Kalibobo Spirit, Matafun

Kalibobo Spirit, Matafun

Sibona Mani with Kalibobo in Background at Matafun

Sibona Mani with Kalibobo in Background at Matafun

Prof Russell Blong, Chris McKee and helpers taking a break

Prof Russell Blong, Chris McKee and helpers taking a break

Chris McKee poining out a tree for dating

Chris McKee poining out a tree for dating

Charcoal Log

Charcoal Log

Sakao Village

Sakao Village

Pt Kiau Inpatients Ward.  Only medical post working on Long Island

Pt Kiau Inpatients Ward. Only medical post working on Long Island

Mot Mot Island - Lake Wisdom in crater of Long Island

Mot Mot Island - Lake Wisdom in crater of Long Island

Malala Creek, overflow from Lake Wisdom providing thousands of litres of water running into the sea whilst the rest of the Island is drought stricken.

Malala Creek, overflow from Lake Wisdom providing thousands of litres of water running into the sea whilst the rest of the Island is drought stricken.

Dadok, Traditional Leader, Madang

Dadok, Traditional Leader, Madang

Dadok & Mary Mennis relaxing aboard the Kalibobo Spirit

Dadok & Mary Mennis relaxing aboard the Kalibobo Spirit

Dr Stewart Fallon back in Madang with samples of carbind ready to transport to Australia outside the Kalibobo Spirit

Dr Stewart Fallon back in Madang with samples of carbind ready to transport to Australia outside the Kalibobo Spirit

Mt Reamur, Long Island

Mt Reamur, Long Island

FRIDAY JUNE 20, 2014

Last week we did a special cruise aboard the Kalibobo Spirit to Long Island with several scientists to collect some material to helpcarbon date the time of the eruption on Long Island which could be amongst the 10 largest eruptions over the past 600 years.   I have written the undermentonied article which will appear in the PNG Media and in Air Niugini Paradise magazine.  I hope you enjoy reading.

TAIM TUDAK  (Time of Darkness)

 More than 300 years ago a massive volcanic eruption caused darkness to fall over most of the highland provinces of Papua New Guinea.  this brief event in PNG  resulted in a multitude of legends that describe a “time of darkness”.

