Home' Ausmarine : January 2011 Contents The 'Fairwind'
You may remember that I wrote something about a vessel
named the 'Fairwind', lost at sea in bad weather between North
Solitary Island and Newcastle in 1950.
It caught the eye of a Mr Vern Gabriel who was born in Port
Moresby in 1933 and whose father was an accountant with Burns
Philp & Co and manager of the Samarai Branch in the southeast
corner of Papua. Vern later joined BP and worked in Samarai,
Madang, and Lae as Shipping Manager and Travel and Customs
Agent. He and his good lady, Joyce, moved to Cairns in 1979.
As Vern writes: In 1950, in Samarai and just out of college, I
remember the 'Fairwind' calling there on its way to Port Moresby
and Australia; in fact, being interested in ships and fishing I was
shown over her. As I recall, she was an Australian ex-Army supply
vessel of some 300 gross tonnes with two hatches and goalposts
supporting twin derricks back to back. These vessels were quite
common in Papua New Guinea after the war and, if Aussie-built,
would be fitted with either a British Polar or Allen diesel. 'Fairwind'
left a Lister-powered wooden launch of about 25 feet with the local
administration and it served everyone well for several years.
In Samarai we heard about the loss through AWA Coastal Radio
which was the main communication link with coastal and overseas
ships throughout the islands. We presumed a cyclone had caught
her, but perhaps that would be too far south. Maybe it was a
sudden rogue sea which can suddenly appear from nowhere along
the edge of the shelf in very bad weather.
GOB's note: In the cool sou'east season, in which Samarai seems
to be an ideal place, I had a walk around the little island in '77 (I
think), on our way from Moresby to Kavieng in New Ireland on a
confiscated Japanese tuna boat, it having had the bad luck to meet
a navy patrol boat whilst operating in PNG waters illegally. She
was now one of ours and, ironically, was truckin' a heap of gear to
our new Fisheries College built by Japan in return for entry into
the tuna fishery!
Is that all?
Akchully, no. On the mainland just across from Samarai lies
Alotau which is the district HQ. It was to there that a patrol boat
had escorted two Taiwanese clam poachers of the sort which used
to tonk-tonk around the Pacific nicking other peoples' giant clams,
a high value item back home. I once wrote up that fishery in
Professional Fisherman as, "Slow Boat from China."
Seeing that there were no spare lawyers I copped the job of
prosecution. Luckily I managed to find an Aussie ex-missionary
who spoke Mandarin -- or was it Cantonese? So that an otherwise
very difficult job wasn't too bad. The first case was soon disposed
of as the prosecution witness was an RAN officer who knew his
stuff. The poaching skipper was jailed and the boat confiscated.
The defence in the second case hinged on the matter of a crew
member being lost overboard at night (there was no inboard toilet
on these vessels) and they were looking for him when
apprehended -- with dories and divers out on the reef! Ho, I
thought, we'll soon fix this.
But no! The magistrate asked for the crew to be brought into
court. Yes, there was a missing man and here was his passport.
Sympathy was expressed and, oh, by the way, could the crew from
the first vessel be taken back to Taiwan on the second?
"Oh yes, your Honour! Of course, your Honour!"
So we lost that case but I suppose I was the only one bitching
Having done with the clam boats I had to board an RAAF 'plane
in Alotau and fly out to the east as an observer in a joint air and
sea defence exercise. So what? Well, at one point I looked down on
the Trobriand Isles (now called the Kiriwinas), discovered in 1793
by Bruni d'Entrecasteaux aboard his 'Esperance' and named after
his First Lieutenant, Denis de Trobriand.
Known then as the Happy Isles, or the Islands of Love,
Trobrianders start erotic games when very young. As adults they
have liberal attitudes to social affairs mostly free of western
stupidity but, since there is no social group anywhere which does
not have marriage and provision for proper family life as essential
to the tribe, the popular notion of free love for itinerant seafarers
A colleague who'd once been there said to me with a grin,
"After a few days a father with his trim little daughter in tow
decked out in one of those abbreviated grass skirts, looked me up
and down and turned to the girl who nodded. 'Was I fixed up for
the night?' he asked. I was sort of bowled over! It was only later
that I learned about the tribe being bent on topping-up a gene
pool too long detached from the mainstream."
Now you've got me going
Did you know that the prime table fish barramundi, Lates
calcarifer, can be found right down the PNG south coast as far as
Orangerie Bay, close to Samarai, but not along its north coast?
This fish exists on both sides of the Indian Ocean. My first
encounter with it was in the East African Rift Valley's great lakes,
which were once open the ocean; they even have jellyfish! Barra
also are found on the west coast of Southeast Asia. In Indonesia it
is called kakap.
So? Well, it occurred to me to ask Jakarta whether this fish
occurs on the north side of Indonesia, including West Papua. The
answer was no. Hmmm! Interesting: can we surmise that a long
time ago the Malayan Peninsula, Indonesia, and PNG were all
joined together, so preventing barra moving through to the north?
In which case our earliest settlers could have walked and canoed
into PNG and Oz.
Ethics or Delusion?
At the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation
of Atlantic Tunas) 17th Extraordinary Meeting in Paris last
September, the assembly was urged to tackle the latest conservation
fiasco. What was that? Well, ICCAT had already established a
comprehensive plan to rebuild Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABT) stocks,
including reduced catch quotas. But animal rights groups had
persuaded some nations -- including the USA -- to support the listing
of ABT at CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species) by claiming that it was on the verge of extinction. CITES
threw the motion out so the matter reverts to base.
It seems plain that the debate -- if you can so describe the
emotional claptrap of guilt-ridden human beans -- is really between
those who see fish as a food resource and those who would deny
the use of it for ethical reasons.
Jacques Berney, Executive Vice President of the IWMC
(International Wildlife Management World Consortium Trust) had
this to say at the ICCAT meeting.
"It is important for the welfare of families all over the world
that fish is widely available at a reasonable price and that the
fisheries market is not corrupted by unwarranted prohibitions and
restrictions. ICCAT delegates need to keep their eye on the ball and
not be drawn into bogus debates and hidden agendas of the
animal rights activists who know that any suspension of ABT
fishing would signal the end for tuna fisheries as a whole. That is
why it is vital for ICCAT to succeed with its management
initiative." IWMC is on www.iwmc.org
Grumpy Old Bastard
PS: GOB regrets omitting the name CSIRO in conjunction with the magazine
Ekos in his Ausmarine December 2010 column.
January 2011 AUSMARINE
Links Archive December 2010 February 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page