The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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September 3, 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

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

Holiday Accommodation on the South Coast of New South Wales


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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

May 29, 2014

24th Bougainville Reunion Wrap-Up


Our 24th Reunion has come and gone. We were treated to yet another beautiful autumn day. Surprisingly our numbers were down but, on the positive side, for the first time, we were able to get around and to speak to most of the attendees.

There were several attendees from the veteran class including 93 year old Pedro (Amigo) Saavedra. Pedro was delighted to catch up with several old workmates, from B16. Harry Cislowski was there with his wife, Marlene. Ted Rogalski again travelled from Perth. Pedro was in the custody of his daughter, Clara and his grandsons, Michael and Daniel assisted with the mobility scooter. Errol Ryan also enjoyed a chat to Amigo. Of course, Errol`s son, Craig, is another regular who is always there, helping the cause. Ken and Dianne Mills, from Mackay, were first timers. With Ted, they travelled onto Bundaberg where they caught up with ex-B16 / B24 celebrities, Nev Brewer, Keith Widt and Kevin Groom. I understand they had a big night out at the Brothers Leagues Club. We must take care as to the amount of hospitality we lavish on Raggles. He is threatening to return to Perth via Brisbane !

Ray Chadwick was again down from Cairns. Also from Port Services there was our good captain, Barclay Ross, looking spritely and content. For many years Stephanie has journeyed from Sydney without Barclay and she has been one of our most prolific reunion photographers. This year it was Harry who marshalled the troops for the camera. In our next transmission we will share some shots with you. Another one of our most consistent attendees is Rolly Cornell, down from the “Sunny Coast”. Ray Leddick continues to work in distant lands but this does not stop Fran from getting out and about. It was good to see you, Fran.

There were the usual stalwarts, on parade. George and Rhonda never miss and neither does Keith Sherwood. John McLeod, also from Cairns, is becoming another regular. A reunion newcomer was Joan Whitham. I promised her a teacher to chat to and I was so pleased to see Barbara Knox and husband, Ross arrive. They were with John and Annette Barr. In this circle there was also Jill Ferguson and Eddie Boast. Jill has been busy gathering equipment for the Buka and Buin hospitals cause. A big thank you to Jill ! Sadly the other Gill did not make it this year. “Fenella`s husband” (it is Derek, I believe) called in , , , , , , , Gill is not mobile enough for such an outing these days.

Speaking of Fenella , , , , , if you find any Arawa Bulletins or copies of the Concentrates newsletter tucked away in the back of your garage then please treasure them. Under no circumstances are they to go to the dump. The day will come where we will be seeking such material for the reintroduced Bullie.

Marie and Joanne Hoskins also came from NSW. Graham and Colleen are keeping well. Also there were Elaine and Kathy Devereux (Moore). Elaine, if you ever need a lift just give us a call. Ross and Wendy Colvin are regulars and it is always nice to catch up with them. Valerie rarely misses, unless she is travelling. David is now based in Aussie but John is still resident in the UK. Structural Engineer, John has been a Project Manager on the world acclaimed Shard development, in London. Chris Hatherley again journeyed from Toowoomba. It was so nice to connect with Jeanette (Brophy) twice in a month. The same goes for Shirlene and her husband, , , , , , , they have moved from WA to Bribie. He is a top bloke. He comes from the West ! Also from Bribie, came Gerald Clark and his family. Sorry to everyone whose names I have forgotten. My memory is not quite what it was. I was lost this year without James. I will be looking for a couple of volunteers to assist us for the 25th. We already have a volunteer , , , , , , from the Ryan family.

We were delighted to see Con Papamihail make a dash across from Perth. When the mine closed there were about a dozen of us who had alternate employment in PNG. Con completed several years with the PNG Electricity Commission prior to returning to Australia. We are grateful that Con has been quite diligent in keeping track of all matters, Bougainville. Thanks, Con. Another I T guru in John Mowatt was with us , , , , , , with his better half, Shirley. John has offered to assist me with some of this correspondence, going forward. Horst was the first to arrive (from the Sunny Coast) and he put in another long day. Gwen and Billy Koch were with us again. Bill`s surgeon is more than content with his progress. As usual we compared notes.

Fergus Keane drove 5 hours from NSW to attend. We look forward to seeing Fergus, each year. Thanks for the effort, old mate. Kiwi McDonald has returned from China. We will see more of him going forward. Tony attended with his son Justin. Rae and Lisa Smart have experienced the toughest of months yet they still made it to the picnic. Thanks to the Nix family, Otto, Anita and Ricky for attending for the first time

Next year, for No 25, we will endeavour to do something special. We would like to bring together some of the teenagers who were raised on Bougainville and then travelled from there to various boarding schools across Australia and New Zealand. There is no doubt that there is more and more tourist type travel taking place into Bougainville. Reunions there are a probability within the medium term. Darrell Cox, Ted and George are speaking of a fishing venture in the New Year. Watch this space.

Special mention is justified for two of our favourite people, Reg and Pam Givney. A huge thank you to the youngest of their beautiful daughters, Anona and her daughter Sharnie, who facilitated the day for them and for us. We were so lucky to have Reg and Pam living, just around the corner, in Arawa when our kids were infants.

For future picnics please keep in mind that if your esky and picnic furniture does not have wheels then there will be a trolley or two available to assist you. If there is anyone who cannot drive and wishes to come then just give us a call. Anne and Father Barnham have been on the sick list but yesterday John sounded in good form. They are fortunate to have all of the billy lids living close by. Errol has already paid them a visit with some photos from Sunday.

The catering was completed in expert style by Luke Kuhia and his team from the Brisbane Bougainville Community Group. Included in Luke`s team there were Monica Larcombe, Veronica and Les Henderson, Chrissie Davidson and Lucie Beagrie, to name a few. We very much, over catered but it is always better to have too much rather than too little.

I have probably gathered only half of our picnickers here. Monica has recalled for me the attendance of Kerry Mullins. Kerry, if you are not receiving our newsletter then please send us a note. This goes for everyone who has changed address or who otherwise has slipped from the mailing list.

The next important date on your social calendar should be Saturday, the 14th June, see below. In addition to the goodies listed herein Monica advises that the Lucky Door Prize is dinner for two and a night at the Mercure. If you do not have enough for a table then just advise Monica or Lucie and they will see you right.


May 23, 2014

Dinner & Dance for Arawa and Buka Hospitals - Saturday 14th June 2014 - Mercure Hotel, Brisbane


For tickets please contact:

Monica: 0413 495 919

Luke: 0498 215 291

Lucy: 0404 941 410