ALOTAU (Cameron Plateau) Alotau is the 'resettlement' area for Samarai which until the late 1960's was the Milne Bay provincial headquarters. Alotau now enjoys that distinction, not necessarily with the blessing of those who visit the area commercially. Indeed, I understand that more than a few shipmasters flatly refuse to use Alotau because of its exposed aspect during the winter trade winds.
Nevertheless, the powers-that-be keep Alotau on the map and while such large companies as Steamships and Burns Philp have not moved in — preferring to remain at Samarai — there are many Chinese owned stores serving the area and most government bodies are represented.
The map included with this description is taken from a sketch and not from personal experience. The fact is I cannot recommend Alotau to a visiting boatman because of its exposed anchorage but I have included it in this book because the time may not be too far away when the visitor will be obliged to report here when the customs office is finally removed from Samarai. (This was being positively suggested in 1978.)
Alotau lies on the north shore of Milne Bay towards the western extreme and its approach is free of offshore dangers. While it is a very pretty area it gives absolutely no promise of comfort to a vessel at anchor or alongside. For those who need to get mail away, or a passenger off, there is a daily flight from Port Moresby and alternative anchorage can be had under the lee of the Aleford Islands to the west or the Killerton Islands to the east. Having visited neither group I can offer no advice as to their character.
EAST CAPE is the eastern-most extreme of the Papuan New Guinea mainland as well as being the northern gatepost to Milne Bay. It is a logical next anchorage after Samarai for vessels heading north and is comfortable as long as there is no easterly slant to the south easterly. During the north west season the southern side of the headland can be used.
The village on the cape is under the influence of the Uniting Church and the locals are very friendly and kindhearted. Also, the standard of English spoken here is excellent.
Vegetables and fruit are available from the villagers at a fair price and small baskets are made for sale.
APPROACH is perfectly safe through the passage between East Cape and Mei-Mei-ara Island, as shown on the map. The bottom is sand and coral patches and the island side should be favoured where will be seen three red beacons. These are passed to starboard when on a northerly course.
From the north, approach is clear of all offshore hazards and the anchorage can be brought up directly.
ANCHORAGE shallow enough to be suitable is confined to an indentation in the fringing reef directly off a large, squat tree trunk which becomes conspicuous on approach. It should be sounded towards with caution until around 20 metres is recorded, after which the ground shoals rapidly and the anchor should be dropped.
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