Project Canterbury

New Guinea Reminiscences

By Fred Rennels
(Captain of the Diocese of New Guinea ship, The Maclaren King, 1923-1938).

Typescript manuscript dated 1974 in possession of Diocese of Brisbane Archives. Reproduced online with permission.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006


By Fred Rennels.

I had no idea of going to New Guinea, but I needed a job to get some money. It was like this I left England in 1922 with a friend and a man who was going to start a big fishing industry in Australia. We were travelling on the "Hobson's Bay" to Melbourne, but en route decided that Sydney would suit us better, so changed our luggage labels accordingly. In the hold we saw a big engine in pieces, which was being brought in as scrap, but I don't think the Customs were fooled by this ruse.

After landing in Sydney we occupied an unfurnished house in Neutral Bay. A motor boat was purchased and we used to trawl in Sydney Harbour at night, which I found out later was illegal, but we were never caught. After a while we shifted to Wreck Bay on the South Coast. Here we found fish by the ton, and made friends with some aboriginals and an American Negro family. As we had very little cash we had to live almost off the land. This wasn't very difficult, as we had plenty of fish, but we used to accompany our friends into the bush for wallaby, kangaroos and bush honey. They were experts at getting these things and it made a welcome change from our fish diet. We built a bag house on the sheltered side of the beach, where we spent a very cold winter. Later we improved our housing with a shack made from kerosene tins.

[2] Now, catching the fish was an easy matter. With the fish travelling past the beach they were clearly visible from the shore, and with our coloured friends as look-outs, we would put a net around the shoal. The big problem was what to do with them. There was an old man with a four-wheeled buggy who lived in Huskison, who would take some of the catch to Nowra for us, but at times it was impossible to drag the heavy catch over the sand in the buggy. He would often finish up repairing his vehicle with timber taken from the bush--he had even repaired a broken wheel in this way.

We were joined by a young man who had run away from his home in Melbourne. Like us, Spargo was broke. However, we were given a horse and buggy which enabled us to go to Huskison for stores. These we got on credit in the boss's name--and they were never paid for. We were well acquainted with boats, but with horses, no. What we quickly learned was that one end could bite and the other could kick, so catching the brute and putting a harness on him was a job none of us relished. We eventually solved the problem when we found the job was much easier if he was hobbled.

At about this time we learned that the man who had promised us everything was in Sydney, had formed a company, raised a lot of money and vanished. There was not future for us now, so I decided to go to Huskison where I got a temporary job as a carpenter, house-building.

[3] In a shipyard nearby a schooner was being built, and one day in the village I met a fellow-Englishman who had recently come from Samarai to supervise the fitting out of the vessel. When he found I was unemployed he asked if I would like to help him, and I readily agreed.

This vessel, I found, was being built for the Anglican Mission in Papua. When she was completed I was asked if I would like to become one of the crew to sail her to New Guinea, so on 2nd. June, 1923, I found myself moving out on the "Maclaren King", bound for New Guinea via Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville. The name of the schooner honoured two pioneer Australian missionaries to New Guinea--Revs. Albert Maclaren and Copeland King.

Between Sydney and Brisbane we struck some very bad N.E. weather. The engine, which was second-hand, was giving a lot of trouble, and at one stage the captain was thinking about entering one of the northern rivers. However we were warned by a fishing boat that there was not enough water on the bar for us to cross, so we spent an uncomfortable night at sea. Next morning the weather was better, so we plodded on and were relieved when we picked up a pilot at the entrance to Moreton Bay. We were soon tied up at the wharf and all aboard enjoyed a good rest. When we left the weather had improved so we were able to enjoy the trip though the Whitsunday Passage. We reached Townsville on 15th. June and stayed there for a few days while some repairs [3/4] were carried out on the engine. Another Captain came aboard at Townsville to take us to Samarai, but as he was only taking us that far, I was asked (as I seemed to have satisfied the owners and I knew the sea was salt) if I would like to take over the "Maclaren King" at Samarai. Being an ex-Navy man, and having spent some years on the water, I felt I would be quite capable of doing this, so accepted the responsibility. Of course, after Samarai there would be a native crew and I had later to win their confidence. Looking back now (in 1974) I think it took three and a half days to get to Samarai from Townsville. The wind was strong and steady from the South-East trade winds, and as it was on our starboard quarter the sails were then being used to their best advantage. The folk at Samarai were kept on the look-out as they had a rough idea when the schooner would arrive. When we came in visitors to the vessel were plentiful, as it didn't take long for the residents to realize there was something new to see on the waterfront. Very little news came to Samarai in those days. Although there was a wireless station on the island, it was really for messages, but in the goodness of his heart the wireless officer would type out daily any news of interest that he had listened in to (all received in Morse code). He would then give it to his boy assistant who would take it around to the Europeans interested--into the two hotels and all the stores. To make sure that it had been read, it would then be initialed. The local engineer would always [4/5] make his mark by planting his greasy thumb on the paper.

Samarai was really an isolated island--no electricity or freezers, no wireless sets--but a boat did arrive once a month, the MORINDA, which brought everything that was needed. A message to the wireless station and Burns Philp would know when the ship was arriving, and this was always a red letter day. As soon as the ship was sighted the cry of "Sail Oh" was soon telling everyone the great day had come, and practically all of the Europeans and natives would make for the wharf. As soon as the gangway was down, there was a rush for a cold beer. As the cargo was being unloaded folk awaited freezer goods--Australian fresh fruit, hard butter and blocks of ice brought from Sydney, which kept butter and beer cool for a few days.

Then there were the mails to be sorted and distributed. The time of day didn't matter and the Post Office worked until the job was finished. The latest newspaper would be read first, as there was a month's daily papers to look through. Next there would be a rush to answer the mail, as the ship would leave after loading copra and taking on passengers going South for a holiday. (The trip to Sydney was then a ten-day run and could be very enjoyable, provided, of course, that you enjoyed sea travel). The sheltered side of Samarai would be full of boats which had come in from various islands for their mail and stores. In a few days all of them would be gone again for another month.

[6] Prior to the coming of the MACLAREN KING, the Anglican Mission had been served by a sailing schooner and motor launch. These did not run to a time-table, with the result that in the calm season the sailing schooner would come in sight, and then be taken out of sight by the tide, to be sighted again the next day, perhaps, being assisted by boys in a dinghy acting as a tug. Now the "MAC", as she was soon termed, was to run to a time-table so that all would know the day and the hour she was due. She was to leave Samarai with stores, mails and passengers at 6 a.m. on the Friday before the fourth Sunday. Almost always she carried some European passengers--mission folk, Government ladies and traders or their wives. The Bishop (Bishop Newton) was very lenient in giving folk a lift on a comfortable boat. There were usually a lot of natives, too, returning to their villages. These all came on board early in the morning, so that we left approximately on time.

After Samarai, Milne Bay was the first obstacle, stretching for 28 miles. In the S.E. this was usually very rough, sideways on, and I don't think it was really enjoyed by most, but after rounding East Cape it instantly became calm, and a bit of breakfast could then be enjoyed. Away ahead could be seen Cape Ducie and Cape Frere, which would be passed during the day. It took about three hours to come to Cape Ducie, then we passed a low point which was a coconut plantation, named Puni Puni. A few miles past Puni Puni was [6/7] the first Mission Station, TAUPOTA, with the house and church almost on the beach. Here were a nurse and a teacher who both came to the beach to welcome anyone who went ashore for half an hour while the stores and the mailbag were delivered, and to hear the latest news. Little did I know then that in a few years I would be married to that nurse (Ida Percy). We picked up the local mail and continued on our way to the next stop, HIOGE, where the mountains start to rise from the shore almost as much as the water is deep. At various places on the tops of these mountains layers of shells can be seen, indicting that at some time there was a great upheaval. At the same time the bottom of the ocean subsided. The depths run into thousands of fathoms, making anchoring very difficult, to the extent that it was always advisable to put a rope to the shore, on a coconut tree as during the night a strong offshore land breeze can be experienced, resulting in a vessel carrying its anchor off into deeper water.

