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From the Kundiawa News 50 years ago today


Kundiawa News, Number 23, 20 November 1964


For 24 hours this week I was ‘lost’ inside the Queen’s Cave in the Yonggamugl, north of Kundiawa, when a torch failed. And I’m not afraid to admit I was scared. Even the normally placid Bob Orreill was worried. I suppose I should have taken notice of my desk calendar for last weekend which blandly warned, ‘Solitude at length grows tiresome’.

A queer mixture of coincidence and chance let us miss the main party of cavers as they return to the entrance. I remember Bob saying he was “accident prone”. We made a couple of attempts to get out on Sunday afternoon but they were unsuccessful. Clambering over rocks in pitch darkness is not my idea of fun.

At one point, we came upon a large hole in the cave floor. We could hear the sound of a river below. Next day we were told by a member of the rescue party that it was at elast 60 feet deep. I felt rather sick.

Conditions are pleasant when moving around underground but, if you are motionless for any length of time, coldness comes quickly. When trying to sleep, every so often Bob and I had to get up to exercise to keep warm – running on the spot, slapping ourselves to restore circulation, jumping up and down. But any warmth we gained soon disappeared. Once I slept continuously for a six-hour period and on awakening was practically frozen stiff.

With the darkness, the cold, the hunger and the doubt as to how long before we would be found, the whole incident had developed into a nightmare. When our luminous watches showed that it was 6 am, we made yet another attempt to get out. In the darkness our efforts were futile. We would move a short distance and sit down for a lengthy period. Why? I can’t say for sure. I was feeling rather ill and it seemed that we had plenty of time. I have never before felt so helpless and discouraged.

At one pause, we heard a bat circling the cavern. Bob suggested we wait around as it was probably going outside for food. If the bat found the exit we would have some idea of in which direction it was. After an uneventful 10 minutes, we moved on a few yards and suddenly the creature was gone. Now realising our only hope lay with a search party, we returned to our cave. I slept restlessly for a couple more hours.

At a quarter to eleven, we moved to the floor of the main chamber and began to whistle, yodel and shout. Bob whistled S-O-S until he was dry as a bone. Our signals hardly seemed to travel 10 feet. Then a few minutes before 11 Bob noticed a glow. “I think they’re here,” he said. “Here we are!” I shouted. Bob and I cheered and shouted as the searchers yelled to us.

I was never so glad to see the face of Terry Shelley.

It didn’t take us long to get back to the search centre at the entrance to the cave system. I drank two mugs of a hot liquid and a little after 11.30 emerged from the cave a few minutes before Bob Orreill. We had been underground for more than 24 hours, most of the time in total darkness.

Looking back on the experience now, it seems difficult to believe that such a short time in darkness can be so frightening. The things you think can be unreasonable and illogical. There are plenty of things to be imagined. On sympathises with miners trapped underground for days and days.

Thanks must go to all the European and Indigenous volunteers who made up the search party. The efficiency of the search reflects great credit on those who organised it. A team of professionals could not have done a better job.


A land dispute which had its background in the days of early penetration of the Upper Chimbu area 30 years ago has been settled by Land Titles Commissioner Mr MB Orken after a hearing that lasted three days. The dispute was between the Maguagu and Kukane people.

Until the first European penetration, the Kukane occupied an area of land known as Bendam. However after a section of the group murdered a missionary in early 1934, the Kukane were somewhat dispersed and the Maguagu occupied their former land in ever-increasing numbers.

By 1954, relations between the two groups had become so strained that the then Assistant District Officer, Mr Kelly, had to send a policeman into the area to settle the dispute. The policeman favoured the Maguagu in his decision  and fixed a boundary which gave all of the Bendam area to them.

Three months ago, the ADO Gembogl, Mr WH Biscoe, assisted by Cadet patrol Officer Orriell, did a thorough investigation of the situation – traversing the entire Bendam area, preparing genealogies of both groups and taking statements from spokesmen. At the hearing last week, Mr Biscoe appeared on behalf of the Director of District Administration.

