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31 March 2015

Francis Rouden McKillop (17 October 1917 - 2 July 1979) of Arawa Plantation

AUSTRALIAN-BORN orchid collector and philanthropist Francis Royden "Kip" McKillop thought differently from his contemporaries and looked at his field with innovative eyes.

He was fired by an original vision for tropical plants. He urged latter-day European breeders of New World staple crops such as potato to develop new varieties in their natural tropical climates because the rotation and yield potential was greater there.

He took popular tropical fruits from South-East Asia such as mangoes, rambutan and durian and bred better varieties on his plantations in New Guinea, resulting in a stronger import market later in Australia. With his wife Mary, Kip established the largest private orchid collection in the southern hemisphere, numbering about 36,000 plants.

And he collaborated in the founding of the "New Guinea Biological Foundation", which later became the "Australia & Pacific Science Foundation". His dream combined with the financial muscle of investor and philanthropist Stanley Smith, when they met at the World Orchid Conference in Singapore in 1962.

The duo became a quartet shortly afterwards when brothers George Hermon and William Russell Slade, who shared the same interests and vision, joined McKillop and Smith.

Kip had a guiding principle, not uncommon in his generation: That the quality of the goal is paramount and that is what should inspire people; by whom and how it is achieved is irrelevant. Kip McKillop was born into a third-generation grazier family that pioneered the central west of NSW.

He served in New Guinea during World War ll and this contact with the tropics inspired him to buy into the plantation industry there. From his Arawa plantation in Bougainville he revolutionised the production of premium quality cocoa and copra in that country. Kip, Mary, and three of their children moved to Brazil in 1974 where he continued his pioneering work in tropical agriculture.

More on Arawa Planation and Francis McKillop here.


25 March 2015

Joe Foss emailed from Mendoza, Argentina:


G’Day, Peter,

I was delighted to discover your webpage with the wonderful account of the Bougainville Copper Project and thereby emboldened I decided to toss in my own fond memories. Will you let another Yank get away with the intrusion?....

It all began up in San Francisco, USA in June 1976 when I signed aboard the LASHer ship SS Austral Rainbow for a couple voyages to the South Pacific. I knew it would be a stint of great pleasure to make the first port-call at Tahiti, thence off to Auckland, Littleton, Hobart, Burnie, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Lae, Rabaul, and then a jog down to Anewa Bay. We had cargo aboard for BCL, although I did not take note of its nature.

SS Austral Rainbow

As it had been a quiet Sunday for our brief stop at Rabaul I know it was Monday morning when we dropped anchor a bit offshore at Anewa Bay. Since I was the ship’s Radio Officer and having no duties aboard once the ship reached port, I was right along with the pilot and rode aboard his skiff to have a look at all there was to see at this part of Bougainville, PNG.

Once ashore and headed for the gate I was immediately impressed with this enormous heap of what appeared to be sand quite close to the dock facilities. Puzzled at this, I asked the Security Guard what this sand was, and its purpose there. He was at a loss for a detailed explanation but had me wait while he telephoned to get answers. After a brief preamble he passed the telephone to me and I found myself chatting with the Chief Mining Geologist up at the mine in Panguna. What I saw as sand turned out to be the ore from the mine that had been crushed up there and pumped as a slurry down to the port for shipment to the smelters. I expressed genuine fascination at all this as at this because as a teenager in Maine, USA, I had been an avid “rock-hound.” Sensing my deep interest, the Chief invited me up for a look at his mine. Ah, said I, being the visiting RO off the ship I have no way to make the road trip. At this juncture the Chief had me pass the phone back to Security who then made another phone call.

In short order I found myself speaking with Warren Hanes, Chief of the Motor-Pool and he advised me to wait right there at the gate and he would send his “car and driver” over to give me a lift to the mine. But, he informed me, I would be obliged to have him and his lady to come out in the evening to visit the ship. Done deal, and with great pleasure.

That telephone chat completed, it was just a few minutes when a pick-up/ute roared in, kicking up dust, and behind the wheel was his driver, Joe, a mountain of a man, and as deeply dark as anthracite. Away we roared up the mountain road, around the tight turns where I blanched upon peering into the jungle depths below. A great relief it was when we reached the mine office. If recollection serves, I met Sally Jones there as she was a nurse in the first- aid facility. Then a warm greeting from the Chief Geologist, and wish I could remember his name. I think I was still decompressing from the experience of the mad dash up the mountain! Anyway, the Chief was good enough to put a hard-hat on me and entrusted me to the care of a young mining engineer who took me down into the enormous pit to look at the ore mass at arm’s length. Indeed, the attached photo is my treasured souvenir of the unique experience, and I genuinely remember breaking it free with his rock hammer. This rock paperweight not only completed the voyage with me back to California, it has kept me company as I moved on for some years in Panama, then off for a time in Uruguay, and since February 2011 we have been here in Mendoza, Argentina.

Well, my very pleasant visit to the mine completed, Joe and I were on the road again for a hair-raising ride back to the starting point. But not precisely to the same point for it was late afternoon, end of the workday so the ride concluded at the club. I think that was Warren’s instructions to meet up there. So I invited Joe in for a cold beer with me at the bar, plus I wished to thank him further with a few Kina for his troubles. Now, of course one glass of beer is never enough, so certainly we had a second. Did we have a third?, I am not sure for as I glanced around the club and as my gaze passed by the open door to the veranda I saw Kiwi frantically waiving his arms and gesturing for me to join the crew out there. Here I thanked Joe again and excused myself to join the others.