After leaving Hioge on our way to DOGURA, the huge cape, Cape Frere, would be passed. During the wet season the waterfalls in every gully of Cape Frere would be a sight to remember. Houses on the hill could now be seen in the distance with their galvanized roofs, but night was fast approaching, and the difference in the time (called summer and winter) was only half a hour, so by the time we arrived at the wharf below DOGURA it was too late for unloading anything but the mail bags. On the whole that was all they [7/8] wanted then. This was the Head Station, with up to a dozen Europeans there, all hungry for mail and the latest news from the South.

My programme was to remain anchored at WEDAU (below Dogura) until Monday morning. This gave me a chance to meet the other Europeans who were in that area--nurses, teachers, priests, etc. I forget now how many there were, but I remember I was bombarded with questions about the boat and things in general. No doubt in the meantime they were sizing me up, being a newcomer. The natives described me as the M.King (bada). Some of the present crew were boys from this village and the others went to visit friends, leaving no-one at all on the boat. As I had been trained in the Navy, where discipline was very strict, I decided that I must do something to ensure that there were always two boys on the boat in case of an emergency. As the boys came from different villages it was easier to make an arrangement allowing the crew boys belonging to the village where we were at anchor to have the night at home. The others could go for the day or evening, choosing amongst themselves who would stay on the boat. They found this hard to swallow at first, but later it was accepted without any trouble. My boys were signed on at ten shillings a month, plus their food and tobacco.

Monday morning came and we continued the trip North. Between Monday and the following Friday I would call at [8/9] eighteen different mission stations, three Government stations, with Europeans at all of them, so I had a lot of people to meet. They were all delighted to know that a regular service had started. By Friday afternoon I was at the furthest station North, a couple of miles from the border of Papua and New Guinea, at the mouth of the MAMBA RIVER.

As this was my first trip on a strange coast where reefs made travel very dangerous I relied mostly on a half caste who had been on the coast for years and knew it remarkably well. There were charts of the coast line and adjoining reefs, which I checked as we went along. The coast line was fairly accurate but the reefs in some cases were miles out of place. It became clear to me now that only some of the bays could be safely navigated in the dark, and getting to an anchorage before nightfall became a very important factor.

During my stay of eighteen years on this boat, doing the monthly trips, I made a lot of friends, and discovered that I was a Jack-of-all trades. I was called on to repair and give advice on things that at times I knew nothing about. I had to be a stickybeak at times to solve some problems. I had to learn how to cut ladies' hair (which was then "bobbed"). Practice makes perfect and I soon became very good at it. There were many interesting happenings during my stay and I kept detailed diaries. Unfortunately these were destroyed by fire in Samarai, so it is now impossible for me to give the dates of anything I may mention. [9/10] But I well remember that in 1924 Bishop Newton (who was previously Bishop of Carpentaria, which includes the Torres Strait islands), said he would like to pay a visit there in the "Maclaren King." At the time a couple of Australian Board of Missions visitors had come to see the Papuan mission stations. Now when the trip was decided on, quite a lot of planning had to be done. Papuan deacons were replacing my crew and I was not too pleased about this, as some of them could not steer the boat, nor could they read a compass, which was essential if we were to go the right way. I was not a deep sea navigator, but understood the compass, could read charts and knew what the trailing log was for. As it was impossible to find out how accurate the compass was, as it varied with the heading of the boat, I decided on having another compass, in a different position, away from the engine, as I had to rely on dead reckoning. As the responsibility would be on me all the time, I requested that two European friends of mine--one an experienced engineer, the other a trusted seaman--be permitted to come with us. With them aboard I knew I could get my sleep, knowing the navigation, etc., was in safe hands.

One of the main essentials for such a trip was a good cook boy. The Rector's wife in Samarai kindly lent us her boy. He was very good, but unfortunately was subject to seasickness. As we needed plenty a fuel, a large number of 44-gallon drums were put in the hold. These also acted [10/11] as ballast. We also took on fresh water and large supplies of food, for as far as I knew we could get no replacements until we reached Townsville. When the time came to leave we had six Europeans and eight or ten natives. As it was the South-East season a steady S.E. wind could be expected. This could whip up a big sea when sailing outside the barrier reef, which we intending doing, in safe deep water. Port Moresby was 240 miles away and Yule Island another 60.

The left Samarai on 7th. September, 1924, not very early as the intention was to make a sheltered anchorage before dark. There was quite a big sea running, but with the sails up she was fairly steady. When we rounded the south end of Papua the wind was more behind us, which made harder steering, as the sea would pick up the back of the boat and put it down in another place. We finally found a passage through the reef and anchored in quiet water. The reef could be seen for miles around as the waves pounded it, and as we felt the wind I decided before going to sleep to drop the second anchor. Next morning I decided to leave as early as possible, so as soon as the passage through the reef was visible we got under weigh and went outside. Everything moveable had been tied down, as I knew the wind would increase during the day, which is usual with the S.E. trade winds. Once outside I set a course straight for Yule Island. We would then pass well outside Port Moresby. The entrance to Port Moresby from the South was very dangerous, as the reef took an outward sweep, as [11/12] was proved by a large ship named "PRATH". She had already discharged some thousands of cases of Kerosene, Benzine, etc., at Samarai and was to discharge more at Port Moresby. Unfortunately she hit the reef just before the Port Moresby entrance and was stuck fast with the trade wind behind her. No tugs were available, and to assist salvage, her cargo of cases of kerosene was dumped into the sea. This finally made matters worse, as the ship was lifted more on to the reef. Finally she was holed, and abandoned. During the Second World War she was used by the Air Force as a bombing target.

We had a strong following wind with a big sea all day and things were very uncomfortable. The corkscrew motion is about the worst, and prevention of broaching was hard. The head sails were useless and the steering was very heavy, making it hard work. The wind increased during the day and the waves were now breaking. To look astern and see a big wave approaching was frightening. The stern would lift and the wave would carry down the boat as it passed, putting her jib boom in the wave ahead. This continued all day. We were abreast of Port Moresby just after mid-day; a few hours later we entered, and anchored behind Yule Island. The motion of the boat all day had made everyone very tired, as it is a big strain on the legs retaining one's balance for such a long time. Passengers who had been quiet all day were pleased that the motion had ceased and were ready for something to eat, to make up for what they had lost during the day! Here we were visited by the R.C. Bishop, Yule Island being the headquarters of the R.C. Mission.

[13] Bishop Newton was not well when we left Samarai, but was trying to enjoy the trip as he was a good sailor.

Our next stage of the journey was to cross the Gulf of Papua to Darnley Island, which is visible a long way off. It meant that we would have to spend one night at sea in the Gulf. We had to be fairly accurate on this run, because in the middle of the Gulf was an enormous reef, so we wanted to be in that vicinity in daylight. We left early in the morning and sailed at right angles to the previous day's course. With the wind on the port beam, the sails were all full and helped both in speed and in keeping the boat fairly steady, lying over to starboard. On leaving Yule Island the log was trailed astern. Now this would give us our speed and distance travelled. The number of miles from Yule Island to the reef (East Cay) was noted from the chart, and rough calculations estimated that we would be in the vicinity after daylight the next morning. As usual the wind increased during the day and our speed was faster than expected.

