MORRISET, NSW - This photo from the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney shows MV Laurabada on her trial voyage to test the engines in Sydney Harbour in 1924.
Her officers and Papuan crew, in Sydney for the sea trials, pose on her prow and bowsprit.
Laurabada was one of the last Australian government vessels to have a carved wooden figurehead on her prow.
It represented a Papuan maiden signifying the south-east trade winds which heralded the start of the Hiri voyaging season.
The Brisbane Telegraph reported on the trial in the edition of Saturday, 9 February 1924.
The story is quaintly written and there are hints of the casual racism of the time:
THE LAURABADA - NEW PAPUAN MOTOR BOAT
The Laurabada's trial trip was a graceful hesitation waltz round Sydney Harbour, with a meander up and down the coast as an extra polish to her new engines.
Who is Laura — what is she?
The new motor-boat, built for the Papuan Government service, enters no competition with steamers that trundle up and down the Pacific, earning their fuel picking up cargo, unloading stores, putting down a few passengers here and there, and getting on with their business.
Laurabada means the south-east trade wind, and that means nearly everything in the tropics.
It cools the heated argument, and wafts away the mosquitoes, and it is the white man's consolation prize after the worst heat of the year.
There are 4,000 miles of coast, including the island navigation, round the Papuan water-front.
And unless the Lieutenant-Governor and his staff do their travelling by boot, or where the rough and mountainous paths permit, on horseback, they must have a craft to take stores, and pay official visits in remote parts of the dusky territory.
The Merrie England, ill-fated name, was wrecked in 1914.
Later in the procession of years there was a second Government launch for Papua, of the same name.
Something went wrong with her benzine tank and the boat blew up.
After this tragedy there was an Interregnum, and there will never be another Merrie England in the Port Moresby Government service.
The trial trip of the Laurabada worked out at ten and a-half knots, even in her unfinished state, for she dragged a little, owing to being still uncoppered at the bottom.
Trim and shapely, painted white, fitted up with cedar, built of Australian timber with the exception of a little Oregon above her water line, this attractive motor-boat is a credit to Australian ship builders.
The enterprising firm of Morrison and Sinclair got the contract and built the island craft in their yards at Longnose Point [in the Sydney harbourside suburb of Balmain].
She draws eight feet of water, has hold capacity of 40 tons, carries eight passengers, when required, will also have accommodation for ten Papuans, in those official trips to lone stations - bringing both native police and prisoners - if any, to headquarters.
The launch is propelled by two Fairbanks Morse CO engines — each with 100 horse-power.
One of Laurabada’s most dramatic voyages occurred in 1942 when she made an heroic journey to Japanese-occupied Rabaul.
Under the captaincy of Ivan Champion, she rescued 156 soldiers and civilians from Rabaul and along the New Britain coast before her triumphant return to Port Moresby, overloaded and listing.
The Pacific Islands Monthly of 1 June 1951, reported that Laurabada was scrapped in that year due to extensive rot and rust after long and eventful service of 27 years.
Geoff Hancock writes:
Ten years ago I made some inquiries on the fate of the Laurabada and found she was not scrapped after being retired from government service in 1951.
Sadly, she was left to rot on the beach in front of the government offices at Konedobu until being rescued by shipwright Ted Yabsley in the early 1960s.
Ted spent six years restoring her to her former glory at his boat building yard at Badili, where Laurabada was converted into a coastal trading vessel.
Ivan Champion, Laurabada's captain during her government days, took charge of her once again for a time.
So did other skippers including Milton Cotterell and Karl Kramer.
Laurabada was used on the Port Moresby to Daru run and also did some trips from Moresby to Lae.
Ted Yabsley eventually sold Laurabada in 1972. She ended up in the Mariana Islands doing charter work, but eventually sank in bad weather.