Samarai Waterfront

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Samarai Market Area Milne Bay

Samarai is a tiny island with its waterfront facilities along the northern face. The anchorage is animated by strong currents and swell but is tolerable for a victualling stop.

Opposite: Views of Samarai. Some of the homes still have a grand colonial atmosphere about them.

NAVIGATIONAL AIDS The above mentioned Brumer Light is a major light visible for twenty miles and is situated on the peak of Western Brumer Island. A second light is situated on Weku-una Rock visible for nine miles with a third light immediately off the northern tip of Samarai itself (see anchorage map). There is also a beacon en route between the last two lights.

ANCHORAGE Surprisingly, a fair lee from the trade wind is enjoyed behind this diminutive speck, but the strength and direction of tide plays a major role in determining comfort. Therefore, neap tides are more comfortable than springs. Regardless of tides, the anchorage is uncomfortable during strong trade winds but is suitable for an overnight customs clearance and victualling stop. The mud bottom provides excellent holding which is vitally important during the antics of windward-tide conditions.

TIDES The tides around Samarai run swiftly although their rise and fall is scarcely more than one metre during springs. The stream flows west during much of the making tide but can change direction before and after actual turn. The flow is apparently influenced more by sea heights on each side of the Louisiade Archipelago than it is by whether the tide is rising or falling. Details will be found in the Pilot book but the visitor must expect a maximum flow rate at the anchorage of around four knots.

FACILITIES Although very expensive, victualling can be rather fun at Samarai because of the occasional unusual commodities available. Despite the

retrogressive step of taking Provincial Headquarter status away from the island, both Burns Philp and Steamships refuse to move because of the suitability of the site for supplying the offlying island centre. The two companies between them run two large trade stores and a supermarket where frozen meat, cheese, chocolate and all the small luxuries of life will be found.

The Bank of New South Wales and the local Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation are represented on Samarai as are government offices including post office and customs.

Beer and spirits are available over the counter from either trade store's cold room and the famous Samarai Club is open most nights to members and their guests. Visiting yachtsmen are usually welcome and a local member will sign you in. A second club, the Papua New Guinea Club, is mostly an indigenes club but Europeans are welcome.

The Samarai market is open most days with Saturday morning its biggest and best time. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are available as are the usual smoked fish and betel nut. Although surprisingly comprehensive for such a small centre, the market is extremely expensive compared to all other areas except Port Moresby.

Fuel of all types can be purchased by the drum at Samarai but the prices are high — at least twenty per cent more than main ports and sometimes as high as fifty per cent more.

Water is not easily available but might be carried off by bucket or demijohn from a waterfront house owned by a European who enjoys meeting cruising yachtsmen. His house has a small ramp.

HISTORY Discovered by Captain John Moresby aboard the survey vessel Basilisk in 1873, Samarai was originally named Dinner Island.

It was the logical site for the headquarters of the Milne Bay District because of its central position to both offshore islands and the mainland and it boomed as a centre for the mining rushes down the Louisiades and along the north coast of the mainland. It is well mentioned in Ion Idress' book, *Gold Dust and Ashes, which is a fascinating and factual account of that wild era. *Gold Dust and Ashes Ion Idress, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1945.

At the south end of the main Street on Samarai there will be found a most remarkable monument. Its inscription alone is bad enough, but in the light of the truth behind its establishment, it becomes downright disgusting, reflecting early white man's pomposity and self righteousness. It reads:

In Memory of Christopher Robinson Able Governor, upright Judge and honest man.

Died 20th June 1904 His aim was to make New Guinea a good country for white men.

The racism reflected in this inscription is obvious, but the fact that it is also a gross twisting of the truth is not apparent until the story is known. Briefly, it is as follows.

