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A kiap, the Biami people & the construction of an airstrip


NOOSA – There’s a wealth of visual material (both video and still images) on the internet derived from Papua New Guinea’s colonial days.

YouTube in particular yields much of value and I reckon there’s a useful retirement job there for some worthy to assemble, classify and develop a compendium of all that there is.

Quite apart its obvious utility as an archive and educational aid, such a guide would be of great use to Papua New Guineans who have lost touch with their own, even quite recent, history.

Anyhow, that’s by way of introducing a wonderful visual documentary - a creative presentation of photographs taken I assume by patrol officer Bob Hoad who was stationed at the remote outpost of Nomad in 1962-64.

The 11-minute documentary, crafted with skill by an outfit calling itself Bruffies Productions, has no narrative but the first rate and compelling images and strong musical track (Masters Apprentices, Flash & the Pan, Meatloaf) give it all the meaning and emotion you need.

Only the title is prosaic, ‘Nomad Station PNG, 1962-64’. That must have been suggested by a kiap.

NomadNomad is remote. Deep in the hinterland of the Western Province and close to no place you’d know. Even Google maps show it as, well, show it…. Barely.

Kiap Laurie Meintjes who spent some time there with his young family later wrote: “The shelf-life of the kiaps at Nomad River was relatively short. This was not surprising because the isolation, the reliance upon a none-too-reliable air service, the rugged nature of the patrolling, and the constant need for vigilance among defiant tribesmen who didn’t always appreciate our efforts...”

The patrol post was established in the 1950s and Bob Hoad was despatched there in 1962 to construct the airstrip.

As Phil Fitzpatrick, himself there as a patrol officer in 1971-72, commented to me, “[The video] shows how bloody hard it was to build airstrips. Men with stone axes just 10 years or so before independence.”

‘Nomad Station’ has all this plus spectacular air drops of supplies and magnificent photography of the Biami people of that region.

If you haven't seen it already, I hope you watch this short documentary on YouTube here. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.


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Anson (Ted) Goater

Watching that excellent video brought back memories.

I used to fly Cessna 180/185s into Nomad River back in the early sixties and remember the Kiap - Bob Hoad - at the time. The priority when loading the aircraft back in Port Moresby was first the mailbag followed by the case of beer.

The airstrip was in its early stages of construction, was very short and got quite boggy after rain.

Some years later I flew TAA DC-3s into the same strip and got well and truly bogged. The shot of the locals pushing the aircraft back could very easily have been the occasion.

Daniel Claasen | Kenya

Can only agree, Keith. Great photos, good production and matching sound track. The Meatloaf sequence brought a tear of nostalgia to the eye!

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think George Brough might have something to do with Bruffies Productions Keith.

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