There on the veranda Kiwi explained to me that as a firm policy BCL personnel did not let the indigenous folks have too much beer or spirits. He said, “ You see, these locals are really not of the original stock. About 75 years ago their forebears paddled to Bougainville in large canoes and they ate everybody they found here.” Fair dinkum.

Frankly, my memory goes to flat zero at this point and I just suppose that Warren and Sally (and perhaps others) visited the ship that evening; my mind is simply blank. But it was a wonderful visit to Bougainville and I wish that there had been cargo on the ship the next voyage to have us return. Alas.

In closing this chapter, I wonder if you have an email address for Warren Hanes? Current details of them? Maybe the name of the Chief Geologist?
(If anyone can help, please email blogmaster at riverbend[AT]

I got back to Australia the next voyage but there was no stop anywhere in PNG. In 1981 I returned to Australia on the LASHer SS Austral Moon. At that time I knew I had to return on holiday for a comprehensive look at the country. Then later on I saw the film Breaker Morant and it gave me additional destinations once I found occasion to plan a holiday. The opportunity arose in December 1995 when I was on the Arabian Sea Expedition and the research ship was based in Muscat, Oman. Instead of returning to California in winter season I turned southward at Singapore and flew to Darwin for Christmas.

Next day onto the bus for Kunnanura and thence Broome where I caught a plane to Perth with a plan to observe (at a safe distance…) the unbridled revelry of New Year celebrations in Fremantle. Once safely past all that it was off to Kalgoorlie and on to Adelaide. There I caught the Ghan to Alice Springs and took the bus back to allow a couple nights at Ayres Rock (What a climb!) and a day in Cober Pedy. Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Burnie before heading north to Sydney. A few days later off to Tenterfield to visit the grave of Major J.F. Thomas, my esteemed hero of Breaker Morant film. Brisbane had to be the terminus of my northern excursion but I did have a look as far north as Noosa Heads. Now I see that in my state of poor health I will not be able to return to Brisbane to visit the hinterlands of the York Peninsula before completing the loop back to Darwin.

Very best regards,
Joe Foss


Comment by Blogmaster: Joe, I still got one of those rocks from my Bougainville days in my 'trophy room'. It's from my second contract on the island when I was Office Manager/Accountant for Camp Catering Services (later SHRM). Nice spot you live in - see here.
Just don't mention the Falklands!  ☺  Cheers Peter


19 March 2015

Peter Duncan emailed from Brisbane:

Hi mate

just thought i drop u a line.well ware do i start i was living in moresby so i run away from home hoped a tramp steamer belonging to steamships trading co and ended up in kieta i was 16 ended up getting a job with barclay brothers in arawa this was in 1969 left ln 74 good times i've never stopped travelling live in bris but work in port vila vanuatu have a good one mate

peter Duncan


10 March 2015

The Physics Tramp



The "Itinerant Geophysicist" has kept an interesting and entertaining blog here which is worth reading.



7 March 2015

Guavas and Bananas

GUAVAS AND BANANAS. Living Gay in Papua New Guinea from vladsokhin on Vimeo.


The sleepy coastal village of Hanuabada sits on the north western outskirts of Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, and is probably best known for producing half of PNG's national cricket team. What it is less known for is being a safe haven for Port Moresby's gay and transgender community. About 30 gay men, or 'Gelegele' in the local tongue, permanently live in the village, while others drift in and out.

When I first arrived on Bougainville as a young man in 1970, I hardly knew what a homosexual was and certainly had never seen one until several chaps in Camp 6 were pointed out to me. There was that queer couple, Owen and 'her husband' who worked in Bechtel's office. Before coming to Bougainville, they had operated a hotel on Espiritu Santo in what's now Vanuatu. They built themselves a 'sak-sak' at Camp 5 where they were going to live happily ever after until Owen's 'husband' died and Owen's little world was totally destroyed.

And then there was that tall half-Indian Matt who was a typist in Bechtel's Loloho office. He'd walk, hand in hand with a native 'boi' on either side, through the camp, with a strong smell of cheap perfume always wafting behind him. I saw him again, years later, when I set up the audit department within Air Niugini, in their accounts department in Port Moresby.

Undoubtedly, there were many more but, in line with the social mores of the day, they probably kept to themselves. I am sure they all would have been delighted with this recent 'coming-of-age' in Papua New Guinea.



1 March 2015

An apropos-of-nothing message from the Blogmaster:


Remember the Poseidon boom in Australia in the late 1960s when some nickel stocks experienced spectacular increases in price? The best-known, Poseidon, rose from $1.85 on 26 September 1969 to its high of $280 on 10 January 1970. Some years later it went off the board. Its shares were worthless.

The address says it all: PO Box 187, Rabaul, New Guinea

In 1969 I'd just come back from South West Africa, rejoined the ANZ Bank in Canberra and then gone to Papua New Guinea to escape the hand-to-mouth existence of a banking career. I was totally ignorant of the Poseidon boom but my new colleagues in the chartered accounting firm of Hancock, Woodward & Neill in Rabaul talked of nothing else - when they weren't drinking which was most of the time!

PO Box 12, Kieta, Bougainville, New Guinea
(Bechtel's postal address)

First out of sympathy and then as a convert, I spent what little money I earned on VAM and Kambalda shares which, after I had bought them at several dollars each, went down to just a few cents and then to nothing.

Are those early years called the formative years because during that time one forms one's financial base? Well, my shiny VAM and Kambalda share certificates weren't even pliable and absorbent enough for the most obvious use, which is perhaps why I still have a few of them today. As the saying goes: I started out with nothing and I still got most of it left.