit to Bowen wasn’t without drama, as a cyclone had her reported missing South of Bowen and she was the subject of an air-sea search. She eventually arrived in Bowen a little the worse for wear, having lost her radio. The cyclone was still in the area and hit Bowen some time later. The ensuing excitement caused two trawlers to drag their anchors, entangling the St Joseph and all three are now at the bottom of Bowen Harbour.

RIP St Joseph.


October 31, 2014

Comments from the blogmaster:

Books can console us in our griefs, distil the wisdom of the ages, help us understand the world around us - and even make us better people. Books can be monuments to high achievement, can call into question our most fundamental assumptions or suggest ways we can transform our lives. But they can also provide distractions, escapism and pleasures as straightforward and comforting as a bar of chocolate.

Here is a 'bar of chocolate' I found in my favourite "bookshop", Vinnies, when I drove into Batemans Bay yesterday. I simply couldn't resist it as it tells the story of a French soldier, explorer and statesman who gave his name to an island which left a transforming mark on my life.

Storms and Dreams: The Life of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville

Louis-Antoine Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811) is best known for his circumnavigation of the globe from 1766 to 1769. Throughout a long and distinguished life however, he participated in many of the turning points of world history: the birth of the United States, the fall of French Canada, the opening of the Pacific, the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars, the crowning of Napoleon and the modernisation of France. Bougainville was also a witty and charming courtier, becoming one of Napoleon′s senators.

A true Man of the Enlightenment, he was gifted in navigation, seamanship, soldiering, mathematics, longitude and latitude - many of the arts that made his age one of most productive and creative in modern history. John Dunmore, a distinguished historian and an expert in French Pacific exploration, brings the man and his era to life in this vivid and elegantly written biography.

October 6, 2014

Paul Wagum emailed from Papua New Guinea:

Hi Peter, thank you very much for hosting this site.

It has enabled me to link up with my former colleague and mentor Mrs. Carol Allen who now lives back in the US (Utah).

Carol was the Chief Photographer at BCL from 1974 to 1981. She virtually worked herself out of her job by developing me to the point where I localized her when I was promoted to Staff Photographer.

I will see if I can post some photos because most of my collection were lost during the conflict. Most were either in prints or slides and there was no way of sustaining them especially when I remained on the island and we were shifing locations. I was also at home when the rebel elements prevented us from returning so most of the equipment (cameras, both still and video, enlargers) and my personal stuff that was kept in the office were either looted or were burnt when the building was set on fire.

Keep up the good work.

Paul Wagum
email administration.mgr[AT]

September 19, 2014



Ralph Christen of Sohano Island, and son of Urs Christen, ex-Morgan Equipment Birimpa, is proud owner of MV ISLANDER QUEEN, which will be operating out of Buka Passage.


September 2, 2014

Robert Webb emailed from Canada:

Hello Peter,

I was on the Bougainville (TPNG) mine website and your email was listed as the webmaster. I understood you were building a sort of record of the survivors of the early build days. It does make one feel old when I look at the Panguna mine pictures today. When I last saw it, it was brand new. There is a picture of a steam turbine rotor rusting in the weather. Since it would be virtually impossible for non-skilled people to open the turbines................... I believe I was there the day that turbine failed and was on the crew that took it out.

I am still hard at the mining thing. These days up in Canada's North,

RR #1, Site 7A, Comp 4
Kaleden. B.C. V0H 1K0
Phone: 778-515-4559>
Cell: 250-488-0813
email omr[AT]

August 29, 2014

PNG's Mount Tavurvur volcano erupts back to life

A major volcanic eruption in Rabaul on Papua New Guinea's East New Britain Island has left the local community concerned for their safety, as residents flee and businesses close. The eruption came from Mount Tavurvur, which destroyed the town of Rabaul when it erupted simultaneously to nearby Mount Vulcan in 1994. Authorities said the most recent eruption began in the early hours of Friday morning.

"An eruption commenced from Tavurvur form between 3:30am and 4:00am," a bulletin from the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said.

"The eruption started slow and slowly developed in a stromblian eruption with incandescent projections accompanied by explosion noises and ongoing loud roaring and rumbling noises.

"Stronger explosions are generating air phases and rattling windows."

A strombolian eruption is characterized by short-lived, explosive outbursts of fluid lava ejected tens or hundreds of meters into the air. Local resident David Flinn described the eruption of lava and rocks as savage and said lightning strikes could be seen amongst the ash cloud. He said the volcano is currently emitting light steam and occasional booms, with about one centimetre of light brown ash covering surrounding areas. Mr Finn said locals on nearby Matupit Island, about one kilometre from Mt Tavurvur have fled and yachts have left the harbour. Authorities have not yet issued an evacuation order for Rabaul residents.

Schools and some shops have been closed, but Rabaul Hotel employee Susie McGrade said locals just want to get on with their lives. "People still live here, we have to get on with our daily lives," she said. "We're up on the roofs, cleaning off the ash, we've got to save our property, try and get back to normal, so what can we do? We've got no where else to go."

It is yet to be confirmed whether the eruption will disrupt local or international flight plans.

Rabaul was the provincial capital in 1994, but after the town was destroyed by volcanic ash the capital was moved to Kokopo. By comparison this eruption is a relatively small event.

Mount Tavurvur is considered one of the most active volcanos in the region, most recently erupting in early 2013 and recording other erruptions in 2011, 2010, 2006, 2005 and 2002, since the major 1994 explosion.

August 25, 2014

Bougainville News

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