TREASURY GROUP (Blanche Harbour) Consisting of two large islands and many small islets which collectively form Blanche Harbour the Treasury Group lies close off the south coast of Bougainville Island and are actually a part of the Solomon Islands both geographically and politically. Therefore, a visitor is obliged to first clear into the Solomons at the Shortland Group (close to the north east) where customs and excise is represented. This will entail a payment of $100 for lighthouse dues making the cost of stopping at this Group rather high.
However, for those keen to see this delightful group of islands regardless of cost, and also to form an overlap to a future book I plan to write on the Solomon Islands, I have included the following description.
Blanche Harbour provides a choice of many superb anchorages from the incredible maze of islets, reefs, and jungle clad shores under Siana Islet on Stirling Island to the regular patches of beach to be found along the north coast of the same island. Logically, however, anchorage will probably be made off Falamai Village on Mono Island where shown on the map by an anchor. Although this area suffers slightly from swell, the reward of meeting some of the friendliest people in the world and of joining the kids in a swim around Watson Island, where a large overhanging tree offers some wonderful sport, will more than compensate.
With about 700 inhabitants, Falamai Village is under the influence of the Uniting Church; so much so that services are held in the church every night except Thursday. On that day they hold services in private homes.
As one who is a little skeptical of religious intent and the results therefrom, I must admit to having my eyes opened here. There is no question about it, Falamai is an example of religion — or rather Christianity — working perfectly and exactly how everyone thinks it should work. There is harmony, peace, consideration and absolute conviction of what is right and what is wrong. It is an education to any outsider. And if you enjoy the harmony of native voices expressing their conviction with the power of an American soul singer, then a visit to the church is an absolute must.
Of further interest are the remains on an American wartime base on Stirling Island where might be found the concrete pads of the mess and living quarters, an anti-aircraft gun which still swivels and parts of fighter bombers. I say 'might be found' because it is rumoured that a clearup campaign is soon to start.
APPROACH to the Treasury Group from the north is by logical progression from Bougainville and it is presumed that the Shortlands will be visited en route for customs clearance.
From the south the group appears as a shallow inverted saucer, there being no dominant mark beyond the group as a whole. In fact, Mono Island is the one actually sighted, Stirling being hard in against its underbelly and being unidentifiable until close in.
Either end of Blanche Harbour can be entered with safety, the sea being deep hard against the land which in this area is uplifted limestone with dense jungle on top.
ANCHORAGE can be taken anywhere, the one inside the islet-studded lagoon beneath Siana Islet being the most secluded and secure, but offering little or no access to the shore. The anchorage off Falamai Village is of the greatest general interest and is secure in shoaling water over sand.
FACILITIES are limited to fresh fruit and vegetables (when available), fresh water from Saveke River, and a once a week (Wednesdays) Solair service from Stirling Island to the Capital of the Solomons, Honiara.
The Treasury Group bears north-west. Mono Island dominates here but in fact the smaller Stirling Island lines in its shadow.
Fakamai Village church where service is held every night except Thursday on which day services are held in the homes.
This anti-aircraft gun found on Stirling Island, in the Treasury Group, still swivelled freely. A threatened scrap collection may strip the island of all World War II memories.
Opposite: The anchorage off Falamai Village, on Mono Island, is snug but can be affected by swell. The American fighter-bombers were found on Stirling Island opposite Falamai Village. This area actually belongs to the Solomons necessitating separate clearances for those boatmen visiting the area.
BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND is actually part of the Solomons geographically. However, after some political skullduggery between the British (who had the Solomons) and the Germans (who had New Guinea), Bougainville suddenly found itself politically a part of New Guinea. It has remained that way ever since although with the wealth pouring out of the open-cut copper mine at Panguna in the mountains of Bougainville, there has been considerable pressure to have the island returned to the Solomons.
Bougainville Island has a neighbour close against its north shore called Buka Island and between the two is the well known Buka Passage. The natives of Buka are known as the darkest skinned people in the world, but owing to the confusion as to who belongs where, the term 'Buka' might also describe a person from Bougainville. Indeed, to compound the confusion, the famous Buka Baskets are woven, not at Buka, but at Buin on the south west coast of Bougainville Island!
It is said that the natives of the two islands once simply referred to them as 'big' and 'little' Buka so the confusion is European created and it started when the French ships La Boudeuse and L'Etoile sailed along the east coast in July 1768 and anchored briefly off Buka. The ships being commanded by Louis de Bougainville, the origin of the name of the larger island is obvious.
The next known visitor was d'Entrecasteaux in 1792 who left his name on the island group off the eastern tip of New Guinea and who carried on a lively trade with the natives of Buka. Soon the place was regularly visited by whalers between 1820 and 1860 who conscripted the natives as crew and who also traded tobacco, cloth and iron for fresh food. The foul blackbirding trade was also carried on here with some memorable murders committed by those noble men of commerce whose descendants still run the businesses they financed with the blood of innocent natives.