Early missionaries and anthropologists gradually began collating legends from areas that had no history of any relationship with each other, different terrains, languages and tribal wars meant that each legend was very parochial, yet when the stories began to emerge after colonisation and pacification amongst the various tribes there was an amazing similarity between the legends.  They all described a time of darkness lasting one or two days, when sand fell from the sky and destroyed gardens and people and animals . It is also interesting to note that the famous Russian Naturalist, Nicholay Mikloucho-Maclay who first settled in 1971 at Gorendu Village on the Rai Coast of Madang was made aware of the time of darkness his diaries again supporting the same basic information from the legends documented by early missionaries and anthropologists based throughout the Highlands or PNG including Mt Hagen, Wahgi Valley, Tari, and Wapenamanda.It was the consistency of this information that bought about intrigue and ultimately the need to further research the extent of this massive eruption. It is easy to sit back today and read the work done by many internationally acclaimed anthropologists, geologists, archaeologists and volcanologists having been able to identify that the eruption occurred on Long Island 70 miles east of Madang and 30 miles North of Saidor. Professor Russell Blonghas written many papers and a book based on the Long Island eruption titled “Time of Darkness”  was  first published in 1982. Now at the age of 70 he continues to undertake research to find out more about the eruption, in particular a more accurate date for the actual eruption. This eruption is now regarded as one of the 10 largest eruptions anywhere in the world in the last six hundred years.  My interest in Long Island over 40 years as a Tourist Operator, operating small expeditionary vessels to most of the maritime islands in PNG including the Sepik River.    This interest was further enhanced during my term as Regional Member, Governor of Madang  and as a National Minister   during which time I personally  experienced a number of eruptions at Manam Island, Rabaul and West New Britain.   This interest prompted me to make contact with the various academics and scientists.  It did not take long before I was  communicating with  Professor Russell Blong, Dr Stewart Fallon, Chris McKee,  Mary Mennis a well known author on Madang culture, Professor Glenn Summerhayes, Louise Mourata, and Jared Diamond. We were then able to set a date for a special visit to Long Island on 13-16 June 2014 aboard my vessel, the Kalibobo Spirit. The day before departure, an old friend of mine living at Sugalau Dadok Tamsen  who was born on Bagabag Island, lived most part of his life on Graged Island (Mittibog Is) opposite the Madang Resort and a very respected and agile person with a sharp mind of early colonial life in Madang joined the group. Our small group of scientists boarded the Kalibobo Spirit and sailed the 70nm across the Bismarck Sea  to Matafun on Long Island in strong SE Winds with moderate seas arriving at first light.  Professor Blong reminded me of his first visit (with Chris McKee) in 1976 which had taken him 14 hours in rough weather, they went ashore, met some of the many people I know on Long Island, met an SIL Family who had just completed the translation of the new testament after 28 years living amongst the people.   Prof Blong, Dr Fallon, Chris McKee and Dadok set about walking up the dry creek bed in search for old charcoaled logs  that had been buried and preserved by the eruption and that could be used to more accurately determine the date of themassive Long Island eruption.     Mary set about scouring the shoreline for any remnants of pottery and visiting a small impromptu “sing sing” performed to celebrate a birthday and launch of the New Testament  in their language. The group returned to Matafun in the early afternoon satisfied with having been able to extract material they felt could provide the information required.  We  departed Matafun and headed for Pt. Kiau which is basically a lighthouse and small Aid Post on the  North Western tip of Long Island under Mt  Reaumur and to the north of the huge caldera measuring 13kms long by 8kms wide and occupied by Lake Wisdom which is up to 300 m deep.     This is possibly the largest fresh water lake in the Pacific and being several hundred metres above sea level and maintaining constant level it could ultimately serve in making Long Island one of the most productive agricultural islands in the region with an unlimited source of water and potential hydro power. Strong SE winds reaching 40kts deterred us proceeding to Malala and we anchored at Pt Kiau and spent some time talking to the people about our purpose for the visit and it was not long before they were describing a buried village Long way liklik’, or ‘close to liklik’ – a  very confusing method of depicting distance. The result was that the group never reached ‘Pompeii in the Pacific’ and the team returned to the ship to cool off with an ale and the air conditioning. In previous years, the Melanesian Foundation  had funded the Lutheran Health Services to build an aid post and house at Pt. Kiau.  The Nursing Officer who was the only trained medical person on the Island had no medicine and was caring for a patient under a shelter made on the beach who was on the drip. The Matafun Health Centre was closed and I never did determine if Bok Aid Post was operational, but I was assured there was no medicine, which resulted in us having to leave medicine ourselves on the island.  The reason given for the closure of health services was no water, no radio, no medicine, no boat, bad weather (dry and SE winds) and all the medical staff had ‘run away’. Interestingly enough, prior to departure, I contacted the Provincial Health Office and advised them we would be visiting Long Island and would be happy to take whatever medicine is available – no response! The next day we visited Surao/Sakao River on the north western side of Mt Reaumur where the scientific group walked along the dry creek bed and located good carbonised trees where charcoal was extracted and carried back to the Kalibobo Spirit. The brief visit to Long Island was  very successful. Dr Fallon will process the samples bought back to the radiocarbon dating laboratory at the Australian National University in Canberra. It is expected some results will emerge in the next few months providing an estimate of the date of the eruption to within 10-15 years,and possibly more accurately –quite  amazing. Krakatoa and other volcanoes have been well researched and documented.   Long Island is in ‘the ring of fire’ which in PNG includes Manam, KarKar, Bagabag, Long Island, Tolikiwa, Rabaul,  Ritter, Umboi, Talasea, Cape Gloucester and volcanoes on  Bougainville. An improved estimate of the time of the last major eruption on Long Island will give us a clearer idea of just how long the ‘taim tudak’ stories have been passed down from generation to generation and a better idea of the actual size of the eruption. The improved age estimate will also help us date changes in prehistoric agricultural activity at the Kuk World Heritage site near Mt Hagen,

So many times research is carried out and so little of this information is provided to the public yet the information provided by research can effect not only the future but also enhance our understanding of the past.

 

Peter Barter

 

Kalibobo Spirit at Sunset at Busen Village, Kar Kar Island

Kalibobo Spirit at Sunset at Busen Village, Kar Kar Island

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Kalibobo at Kitava Island

The luxurious "Kalibobo Spirit" motor yacht is available for charter in the coastal waters and rivers of Papua New Guinea.

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The Madang Resort (formerly Hotel Madang) remains PNG's most popular tourist resort and conference centre offering 180 guest suites with facilities that include PADI dive shop, Gift Shop, Art Gallery, Hair Salon, Business Centre, Tour Office, 3 restaurants, 4 pools, Gymnasium, 2 lagoons, a marina, PADI Dive Facility, Game Fishing and much more.

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Aerial View of Kalibobo Village Lagoon

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Diving reefs in Madang Marine Park

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Sing Sing, Wahgi Valley

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