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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October 7, 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

October 6, 2014

Paul Wagum emailed from Papua New Guinea:

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

I 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

To read the latest news from Bougainville, click here


August 24, 2014

In the beginning

The MV Craestar, CRA's vessel, alongside the wharf in Kieta. Converted from a Japanese tuna fishing vessel into an exploration ship by the addition of an assay lab in the fish hold and a helicopter landing pad at the stern, the ship was used extensively used between 1967 and 1970 as a base for mineral exploration programs in the Solomon and Trobriand Islands and along the coastal belts of Papua New Guinea.


In the grey light of a tropical dawn on 6th July 1968, fifty men assembled at the government wharf, Sohano, on the south coast of Bougainville Island. They were members of the Royal Papua Nugini Constabulary, and they were armed with long wooden pick-axe handles. An inspector from Melbourne and a sergeant from Mt Hagen, with shotgun and side arms, led the uniformed force. In overall charge was a young Australian civilian Patrol Officer, known in PNG as a “Kiap”. Tied to the wharf behind the group, with its bizarre outlines becoming clearer as the sun slowly rose, was the MV Craestar, a 40 m exploration ship owned by Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Exploration (CRAE). From the Craestar, three company geologists in high-visibility vests and armed with geology hammers and -80 mesh sampling sieves joined the police group. By the time the sun had hauled above the horizon, all had boarded open-topped trucks or light four-wheel-drive vehicles and were bouncing along the rutted coast road. They faced two hours driving on ever smaller tracks followed by a two hour trek along jungle paths before they arrived at their destination – a group of villages deep in the interior, about 10km SE of the CRAE copper-gold prospect of Panguna, then at advanced feasibility stage. They were expecting trouble.

Read the rest of the story here.


August 20, 2014

Pam and Ed Davis emailed from New Mexico:


I was doing some research today and came across your website on Bougainville. It brought back happy memories as well as sadness to see the "aftermath" pictures.

We were on Bougainville from 1978-82. My husband, Ed Davis, worked for Morgan Equipment during that time. We actually married in Arawa in the backyard of Christian Werner's home on June 24,1979 and celebrated our 35th anniversary this year.

After we left Bougainville, we moved to Anchorage, Alaska where my husband worked in the North Slope oil fields on a contract to maintain the equipment of ARCO oil company. We moved to Texas in 1984 after our children were born in 1983 (boy/girl twins - now 31). Then we moved back to Alaska in 1988-90. Finally moving back to Amarillo, TX in 1990. We remained there until 2008, when I took a job in New Mexico. Ed retired officially in 2005 and I retired this year. We are still living in Hobbs, New Mexico and enjoying life in the desert.

Ray Klein and his wife Jenny visited us 2012. Ray worked for BCL during the late 70's too. They live in Karana Downs, Queensland.

We have often thought of returning to Bougainville for a visit, but I understood the infrastructure was no longer in place. I doubt we will ever return except in our memories. Thanks for the pictures on your site. Do you know a way to find out if any of the Bougainvillians are still living? Peter Pana worked at Morgan Equipment for my husband and he and his family lived in an apartment at our house in Arawa. His wife worked for PNG bank.

Great to see so many of the old friends still around.

Pam Davis
email wontok2[AT]

August 17, 2014

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June 23, 2014

Guy Thornton emailed from Spain:

It's a bit like a horror movie, where the protaganist suddenly remembers some deep seated memory that he's obviously tried very hard to suppress. And then the word "Panguna" and suddenly the shrieks and screams erupt. Panguna.

Actually, for this pom the missing 5 years started in 1966 when my dad got a contract for a year as a chopper pilot with Crowley Aviation in Lae. We travelled a lot as a family. I'd just dropped out of high school in UK and as an 18 year old, New Guinea sounded interesting. In those days you could get a job in Lae in less than 5 minutes and I spent 3 years with Comworks earning very good money doing stuff like driving/flying around TPNG counting Govt inventory - chairs, filing cabinets, cutlery, etc. I seem to remember taking a six-month sabbatical in Buenos Aires. Then in 1970 I was sitting on a plane going back to Lae when the chap next to me offered me a job at Panguna. They were electrical contractors, ODG-FMIC, sub-contracted to Bechtel. So I lived at Panguna for nearly a year and then as we'd finished wiring up the ball mills, rod mills, concentrator, etc the contract wound down and we worked at Arawa for a short while on a sort of pipe and conveyor belt that brought the copper down from Panguna. The money was very good but I earned more than my pay playing cards. We used to take a company bus down to Kieta at weekends and visit the new hotel at Arawa, which was owned by the uncle of my then girlfriend (whom I knew from Lae).

The night before I was due to catch the Electra out to Sydney at the end of my time, I lost my entire year's pay & winnings on one hand of cards only 10 minutes after the game started. I went back to my room which I shared with a mate who was also a sly grogger. He asked what was I doing back, wasn't I going to play cards. I said I'd lost all my money. He was so concerned, he took his big bag of grog takings, several thousand dollars, and said go and lose this as well or else I'll come back and find you swinging from the ceiling. So I did and within a couple of hours I got my money back and even a little bit more, and the next day I left for Sydney as planned. And immediately on to pastures new..

For what it's worth, I live with my wife of 35 years (Rhodesian) on a smallholding in Extremadura, Spain.

Memories, yikes!

Kind regards, Guy