About 2 a.m. the next morning, the log showed that we had covered the distance--further than was expected--and the thing uppermost in our mind was this huge reef. We decided there and then to heave to (i.e. to put the boat in stays). Now some boats will lie hove to better than others, and I had never experienced this boat in a hove-to position before. So we put the routine into practice. The engine was stopped, the mainsail lowered, the missen [sic] sail was fastened tight amidships, they staysail was lowered and the jib fastened on [13/14] the windward side. The helm was fastened hard over against the wind and the boat became almost motionless. The jib being lashed to windward kept the boat from coming head to wind, the rudder bringing her back if she fell off the wind. The natives could not quite understand this, as I told them to go below and have a sleep. My two European friends decided I had better have a rest, too, while they kept a look-out. As there was a heavy swell running, the breaking of the waves on the reef would be visible if we drifted near it. Sleeping space was limited, so I put a mattress in the bath and slept soundly.

I was awakened at daybreak. My seaman friend was on top of the mast and had spotted the white foam of the sea breaking on the reef. I noticed at once that the swell was not as big as it had been and we soon saw why. We had drifted into the CENTRE of the horse-shoe shaped reef (East Cay) which was visible miles away. I think this was the luckiest day of our lives! Although Bishop Newton was not at all well, he did not complain.

Now we got under way again and left East Cay behind, thankful that we had missed it. It was a clear run now and soon Darnley Island became visible. This took us inside the Barrier Reef and into the Torres Strait area. Here we were surprised to be met by a Torres Strait pearling boat. They had heard we were coming, and knowing that their previous Bishop (Bishop Henry Newton) was aboard, had decided to wait and greet him, and also to act as a pilot boat for us to follow. [14/15] This was a great help, as we were now in strange uncharted waters. We were running under engine and sail power. The pearl boat was under sail only, and to our surprise she could outpace us. What a lovely sight she was under full sail in a very strong wind! Thursday Island was too distant to be reached in daylight, so we were escorted into an anchorage behind an island for the night. Here there was a mission station. The next day we anchored at Thursday Island, where we were able to get a doctor on board to see the Bishop. It was decided he needed medical attention, so he was taken ashore and put to bed at the Rectory.

One of the Europeans doing the trip was the Chairman of the Australian Board of Missions, the Rev. Needham. His visit to Papua was really to see the Mission at work, because the Mission finance came from England and Australia. There was also a friend of his, a Mr. Pascoe.

Bishop Newton's illness prevented him from visiting the Anglican mission stations in Torres Strait, so the trip was done without him. However, we were accompanied by a priest from Torres Strait, as well as an Islander who acted as a pilot as we were to visit a number of the islands.

We then returned to Thursday Island and prepared to continue our trip down the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Mitchell River. A native who knew the Mitchell River came with us. It was approximately 240 miles from Thursday Island.

After leaving Thursday Island early in the morning, [15/16] we set a course to take us straight down. This Gulf is free of reef and--being the South-East season--the wind was blowing off the low-lying land and the sea was calm. As usual the log was trailed to give us our mileage and we kept going all day and night. The low-lying land was not visible, so when the mileage had been run it was a case of turning towards the shore, so that our native friends could identify the spot where the mouth of the river was. Compared to Papua, the water here was shallow.

The mouth of the river was located, but it was still a long way off, and the depth of the water now became a worry. We were now in twelve feet of water, roughly about half a mile offshore, and as there was no shelter at all, I decided to anchor here. I remembered Bishop Newton saying to me, "Don't go into the River," but it was a case of making up our own mind, as the Gulf is a dangerous place in the North-West season. I wondered what we would do if a storm came up during the night. On measuring the depth of water from where we were anchored to the river mouth, we found it to be almost level. Inside the bar there was plenty of depth. Being unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the sand bar, we decided to enter the river where it was perfectly safe. We anchored a fair way upstream, not far from a landing place used by the Mission people from the Mission Station some distance inland. We travelled by dinghy from the boat to the landing stage, where we were met by some people from the Mission Station. [16/17] The Rev. Needham, Mr. Pascoe and some of the natives then walked to the Mission. In a shed at the landing was an old T. Model Ford, which I think was used by Bishop Newton when he was Bishop of Carpentaria. It was reduced to the iron chassis, but my friend the engineer was very interested in it and decided to see if it would run. There was some petrol in a drum, and with the aid of a pump the tyres were soon inflated. This type of car did not have a battery. The flywheel was a generator when it was running. The method was to push the car, and drop it into gear to revolve the motor, which then generated electricity through H.T. coils to the plugs. We had some Papuans with us to help with the pushing, and after a few splutters and noises the engine came to life. Everyone jumped on where they could, and off we went over the dry level land. The noise of the motor sent the wallabies running.

The came across some aboriginals who had, I think, been hunting, and they had some dead snakes. The Papuan boys, who hate snakes, would not go near them. The aboriginals were very interested, as the car was stopped but the engine was still running. We continued on our way and soon had to cross a dry creek bed. It meant going town one side and up the other. Everyone except the driver jumped off at the bottom and pushed the car up to the other side. Eventually we arrived safely at the Mission. After a meal here we sat around yarning, and then settled down for the night. I remember [17/18] there were not enough beds, so my two friends and I made ourselves as comfortable as possible on the verandah. It wasn't cold, so we weren't worried.

During the evening's yarning I had mentioned that "THE MAC" was anchored in the river. They immediately said, "The bar will move overnight," so next day we were very anxious as we went down near the mouth of the river. To watch the state of the tide we put in another night here, and moved out early next morning when the tide was highest. It was a great relief that everything turned out well. The next evening we arrived back at Thursday Island.

We spent a day or two in Thursday Island, getting water and other necessary things, including a European pilot to take us down the coast. By now Bishop Newton had improved and was able to accompany us for the remainder of the trip to Townsville. The pilot we got was an old retired man, and, as we later found, had forgotten a lot. Whilst ashore in Thursday Island I met one of the officers of a lighthouse inspection ship. He was leaving the same day as us, and as their speed was about equal to ours, I decided that if I followed them, we could not be far out. This we did for the first day and night. We had to round Cape York and then go south, and with the aid of a book on the navigation of Torres Strait things were fairly straightforward. I found that our pilot did not know as much as we had thought, so relied mostly on the book which told all about the lighthouses. The [18/19] weather was fair and we made good progress. A large trailing hook caught plenty of kingfish and everybody was satisfied.

Now, as Bishop Newton wanted to visit another mission station, we said goodbye to our pilot ship and set about finding the station described to us by the Bishop. We anchored in a mangrove lagoon in the hope that we would see somebody who could give us directions. An elderly man came out in an old dinghy, but he was unable to give us the information we wanted. I had thought of spending the night here, but luckily we didn't. Firstly, the old man said there was no water there at low tide, and secondly the mosquitoes were already arriving to greet us, so we went outside into deeper water, where there was a gentle breeze which kept the mosquitoes away.