In April, 1901, two missionaries, James Chalmers and Oliver Tompkins were murdered along with ten Christian natives at a village along the Papuan coast. Their heads were removed for trophy value and their bodies eaten. The then Lieutenant-Governor, Hon. George Le Hunte conducted a punitive expedition, landing his parties simultaneously at three villages where his men shot a total of twenty four natives. A prisoner, Kemere, admitted their guilt so Le Hunte put another party ashore to burn down the long house in which the grisly trophies were presumed to reside.

Christopher Robinson, whose name appears on the Samarai monument, relieved Le Hunte two years later at which time he decided to recover the skulls of the missionaries.

In 1904, aboard the government steam launch, Merrie England he enticed the natives out to his vessel then slaughtered as many as he could without prior questioning, or reason. It was purely a vindictive act without justification. When the Reverend Charles Abel of the London Missionary Society demanded a Royal Commission into the slaughter, Robinson shot himself.

Doctor John Guise, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and member for Milne Bay, has endeavoured to have the repulsive monument removed, but to no effect. It remains to remind all of the white man's twisted values.

CHINA STRAIT Discovered in 1873 by Captain John Moresby aboard the paddle steamer Basilisk, this passage between the Papua New Guinea mainland and Sariba Island was so named because it offered a potential short cut for ships bound Sydney to China. In fact the waters further north proved rather too treacherous and the passage to the east of the Louisiade Archipelago and between New Britain and New Ireland remained a favourite with captains of the day.

The tide rips through China Strait at up to six knots during springs and should be used, not fought. Considerable disturbance will be experienced in the form of overfalls and whirlpools but neither are dangerous unless the vessel is out of control.

The entire area of the China Strait, which loosely includes Samarai and its western neighbour, Bogeia Island, is extremely picturesque with high steep hills and a scattering of native villages and European houses here and there. It can also be an excellent area for mackerel.

DAGA DAGA BONALUA ISLAND (The Pearl Farm). This mouthful identifies the tiny islet pinned to the north western corner of Sariba Island by a fringing coral reel. The bay it forms provides perfect haven from the trade wind in good holding mud at 14 metres. There is no evidence of tidal stream in here.

The pearl farm based on Dagadagabonalua Island is owned and operated by Greek, Denis George, who is one of the pioneers of this interesting profession. Denis started pearl farming at Thursday Island in the Torres Strait in 1957, but found the squeeze of bigger companies wanting to move in rather suffocating. He thus moved to Papua New Guinea where he enjoys considerable success.

The workshop produces pearl necklaces, ear rings and so on and the visiting boatman is welcome to take his lady ashore and buy direct from the manufacturer at a very fair price.

Rafts on which the cultured pearls are grown will be found scattered throughout the nearby islands. They represent village involvement in Denis George's enterprise.

BELESANA SLIPWAY Situated in a bay in the mainland in the China Strait, this slipway is managed by Peter Plaatsman whose helpfulness and flexibility will be appreciated by most yachtsmen who wish to slip their boats.

There are two slipways, one capable of hauling out 300 tons, the other fitted with a yacht cradle and capable of taking most hull types.

Rates in 1978 were as follows: Labour Engineer Supervisor K 10.00 per hour

Fitter and Turner K10.00 per hour

Fitter and Turner 2nd class K 6.00 per hour

Fitter and Turner 3rd class K 3.50 per hour

Welder K10.00 per hour

Welder 2nd class K 4.50 per hour

Shipwright K10.00 per hour

Shipwright 2nd class K 7.00 per hour

Shipwright 3rd class K 3.50 per hour

Slipping Slip and launch fee K 1.50 per gross ton

Alternative system K 0.50 per foot

Rental per day per foot K 0.40

Address Belesana Slipways

P.O. Box 5 Samarai PNG

SARIBA SLIPWAY Situated in Maga Ikarona Bay on the south west coast of Sariba Island, this slipway (not illustrated) has similar facilities and charges to Belesana.

Address Sariba Slipway

P.O. Box 11 Samarai PNG

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DAGADAGA BONALUA ISLAND

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SARIBA ISLAND

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