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26 July 2015

John Clark emailed:

I was working in Bougainville in 79. My wife and I were living in Arawa with our 2 year old son (Michael). I was programming on the BCL minesite at Panguna with Des Smith, Dennis Smith, Andrew Liversidge (we called him LIVERSAUSAGE), Andrew Cowan, and others I cannot quite remember. it was a marvellous experience. I actually played cricket, walked through the jungle, from Panguna to Arawa, swam off Loloho, helicoptered around the island, and had many experiences there. I will have to see if I can find some photos. I also have a copy, in good condition, of the first newspaper they printed in Bougainville.

I remember when Dennis Smith cracked a raw egg over Des Smith's head one day. Some days later, Dennis arrived at the office and his bottom draw made a very strange sound when he sat down. He jumped up and moved away from the drawer. Eventually he gently opened it, and there was a baby piglet, with a ribbon tied to it and a note saying, "Here is some bacon for your eggs".

I was asked if I would like to fly around in a helicopter the examine the Bagana volcano and the Kupeii River.
Well, off we went, with Robyn Taylor, myself and a native in the back of the copter. Robyn was the pilot and his wife, Valerie, was a blond girl and she was pregnant with her first child. She used to drop into my office and chat about the mine and programs. This was how I managed to get a flight with Robyn. We flew near the gentle active volcano, looking down the slopes of the volcano and flew across a drop area near the volcano where the ground had dropped about 200 feet because of the volcano and the rain. It was a jungle beneath the jungle. We then flew down the river. Apparently there had been a mercury/cyanide spill from the mine and all the fish and birds had died in the area and then the locals ate them, which had a rather bad outcome for them. We went down to the Empress Augusta bay area where the river reached the sea, and Robyn was “dabbing down” the helicopter to see if we could land near one of the native villages. The native were out in their grass skirts and shields and spears, waving at us as we tried to land. Robyn decided that the copter was too heavy so we left to go back to the mine. We had in the back one of the natives from the mine and he was moving about, touching us on the shoulder and rather excited. When we landed at Panguna, we asked why he was doing that and he informed us that they still practice the “cargo cult” where they ate those that landed, but he said that they did not like the taste of white people.

John Clark
email clarkkent[AT]hotkey.net.au