Going South, we called in at Cooktown, and from there continued on to Townsville. Not knowing where to anchor I hoisted a yellow flag and dropped anchor in the fairway, as we had to be passed by a doctor before getting into contact with the shore. This soon brought results, and the Harbour Master and a doctor came on board. We were passed by the doctor and told we could not remain where we were. As Burns Philp were our agents the Harbour Master told us to tie up at their wharf a bit further up the harbour. Here our European passengers left us, and the native deacons went to stay at the Rectory, leaving, I think, four natives on the boat. I was informed that the boat would have to be fumigated in case we had any rats aboard. I asked if the fumigation would kill cockroaches, [19/20] which were plentiful. The answer was no; they were going to use sulphur. "But why not use something which would kill cockroaches?" I asked. This, they said, would have to be cyanide and sulphuric acid. But it was dangerous, and no-one but myself was to remain on the boat. My two Europeans pals had friends in Townsville, so they went and stayed with them. The natives were taken and looked after by the Church of England. Later the fumigation officials came on board. They erected huge yellow notice boards saying "DANGER, THIS SHIP IS BEING FUMIGATED. KEEP AWAY." Everything was closed up and strips of paper stuck on all joints leading below. In the hold, engine room and cabin, a saucer of acid was placed on the floor. Hanging above it, with a string leading to the deck, were the tablets in soft tissue paper. When everything was sealed to their satisfaction, the string was cut and the tablets fell into the acid, which immediately sent off poisonous fumes. This was left for twenty-four hours, and I had to see that no-one came on board. It was a dreary stretch, as I could not go ashore myself. I slept on a stretcher on deck under the awning. About mid-day the next day the quarantine officials came back, broke the seals and opened everything, without getting too close. When the fumes were released the smell was awful and I could see dead cockroaches everywhere. I was advised not to enter any of the places until the following day, but in the afternoon I wanted to write a letter. The writing materials were just down a few steps, on the table. [20/21] I thought it would be all right for me to get them quickly, which I did, but it taught me a lesson. The fumes were terrible, and I was lucky to make it back to the deck. I thought then how foolish one can be.

When the natives who had gone ashore at Townsville were met by a layman who previously was in Papua, the latter had a car waiting for them. This was only the second car they had ever seen, and remembering the previous one at Mitchell River, where they had to push and jump on, they were not too anxious for another car ride. However, they were persuaded to get in, although scared. Then the layman got in, put his foot on the self-starter, and amid a yell away they went. He brought them back the next day, and their job then was to sweep up all the dead cockroaches. I was amazed at the number when I saw them in kerosene tins.

Arrangements were made for the boat to be slipped, as she had accumulated some coral growth, and I wanted to know if we had lost any of the copper sheathing, as the wood borers of the tropics can do a lot of damage if they enter bare wood. After a couple of days on the slips "THE MAC" was put back in the water. With a new coat of white paint she looked respectable again.

As we were in a sugar cane district, we arranged for the boys to see at first hand how sugar was produced from sugar cane. As sugar cane is a staple diet of the natives they were very interested. I went with them, by train. [21/22] This in itself was something, because they had never seen a train before. At Ayr we were welcomed by the management. The boys were amazed at the huge quantities of cane brought in by train. As they understood English, they were able to follow the explanation of the various processes, from the cane entering the crushers at the beginning to the white sugar coming out at the end of the line. They were amazed at the whole process; they sampled the pulp and were surprised that not a taste of sugar remained. I knew they were anxious to get a piece of cane to chew, and the management told them to help themselves from the rail trucks. They were soon picking out the best eating. The cane was from six to eight feet long, and as they had to go back by train the amount they could take was limited. I wondered if they would be allowed to take their fair-sized bundle of cane on to the train, but nothing was said, so for a while the boys had some of their favourite food.

After a brief stay in Townsville we had to return to Samarai. A few repairs had been done on the engine while we were there. We filled up with fresh water and got some extra stores from Burns Philp; I had to get my clearance papers, and at the last moment the natives had to be counted as we were under a fine if any were left behind. Harbour authorities then informed me I must take on a deep sea captain. I argued that as I had brought the boat from Papua I was quite capable of taking it back, as once through the passage outside [22/23] Townsville we were in clear deep water all the way to the southern end of Papua, which was well-known to us. I had with me my two Europeans who were crew (the engineer and the seaman) and the Bishop. Rev. Needham and his friend had left us and gone South by train.

It was getting towards the end of the S.E. Season, after which cyclonic weather could come at any time, so we decided to leave as soon as possible. This we did when the deep sea captain arrived. Fortunately we had a steady S.E. wind, and I think it took about three and a half days. The wind was on the starboard quarter and it was really a nice run. We did not expect to see any other ships, as we were outside the main shipping lines. When we did sight land we were not far from the southern end of Papua, where we had passed nearly two months before. We were about 30 miles off the China Strait Passage, in which Samarai island is situated, and were headed in the direction of the huge Island of Rogear which was clearly visible. We went though the small passage of Kwato, and there (on 1st. November, 1924) was Samarai in view again. Straight into a bit more red tape. The Customs Officer, who was also the Harbour Master, and a bit officious, stated I had to declare everything I had on board. Some cases of food and the boys' tobacco he said were dutiable. I said those were stores that I had purchased in Samarai before we left, but because I had not filled out an export form they were now classed as imports and were dutiable. I had crossed swords with this official before, and I did not forget this [23/24] piece of officiousness. Many times in the past I had been requested by the Government officials to do various things for them, and one of these things was giving them a tow. The resident magistrates used to go from place to place in whale boats pulled by native policemen and jail birds. To round some of the headlands against a big sea was somewhat of a problem for them, so knowing that "THE MAC" would be along on a date known to all, they were all ready and requested a tow, which was never refused. Now towing a whale boat on the end of a long rope in a following sea was interesting to watch, as one sea would shoot "THE MAC" ahead. The whale boat might be lying in a trough, but not for long! As the tow rope became taut the whale boat would shoot ahead. Good steering prevented it from being pulled over.

I now took up my usual monthly runs, and it was impossible to forecast what would happen each trip. Looking back now, I wish that radio telephone had been available in those early years. Radio station 2FC was broadcasting then, and short wave stations were on the air. Radios started coming into the country, but reception was impossible in daylight. Only when dark could reception be heard, but the static was terrible. Shortly after this, the A.W.A. asked me to take on the trip a receiving and sending radio telephone set. At that time some of the mission stations had a receiving set, and it was arranged that I would speak to the radio station in Samarai in the mornings and evenings. Those [24/25] with a receiving set were able to listen in to our conversation and by this means would get the latest news available. I was hoping that some wealthy person would make a set available permanently to "THE MAC" as we proved that wireless conditions along the coast were good. A set was also lent to Dogura. This was something of a mystery to the natives. Although puzzled by it they took it for granted that it was just another thing that the dim dims (Europeans) came up with.

It happened that I had as a crew boy a brother of a schoolboy at Dogura, and it was arranged for these two boys to speak to one another over the radio in the Wedau tongue. Now to the natives this was a great surprise--they understood the box of tricks speaking English, but to speak in a native language was really something, as it took quite a while to learn to speak in Wedau, and here was a box of tricks that knew it all.

I never knew what to expect on my trips, and at various times I got it all. On one occasion I had spent the weekend at Wedau (Dogura) and left about 6 a.m. to go North. Fifteen miles further on I had to call at Boinnai, which was usual. After putting off their stores and the mail bag I headed across the bay for a Government station, Baniara. It was a calm morning and we were about seven miles off the coast when one of my boys spotted a native boy in the water. We were soon near him when my boys called that there were others, but all separate; and it was a case of picking them up quickly. [25/26] The dinghy was put in the water and went one way while I took "THE MAC" towards the others. Eventually six boys were picked up. Each one had a canoe paddle and had been treading water all night. Their canoe had capsized when crossing the mouth of a river, and the fresh water, which floats on top of salt water, had swept them out to sea. Amongst them was an albino whom I knew, and I guessed then what village they were from. An albino's skin is very tender and this lad looked to be in a bad way. They all wanted a smoke and something to eat. My boys had just cooked half a kerosene tin of rice for themselves, so I said, "Give it to them and cook some more for yourselves." I gave them some tobacco and a few sheets of newspaper, and it was not long before they were back to normal. We returned to land them at their village. To see "THE MAC" returning to the place it had left a while before set those on shore guessing what had happened to cause me to come back. They were surprised when I landed the boys I had plucked out of the sea, but as I was now running late I did not wait to see or hear any results, but continued back to resume my usual trip.