At the conclusion of the hearing, conducted in the Waiye Council Chambers, the Commissioner decided in favour of the Kukane and re-designated the boundary which restored to the Kukane part of the land they had formerly occupied.


The Kundiawa News will have its 24thand last issue for 1964 on sale in another fortnight. The first year of publication has been one of ups and downs for the newspaper. It has probably been criticised more than any other single person or institution in Kundiawa – and in many cases rightfully so.

This very column, because of its tendency towards outspokenness, has been reprimanded, chastised, castigated, censured, reproached, disparaged, denounced, abused, condemned and vilified by citizens who normally would refrain from entering any public discussion. This is good.

Have you noticed the amount of publicity on the news and ion the press that Kundiawa has been getting lately? All started with Ray Anderson’s Moresby trip with some Grade 6 schoolboys – well covered in the South Pacific Post and over the regional news. Then the exploits of Orriell and Jackson in the Yonggamugl came in for an extremely vivid news report over the ABC. This was followed the next day by a comprehensive broadcast of the Gembogl area land rights dispute, reported fully in this issue. Meanwhile our Minj correspondent bitterly comments that his area is getting no news prominence, You people should do something exciting or interesting or something.

It seems as though we are going to be in for a very quiet Christmas. The next few weeks will see many people taking off for the big smoke. Let’s hope most of them will come back. And congratulations to those town residents who have enough ‘oomph’ to get on with building the cricket pitch. With the interest now being shown in cricket it will certainly be an asset. Let’s hope also that the annual general meeting of the Club will inject some life into that institution. Things seem to be coming to a standstill socially. A social secretary is a necessity to push things along – we must have someone.


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Hans Tuckerman

Keith, Thank you and appreciate your reply. I have my doubts about the alleged claims. And believe me there are many - too many to mention. I do hope that one of your readers may be able to shed some light on who he was and what he did in PNG. The only true facts I am aware of is that he worked as a Plantation Manager in Buka and Rakunda (Duke of York Island) in the late 50's to early 60's. After that I believe he moved to the Highlands. If there is anyone out there who has some knowledge and willing to assist I would be most grateful. Please feel free to email me direct on [email protected]

Once again KJ, I commend you on the articles you have written. I accidentally came across it whilst searching for Peter Tuckerman and now I am hooked. Love to be able to read the originals of the Kundiawa News and any early chronicles of Rabaul as I was born there.

Hans Tuckerman

Hi Keith, Your reminiscences of the Kundiawa News in the early 60's were very interesting reading.

During your years in the highlands of PNG did you ever come across a Peter Tuckerman.

I am trying to find out what he did whilst he was in PNG. He claims to have owned a hotel in Kundiawa and flew his Cessna 185 around the highlands.

I am not able to get any confirmation on his occupation etc and hope you may be able to assist with your extensive knowledge of the people in the highlands both expatriates and indigenous.

Thanking you in anticipation.

I know the name, Hans, but don't believe I ever met Peter. Other readers may be able to help. I'm pretty sure he never owned the Kundiawa Hotel (that was ex kiap Dick Kelaart) or owned a Cessna 185 (although there were many of them around at the time) - KJ

Mathias Kin

I hear the cave at Chuave in the land of the Gomia tribe is longer. It goes for kilometres I am told.

Jimmy Awagl

Keith, great to expose this discourse. Alluvial miners are also known for getting trapped in the caves of Yongomugl.

However, Yongomugl people are well known for carrying whole logs beneath Mt Kerigomina all the way to Wara Simbu to set up the bridge for the cars to pass over.

If one can confirm this story my father told me as he was engaged as tultul to supervise the transporting of this whole log along the slopes of Galmabondi to Wara Simbu.

In the 1960s it was said that there were certain people who knew how to navigate through the cave system. Never managed to identify them - KJ

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