There are still villagers living in Papua New
Guinea’s Duke of York islands who have never seen white people before.
No, it’s not me making this claim but a senior crew
member on an up-market cruise vessel which sailed PNG waters in recent months.
Reporting on the phenomenon in Saturday’s Traveller lift-out in The
Age and Sydney Morning Herald, writer Craig Tansley lets slip this
The cruise ship’s marine biologist, no less, imparted
this piece of wisdom to passengers. “Most of the people around here haven’t
seen white people before. You imagine if a spaceship landed in your suburb at
home and all these funny looking aliens came out with their funny little
gadgets - what do you reckon you’d do?”
Now, as I said, this was not a remote western
highlands valley, nor the deep jungle border separating PNG from the Indonesian
province of Papua. It was said to have happened in the Duke of York islands.
Someone should point out to Mr Tansley, and
certainly the cruise vessel’s marine biologist, that German planters,
missionaries and beachcombers were well ensconced in this picturesque locality
decades before World War I.
This aside, Tansley’s article, accompanied by some
excellent colour photos, painted a glowing picture of coastal PNG. Similar to
blog editor Keith and Ingrid Jackson’s voyage aboard the MY Orion in
late 2006, Tansley and fellow travellers visited a number of spots - the Duke
of Yorks, east New Britain, the tiny atolls of the Luscanays and thence to the
D’Entrecasteaux islands and Alotau in the Milne Bay Province.
But even here Tansley strays into dangerous
territory. Describing an idyllic white-pebbled beach scene in East New Britain,
he mentions that it’s in the Jacquinot Bay area of “New Britain’s unexplored
What? Our intrepid kiaps - not to mention planters,
missionaries and World War II troops - never set foot on New Britain’s east
coast or its beaches?
Again, the travelogue suffers from lack of
research, preferring to paint glowing word pictures of maritime communities and
PNG’s wealth of flora and fauna.
Nevertheless the travel yarn does give PNG a bit of
a profile and, in these economically straitened times, that can’t be a bad
Photo: Craig Tansley again in dangerous territory
near Gallipoli [Sydney Morning Herald]