Variety was the spice of my monthly trips. At one place, Okim (which had been a mission station years before) they used to run a lot of cattle. Now, as these cattle were running wild and would destroy native gardens, Bishop Newton asked me to see about shifting them to Dogura. This turned out to be a bigger job than I had thought. Any that were too wild, [26/27] or that could not be caught, were to be killed and the meat given to the natives for helping round them up. I knew nothing about cattle, and it was obvious the job would take me some days. Fortunately the cattle had horns, which was a good place to put a rope. When one was caught, dozens of natives pulled on a long rope down the grassy hill, and it was quite amusing to watch. At times the natives were pulling the beast, and then there would be a mad rush, the natives would scatter and the rope would be twisted around the nearest tree to stop the mad rush. Eventually each beast was coaxed to the water's edge, the rope was transferred to the dinghy and the beast was pulled into the deep water, the head being kept above the water at the back of the dinghy. It was quite helpless with its feet off the bottom. Things had been prepared beforehand on "THE MAC". A canvas sling had been made, and this was put around and under the beast in the water. This meant that one boy had to jump into the water and pull the sling between the beast's legs. It was then hoisted on board. The animals were not too keen on their new quarters, but settled down after sand was put on the deck to give them better foothold. After a couple of days we had loaded all we wanted. The others were shot, to the joy of the local natives. Now we had a dairy herd at hand, so we reaped the benefit of fresh milk.

I think it took two and a half days to Dogura. When it was calm my animal passengers would lie down, but when it became choppy they would stand up and roll about like drunken [27/28] men. When we anchored by boys went ashore to get a few armfuls of grass for them. On arrival at the beach below Dogura, the reverse loading took place. We lifted them up in the sling, swung them over the side and let them drop. They then swam towards the beach, stood for a while to admire the scene and then went off with a mad rush. I decided they were not the best of passengers.

Now for about forty years the Rev. Samuel Tomlinson and his wife had lived on Cape Vogel headland, and on a mound not far from their home (named Dogs Hill) he had kept a light burning every night. This was the only lighthouse on the coast. The Government supplied kerosene, matches, etc., and he lit it personally each night. His boys went with him as it was a nasty little climb, about 200 feet above the sea. As this light was visible about eighteen miles away it was very useful in locating one's position when coming South at night. It was used quite often by the Governor's yacht, so much so that the Government decided an automatic light would be a vast improvement, and asked me to install it on one of my trips. Now here was another case of doing something I knew nothing about, but I agreed to do it and the bits and pieces were sent along. It consisted of a cylinder of acetylene gas, a length of copper pipe and the burning jet; also a sun valve which expanded with sun heat and closed when cool. This regulated the flow of gas, which was lit by a continual burning of a pilot jet. By covering the lamp with a heavy canvas, making it dark, the lamp burned full. Remove the canvas and the [28/29] main flame went out. This, also, was a great puzzle to the natives. It dawned on me, why should I do this for the Government free, when they paid their employees more than I was getting, so I sent an account to the Treasurer at Port Moresby for _5 installation costs. I got a reply asking how I arrived at this fee, so I made up an account--payment in tobacco for boys who carried the lamp up the 200 ft. headland, plus a meal of rice for them, the remainder being my fee for knowing how! I smiled to myself as I posted the letter and the fiver was paid without further question.

Dogs Hill (previously mentioned) got its name in a remarkable way, and this story is firmly believed by the natives. A long time ago there was no fire at this place, but fires could be seen at night on Goodenough Island, which is 8,500 ft. high and about fifteen miles to the east. Goodenough is claimed to be the highest island in the world for its size. Anyway, the natives decided they would send a dog to Goodenough Island to get a fire stick. When the dog got to the Island, a fire stick was tied to its tail, and on the return journey the rough sea just put the flame out. It was decided to send the dog to the Island again, but this time on top of a large flat stone. This proved successful; the dog arrived back on the flat stone with the fire stick still burning. When the stone touched the beach the dog jumped off and ran up the hill through the long dry grass, which caught fire. So, it was named Dogs Hill. The large flat stone is still on the beach--I have seen it myself!

[30] From this place--named MUKAWA--there seemed to be a drastic change in the people. To the South of Mukawa the natives (or boys as we called them, irrespective of age) made very good seamen. They soon learnt the doings on a boat and were very reliable and faithful. At the time when I was in the country I would trust myself to them at night in preference to whites in George Street. Now the females from this place South wore grass or leaf skirts, but from here North the women wore tapa cloth, and the men did not make good seamen, nor in a lot of cases could they be trusted. The further North one went into the ORAKIVA tribe the less trustworthy they were. They were recruited to work on plantations, and natives of this type caused the death of some Europeans whom they betrayed to the Japanese during the Second World War. Among these was a retired naval Captain L.E. Austin, who was in charge of a Government coffee plantation. As far as is known, his own natives bailed him up with his own gun and turned him over to the Japanese, who murdered him.

Now there were a number of old white miners in the Yodda Valley, seeking gold, and the only time they were seen was when they had to change their native labour. Gold was there, but only in small quantities. They were all hoping to find it in larger quantities and were anxious to work the river bed, but this could only be done in the dry season when the water was at its lowest. In the efforts to divert the tributary they spent months diverting the water through little [30/31] canals, and using that water to wash away the banks in different places--only to see it all washed away in a flood. Now they DID get small quantities of gold, but amongst it was osmiridium which was hard to separate from the gold. At that time they did not know that osmiridium was valuable, so they threw it aside. The hardness of osmiridium enabled it to be used on the tips of various articles, such as electrical fittings, where hardness was required. Their gold had to be taken to Samarai, so that they could get more stores. These were taken North in the contract mail boat, which ran irregularly. Quite an amount of gold in old tins or bottles was sent out, by natives, who used to wait on the beach for the boat to arrive.

Many a company was started in Papua in those early days, but all to my knowledge were a flop.

On my first trip I was amazed at the amount of material that had been left at Buna. There were thousands of sheets of steel, huge rollers and hundreds of sacks of rivets. They had been put there to be taken inland to the head of the Kamusi River for the making of pipes. A temporary rail line was laid from Buna, on which trolleys were placed, laden with machinery, which were pushed along, the rail line being picked up and placed in front, and so on. When the money ran out everything was just left, and in the years that followed it was a case of "help yourself," which I admit I did, as friends on the coast asked me to bring them a few sheets of steel. [31/32] What was left was eventually used in the construction of air raid shelters by the Japanese when they landed at Buna. It was on this beach that two European girls were murdered by the Japanese.

There was another company that was gong to find oil on Cape Vogel. They were Americans, assisted by some Australians. They bought thousands of pounds worth of machinery into the country, trans-shipped it to Cape Vogel, and took it inland about eight miles--an immense drilling rig, pipes etc. A European house was erected, mosquito-proofed with gauge wire; there was a European nurse with a valuable collection of medical gear, an automatic electricity plant, a large wireless sending and receiving set. They set up the drilling jig and started boring. The engine was fuelled with petrol which had to be brought one hundred miles from Samarai and then carried inland by natives. A telephone line was fixed from the beach to the site, but this was galvanized wire, which I thought funny, as copper wire is always used. They had two mules which they used to drag the pipes from the beach, and I heard of some amusing incidents when the mules decided to return to the beach with the pipe they had already carried from it. As the Mission gave them any assistance within reason, it was promised a year's free oil when it was found. Holes were drilled and pipes put down, but no signs of oil ever appeared, and as the money ran out the Europeans departed. In the end, only one old European man named Turner remained. He spent his last shilling on petrol, hoping he would strike it. [32/33] The natives played a trick on him which later was found to be for the best. They dropped a lot of old iron down the pipes. That was the end of the drilling and the old chap had to pack up. Bishop Newton had been told about this, and he asked me to pick him up on my next trip and take him for the round voyage. Before this came to a climax I was returning from a trip and I called at the Government station at Baniara and met up with one of the Europeans who had been involved in it. He wanted a passage to Samarai, as he was going to Sydney by the next steamer, so I had a passenger, and as we had to anchor a Wedau for the week-end, the conversation turned to finding oil. To my surprise he produced from his suitcase two pint-size bottles, three parts full of mud, and labelled "No.1 Bore," "No.2 Bore." He suggested I take out the cork and smell the contents. It reeked of the small of oil and I said, "This seems good." Yes," he said, "my own make!" His idea was to leave these bottles in a well-known hotel in Sydney as bait to get more money to continue the search. But, getting back to my old man, he was delighted by the offer of a trip lasting nearly two weeks.

At the last station, on the mouth of the Mamba River, where I had to spend a week-end, there was an old-timer camped in the rest house, who had come down from Bulolo. They soon got acquainted. Soon the remark was heard, "Oh, you're a blacksmith. Well come to Bulolo, there's plenty of work up there," and on my return to Samarai he caught the next steamer. But before he left I said to him, "What's going to happen to [33/34] everything on Cape Vogel?" He had no idea. I suggested that he sign a paper giving the Bishop everything left behind and this he did. I passed the paper on to Bishop Newton, who read it and said, "What are we going to do about this?" It was decided I would go and see what was there when I was returning from my next trip. So, when the time came, I chose a safe anchorage, "Puri Puri", to leave the boat. We packed some food and set out with almost all of the "boys" to walk to the site of the boring, after getting directions from the local natives. I was surprised to see what was there--chairs, tables, medical gear, electricity plant, stretcher beds, cooking utensils, a huge boring engine and plenty of private correspondence regarding the company. There was a huge water tank about fifteen feet in diameter, with an open top, level with the veranda of the house. This was just what I needed after the hot walk and I dived straight in -- it was great. A lot of local native men and women had gathered to find out what this was all about. My boys told them to come back in the morning as we wanted a lot of carriers to take things back to the boat. I slept in the European house, which was closed in by gauge wire. I would have had electric light, but there was no petrol, so I had to make do with a kerosene lamp. In the house I found quite a lot of business correspondence, and as it was too early to go to sleep I decided this was going to be my reading matter as I lay on the bed. Now why this correspondence had not been destroyed was beyond me, because what some of it revealed was amazing, so I bundled it all up. [34/35] In the morning plenty of natives arrived and they were loaded up with anything moveable--men, women and children--[.] The arrangement was that they would be paid when they arrived at the beach, mostly by tobacco and rice. My engine boys got busy unbolting the electricity plant from the cement foundation. This was the heaviest item to take away, but poles were lashed across it and they managed to carry it. I went across to see the boring engine. It was a very large petrol-burning engine and I could see no future use for it, so decided to remove only the magneto and carburettor [sic]. The galvanized telephone wire to the beach was already gone, having been taken by the natives for spears. Everything movable was now on the way to the beach and soon it arrived there safely and the carriers were paid. They were all satisfied. All the articles were loaded on to "THE MAC" and unloaded at Dogura, where the electricity plant was installed and all the other things welcomed.

Earlier I have mentioned the two mules. These were imported by the Mission for ploughing, and previously I had had them as passengers from Samarai to Dogura. They were the worst behaved passengers I had ever had, and it seems they were worse at ploughing. They had only two speeds--stop and full belt. Their time at the Mission was short--they were sold to the oil company and finally left on Cape Vogel. I did hear that one had been seized by an alligator while standing in the water.

[36] One of the most unusual jobs I was called on to do in New Guinea was, I think, when a person I knew very well was accidentally shot. At that time the Anglican minister was not on the island; there was a Roman Catholic priest, but the family wanted an Anglican service. No-one was buried on Samarai, the burial ground being on Rogeir Island, about a mile and a half away. Now "THE MAC" was often offered to carry the casket to Rogeir Island, but this time I was asked to take the service also. With all my dignity, and the help of my wife (who marked the Burial Service in the Prayer Book), and with almost all the Europeans of Samarai present, I conducted the service as reverently as possible, so much so that the Roman Catholic father present thanked me.

On my trips along the coast I never knew what to expect at the next stop; perhaps someone seriously ill, which meant I had to cut short my trip and return to Samarai, travelling night and day.

One happening I remember well. A young woman had arrived in Samarai by the steamer from Sydney. She had come from England to marry a chap on the coast. Unfortunately she was taken ill and could not travel North. She was put into hospital, and I was sent to bring her fiance down to Samarai. This meant travelling day and night to get there and returning as quickly as possible, but I was too late. She died a few hours before I returned, and as burials were always the same day, the funeral had taken place in the afternoon.

[37] Buna and the Kokoda Trail were not known much until the Second World War, when the Japanese landed at Buna to cross the mountains to Port Moresby. However, a monthly mail service by native carriers had been in operation for years. The trip took ten days. Buna Beach, which was all dark sand, was remarkable, being so steep from the water's edge that it was possible for a boat to lie sideways to the beach and for passengers almost to step ashore. Many attempts had been made to fence in a portion for a swimming pool by pushing poles in the sand close together. This encouraged the movement of the sand and within a few days the "swimming pool" was on the beach, not in the water. I had occasion to anchor there on one trip, and as a big sea swell was running I decided to get in close to miss the swell a bit. I got a shock in the morning when I wanted to leave--a sand bank had formed outside the boat and it was too shallow to get over. As this was a Government station a Resident Magistrate lived not far away, and I appealed to him for some help as there always were plenty of prisoners on hand. He sent them all down with the native police, armed with shovels to dig a channel under water so that I could get out. With the aid of the engine and pulling on the anchor, progress was made and I was soon in deep water.

Some of my boys had done term after term with me, so I presume they did not dislike me. One sad thing that I never forgot was when Frederick, a boy from Mukawa who had been with me for more than one term, was accidentally lost. [37/38] I was anchored at Samarai, and it was at the time when I was sleeping ashore. As usual I went on board the following morning to give the crew their jobs for the day, when I was told Frederick was missing. I didn't know what to think for the moment, but soon decided I must look for him. I got under way and went with the tide, as he might have been treading water, but the search was in vain. I had to report this to the Resident Magistrate, who conducted an enquiry. All of my boys were cross-questioned, but none of them had the slightest idea of what had happened, so it was presumed he had accidentally drowned.

Now the amount of copra being brought into Samarai by the trading boats was increasing each month, so much so that the monthly Burns Philp boat was unable to take it all away. As a considerable quantity of the copra went to England this resulted in the larger oversea ships beginning to call. As the charts of the seas around New Guinea were not accurate then, the captains of these ships would be warned of hidden dangers when in Sydney. The ships, of about 15,000 tons, therefore approached with caution and usually anchored in the China Strait. As no pilots or tug boats were available a few of us with local knowledge were approached to offer our services to these ships. China Strait, being inside a lot of islands, was remarkable for the fact that the current ran very fast and could alter with a change of wind. Many a time from now on I was asked to give assistance, for which we were nicely paid. I think [38/39] my first experience with this was the most nerve-racking job I ever undertook. I went on board with the Customs official and was introduced to the Captain as a "local knowledge man." The ship was anchored in the fairway. It was one of the Bank ships twin-screw motor vessel. Having previously studied the run of the tide, I calculated that I would have to go a mile down China Strait past Samarai, turn around and come back against the tide.

From the bridge of the ship, high up, I got quite a different from the one I was accustomed to. The Captain told me to take charge and get under way, and although terribly nervous I told myself I must control myself. Leaning over the front of the bridge, I ordered the Chief Officer who was on duty in the bows of the ship, to wind in the anchor. As soon as the anchor was weighed the Third Officer was on duty on the bridge to carry out any order I gave, write it down and note the time. The Captain did say, "Take it easy--there's plenty of time," and with that I ordered "slow ahead both engines." Folk ashore asked "Who's bringing her in?" and I felt myself calming down a bit as the ship got moving.

I was now down in the position where I had to turn the ship around. I ordered the starboard engine to be stopped, the helm hard to starboard, then the starboard engine slow astern. Fortunately the tide was not very strong and the ship swung around as I intended. I decided I must stop her swinging well before time as I had to point her in the direction of the wharf, so I stopped the starboard engine and ordered it to [39/40] "slow ahead" with the helm coming back amidship. I had to pass an open sea space between Daga Daga and Samarai where the tide would be running sideways. The wharf lay ahead. Now I had to be close enough to enable a heaving line to be thrown on to the wharf. The engines were ticking over dead slow, and as we got nearer to the end of the wharf I ordered both engines to be stopped. Now could a heaving line be thrown to the wharf? This was really a vital time. The line made it and a big crowd of boys pulled the rope to the wharf. I ordered "Stop both," "Slow astern both," a couple more lines were thrown, and I knew now, things were right. Both engines now stopped and the ship was pulled into the wharf and safely made fast. The Captain then invited me into his cabin for a drink--I think he could see I had been under a nervous strain. When he asked me how often I had done this I told him it was the first time, and he congratulated me. Looking back now, I think that was the biggest experience of my life.

A few days later I was requested to take the ship away from the wharf. Because of the shore reef it was necessary to get the bow of the ship away from the wharf first. I did this by going astern on the starboard engine. I ordered "Ahead" on the Port engine and to my amazement they could not start it. I then wanted the starboard engine to go "Ahead". Again a surprise. The Captain said, "Don't stop that engine--they mightn't be able to re-start it." The ship was now beginning to go astern, just the opposite to what I had in mind. As the ship was going straight astern I ordered the helm "Hard [40/41] a Starboard" and "Full speed astern" on that one engine. I said to the Captain, "Will she go straight astern on one engine?" He said, "Yes." Luck was with me. We slid past the shore reef and in a short time we were clear and in deep water. I said goodbye to the Captain and was taken shore in a small boat. The ship continued her voyage to Rabaul.

I applied to the Government to get a Captain's Ticket. No-one was available to examine me so I had to wait for the next steamer, and when she came, her Captain examined me. I was asked a hundred and one questions, but as the examination was for a local Captain's Ticket there were no questions about deep sea matters. It ended up by the Captain saying to me, "You know more than I do about small ships--I've never been in them," So I got my Captain's Ticket, enabling me to take command of any type of vessel in New Guinea waters.

In my life in New Guinea it was amazing how the unexpected used to turn up. When returning from one of my trips I arrived at Wedau/Dogura to find a letter had come overland for me. This instructed me to come on to Samarai at once and go to Port Moresby, as a Burns Philp ship was on the reef. Another steamer was calling at Port Moresby to pick up mail and passengers. The Bishop was in Samarai and wanted to catch that boat. It would be twelve hours before I could get to Samarai, and there I had to re-fuel and arrange for water and stores before I could leave again. Port Moresby was 240 miles away.

[42] I left Dogura as quickly as possible and went on during the night, passing through the East Cape small passage in the early hours of the morning, and arrived at Samarai in the forenoon. It was blowing hard from the S.E., and I pictured it was going to be a rough trip. I didn't want another night at sea, so after getting everything and everybody on board, including the mail, I left, so that I could get as far as possible and anchor for the night. As on my previous trip, we sheltered behind a reef in calm water, but felt the full force of the wind. After a quiet meal, we made ourselves comfortable for the night, dropping the second anchor to be on the safe side. I slept well and awakened bright and early and got under weigh as soon as I could see the passage out through the reef. A big sea was running, and the wind was blowing hard from the S.E., and I could see that we were in for a rough day. With the assistance of the sails we headed direct for Port Moresby, which I hoped to make before dark. The seas were enormous and we were running before them. I told my crew boys that a big ship was on the reef outside Port Moresby and that I was anxious to see it before dark to verify our position. Entering Port Moresby from the south could be very dangerous, as the passage through the reef had to be located before swinging around to enter. Fortunately, just before dark my look-out boy up the mast saw the wreck some miles ahead. As it was on the reef I had to alter course further to sea, to pass the reef and get abreast of Port Moresby. It was well after dark, and though the glasses I [42/43] could see the leading lights to enter Port Moresby. The seas were tremendous and I was on the Port rack. As soon as the light came into line I had to jib to Starboard. I warned my passengers to hang on and told my crew boys what to do, and with my heart in my mouth I brought her round. The lurch was frightening; with the sails now full she was prevented form rolling to Starboard. There was white water everywhere. I kept my eyes glued on the leading lights, and the sea calmed. I knew then we were through the passage. The sails were taken down and we motored into the quiet harbour. I was met by friends who had spotted us before dark, and the Customs for the mails that we had brought from Samarai to go to Sydney. My passengers went to the Rectory. Like me, my boys were tired and hungry. I was invited ashore for a quiet dinner and I think the boys were pleased to see me go, as they could then enjoy their dinner without having to wait on me.

There was no hurry now, so I remained for a couple of days. Then we returned to Samarai inside the reef, by following the Sailing Directions, which were made and proven by Len Murray, Captain of the Governor's yacht "Laurabada." This involved passing shoals of reef and going through narrow passages, so it was impossible to travel at night.

For quite a while now I had been studying Diesel Engineering by correspondence, as I could see that later I would have to leave Papua, or send our daughter South on her [43/44] own for further schooling which was not available in Samarai. So we decided that we would leave the country. I informed my employer and said I would leave in approximately twelve months, to give them time to find another man to take my place. Later a man was found to replace me and he did a few trips with me to learn the ropes.

When my crew boys learned that a change was to take place, I could see that the new man was not going to be popular amongst them. One of my boys who had been with me for years had appointed himself as my personal boy. It didn't matter where I went, or when, he had to go as well. If I was invited out to dinner anywhere on the coast, he would be on hand, and when it was time to return to the boat, well after dark, I would call him by name and he would appear with a kerosene lamp. He had made himself known to my host's boys, and was being entertained in the "boy's house," generally situated in the back yard.

When the new Bishop (Bishop Strong) came to Papua he wanted to see all the mission stations, so I had to wait for him at every place. Sangara and Isivita--thirty miles inland--were most difficult, being on the Kokoda Track. I decided I would go there with him, so I anchored "THE MAC" behind the reef at Senananda--quite a safe place. As I had walked this trip before I knew what to expect, but the Bishop, recently from England, found the walk and the heat [44/45] very trying. The first eighteen miles, to Popendetta, was through flat ten-foot high coarse grass along a single file path. During the next ten miles it was just a climb, at times one step ahead and two back, at various times descending down the gully where cool water ran, and the sight of it helped to revive spirits for a little while. Everyone enjoyed splashing it over their faces and having a little drink. The best drink was from a young coconut which was given us along the track. Unless you've been to the Islands, you don't know how delightful a coconut is. You see, it's not the hard dry coconut you see in the shops in Australia--it's from the half-grown nut which has to be collected from the tree. The liquid inside makes the meat of the nut and is very nourishing.

We arrived at Sangara in the afternoon, hot, sweating and tired, and were met by the teacher, nurse and native boys. A cup of tea was waiting, as news had travelled ahead that we were coming. The Bishop was warmly welcomed--perhaps not as much as he welcomed a shower and a change into dry clothes. I may mention here that the nurse and the teacher mentioned were the two who were murdered by the Japanese on Buna beach--Margery Brenchley and Lilla Lashmar. After a most welcome dinner, there was quite a lot of talking to do!

The next day a huge crowd of natives arrived to see and hear the new Bishop. He addressed the crowd through an interpreter, the Rev. Henry Holland. (He, also, was murdered later). In the evening we walked a mile or so further on [45/46] to the home of Captain Austin and his wife. He was in charge of a Government-run coffee plantation. (When the Japanese came, he was betrayed by his own natives and murdered--fortunately his wife was in Sydney at the time. As I mentioned earlier, these Northern natives could not be trusted as much as the more Southern boys).

I recall that one night I anchored at Buna, with one white lady passenger. In the distance a huge native dance was in progress, and the drums and singing could be plainly heard. I said, "Would you like to see the native dance?" "Yes," she said, but I think when she saw it she was sorry she had said Yes." Taking a couple of my boys with us we walked to the spot. The sight surprised me. Hundreds were lined up, a group [on] each end of the spot facing each other, waving spears and clubs. They were yelling as the huge mob danced towards each other. There were pigs and dogs everywhere. To be honest, I was a bit uneasy. Each time the crowd met in the middle a pig was pulled out by its hind legs and clubbed. The squealling added to the horror of it all. When they met again, if the pig was not dead it was clubbed again. When it was dead another one was brought forward. We were not recognized at all, and after a while we decided we had seen enough of this sickly business, when, to my surprise, one of the chiefs brought to us, as a gift, a leg of one of these pigs we had seen killed, dripping blood. I accepted it. My personal boys took it from him and thanked him for us--they were all smiles [46/47] as they knew we would not eat it, but they would!

Now, as I had decided to leave the country, the new Bishop tried to change my mind. He was a bit unhappy about my leaving when he had just arrived. At about that time I went South on holiday, and decided to leave my wife and daughter (Betsy) there, whilst I returned for twelve months on my own. Having gained my diploma on Diesel Engines I felt this would help me find a position later. I approached prominent people in Papua for references and got more than I expected. I was given a Farewell in Samarai, so that was the end of my experiences in Papua, and the year was 1938.

Now, I had to start almost a new life, in New South Wales. The next thing was a job -engineer on the ferries, I had thought. Investigation proved that I had to get a Marine Engineer's Ticket--my Diploma was not recognized in New South Wales. So I sat for my Ticket while engineering was on my mind, and after two days of worry I passed, and got a Third Class Marine Ticket. Now I could look for a job and join the Union. I was informed that an engineer was needed on Peats Ferries on the Hawkesbury River, so I took the position and went up by train to see what it was all about. There were ten engineers, most with steam tickets, but as I held a Diesel Ticket I was senior to them. There were two engineers on each boat. The position seemed very suitable and I settled into it. I located a small cottage and my wife and daughter joined me. I had to pay rent (for the first time [47/48] in my life.), so I decided I would buy a block of land and build a small cottage, which I did. I was not too happy, as the local school was still only a small one, and I wanted to get my daughter into a bigger one. After three years, just by chance I heard of a position on Sydney Harbour. I lost no time in going after it, and thanks to my references and my Tickets, I got the position and came to Sydney to live.

It was in 1942 that I got a surprise. The War was in full swing and the Japanese had landed on the N.E. Coast of Papua--a place well known to me. The Americans were taking aerial photographs of the coast along which I had passed for eighteen years, as they were anxious to get as much knowledge of the coast as possible. Len Murray, previously the Captain of the Governor's yacht, suggested that I was the only one left alive who would be able to help, so a search was on to find me. Through my previous employer they located me. So one lunch time I was sitting on the deck enjoying a meal when my then employer informed me I was wanted. On going ashore to find out what it was all about I was confronted by big American brass. "Was I Fred Rennels? Prove it" At that time I had in my possession a Government pass, enabling me to board any ship in Sydney Harbour, and my employer also vouched for my honesty. Further questions--Was I acquainted with the N.E. coast of Papua? Would I assist them in any possible way? I readily agreed. Was I prepared to go to General Macarthur's offices in Brisbane--study maps, [48/49] photographs, etc., in the Hygro. [sic] Branch. Would I report to their Sydney office that afternoon? So I went home, changed and went into their Sydney office. Here I confronted some more Brass, and told them I had instructions to report to them. I got a very abrupt reply--"I don't know anything about you!" I tried to explain, but all to no avail. "O.K.," I said, "I'm going home. Here's my telephone number." So I caught a tram and went home, having previously rung my wife to say I was on my way home. Arrived home, I found a car full of American Brass awaiting my return and regretting the mix-up. They asked if I'd go to Brisbane in the morning. A car was duly sent for me with a lady driver, who drove me to the airport where a 'plane was waiting with American personnel already on board. Silence was golden--no-one spoke. The trip to Brisbane took three hours. We landed twice--where, I don't know--picking up a bit more Brass.

At Brisbane a car was waiting for me (also with a lady driver) and I was driven to a hotel. Accommodation had previously been booked for me. I had with me a telegram that had been sent to me from Brisbane, also a card, which was a pass to show the guard, to enter the building. As I did not feel too well, I went to bed and did not report to the Offices. I had an attack of malaria (which I had had many a time before). Next day I went to the Headquarters, still not feeling well. Here I met various Papuan Government Officers, also Leonard [49/50] Murray, who greeted me, and introduced me to more Top Brass of the Navy, Army and Air Force. From then on I was shown photographs of the coastline taken from the air in various places. There were strange to me, as I had not seen the coastline taken from the air before. I was informed that outside the building I had to keep my knowledge to myself. From then on I was questioned on the coast in the vicinity of Oro Bay, Eroro, Buna, Gona--depths of water, tides, and anything that would assist or hinder a landing. Everything I said was taken down on paper, I presume by a shorthand writer. During the next couple of days I was interviewed by the Navy, Army and Air Force in turn, and as I was asked almost the same questions, I presume they were wanting to know if I could remember what I had said on the previous days. I decided to ask what it was all leading to. They then said it was a preparation for landing troops, to get to the Buna area. There were so many reefs from Eroro and Gona, and not charted, that it was almost impossible to land between these two places. They had in mind a harbour called Port Harvey. I then pointed out that the landing from there was almost impossible as the sides were steep. I suggested Oro Bay and Eroro Beach--both places were free from reef, with beach landings. From Cape Nelson fiords to Eroro was approximately 70 miles across Dyke Acklin Bay. This was the route that was going to be taken by the invasion force. Leonard Murray was very worried. He said that Captain Austin, who also was a Captain on the coast, had reported a large [50/51] reef in the middle of the Bay, but I assured them it was not so. I had cris-crossed this Bay hundreds of times, day and night, and not seen anything. What I think Captain Austin had seen was a massive floating object that came out of the Musi River. I myself had seen similar things, like islands, even with a coconut tree thereon.

I was asked would I go to Papua and pilot the destroyer "Warramunga" that was in charge of the flotilla. This I refused, as I had already promised my family I would not return to Papua. I was sorry later that I did not accept it, as I felt at the last moment that I had let them down.

Whilst in Brisbane I looked up some of my old Papuan friends. I heard that one lady I knew well was working in the gardening section of a local store. Walking into the store, I spotted her serving a customer. I decided I would take her by surprise. Walking up to the counter and butting in I said, "Excuse me; have you got any young coconut trees?" She looked up, ready to tell me off. "My Godfather," she said, "it's Fred!" The customer did not know what to make of it. Anyway, that evening I had dinner with her and her sister.

After a couple of weeks in Brisbane, I returned to Sydney to continue my usual occupation, which I held for 23 years until retirement.

[signed] F Rennels

Project Canterbury