Germany officially declared its sovereignty over north east New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago in 1884 then extended this to include Bougainville fifteen years later. In 1914 Bougainville was invaded by an Australian Expeditionary Force and was governed by the military until a civil administration took over the entire area in May 1921. With so much happening to their country without their consent, it is small wonder that many Bougainvillians sided with the Japanese during World War II.
In 1964 immense deposits of copper were discovered in the mountains behind Keita at a place called Panguna. This would prove to be the beginning of the South Pacific region's largest, single commercial enterprise and the cause of continuing unrest.
Owned by CRA Ltd but called Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), actual copper production started in 1972 after an expensive programme of development. With an annual output of 33 million tons of low grade ore which produces some 450,000 tons of copper, it is one of the largest open cut copper mines in the world. However the one and a quarter per cent royalty paid to the Papua New Guinea Government is a main bone of contention amongst those who promote change.
On one hand there are those who want to keep all the profit for themselves and thus cry for independence. Then there are those who claim they are Solomon Islanders, not Papua New Guineans, therefore they should join the Solomons. There are those who are quite happy about remaining Papua New Guinean but dislike the imbalance of wealth. Why, they cry, should we help support a nonproductive area like the Western Province?
The main wave of dissent has passed into history until now it is noticeable only by the Bougainvillian's absolute refusal to undertake menial employment. Garbage collection, plantation work, street sweeping, these jobs belong to indentured labour — not Bougainvillians.
But the occupancy of higher class jobs was not the sole factor in the pacification of the local natives. This came about mainly by the National Government's response to a cry for Provincial Government so that local wealth could be more fairly distributed locally. Thus, Bougainville became the first province of what would develop into twenty provinces each with its own Premier and staff and each eating the heart out of the nation's pocket. While provincial government may have been good for Bougainville (North Solomon Province) it has made the country as a whole the most over governed country in the world.
The visitor will find himself welcome enough. He cannot expect village innocence any more. Commercialism and greed has destroyed that in many places around Bougainville, but the island is splendid for its active and dormant volcanoes, its reefs and coastal fringe and its busy commercial centres. And most important, it offers some wonderful anchorages.
BOUGAINVILLE COAST NORTH TO KIETA The land along this stretch of coast is extremely rugged with high mountains rising into the clouds fringed by regular white beaches and rocky headlands. The coast here enjoys the distinction of having a barrier reef offshore permitting a vessel safe passage between it and the coast. The reef is so scattered that only rarely does it afford any real protection from the ocean swell.
Villages are dotted along the foreshore and at night the moving headlights of vehicles can be seen towards Kieta. A road runs for a limited distance from Kieta to the south.
KIETA HARBOUR lies a little over one third the way along the east coast of Bougainville Island and offers the first anchorage on the coast when approaching from the south. It is well protected, commodious and deep, although the surge during heavy south east weather might be found to be annoying. The other problem is the depth of anchorage and the consequent insecurity. It is therefore recommended that the passing boatman go to Kobuan Bay (described separately). Those intent on staying for any length of time in Kieta Harbour should try to anchor over a limited shoal patch where indicated by an anchor on the large scale map. Otherwise a mooring might be available at the Kieta Yacht Club.
APPROACH is easy from any direction as long as the offshore reefs are cleared safely. They are all well charted and marked, Kieta being a major international port. Small vessels may safely pass between the mainland and Bakawari Island.
ANCHORAGE has been described as being difficult owing to the great depths which means a safe scope of anchor cable permits a boat to wander considerably. This should not be permitted owing to the traffic always running in and out of Kieta. If anchorage cannot be gained where shown on the large scale map, or a mooring is unavailable from the yacht club, there is no alternative other than to move around to Kobuan Bay as described next.
FACILITIES offered by Kieta itself cover the basic range from fuel and water to engineering and electrical workshops, banks, post office, supermarkets, radio stores and so on. But compared to the area as a whole, which embraces Kieta and Arawa, Kieta itself is limited.
delivered in forty four gallon drums.
Obtaining water is rather more difficult as it must be piped to the main wharf through a three inch outlet whose volume and pressure are not suited to the average fittings found aboard small boats. If an adaptor is not available I suggest you have a look at the wharf outlet and consider the problem before blindly organising yourself to go alongside for water.
The wharfinger must be consuted before any vessel is taken alongside the main wharf.
Customs will be found on the main wharf.
Ice can be purchased from the fisheries shed in block form and beer is available from the hotel or from the licensed trade stores.
Hire cars are available from the Davara Motel and taxis and buses are always available to commute between the two centres of Kieta and Arawa.
Phones are STD and ISD and Fokker Friendships run a daily flight to Port Moresby from the airstrip to the south of Tonivi.
KOBUAN BAY lies to the west of Kieta from which it is separated by Kieta Peninsula. It provides the best anchorage in the area being well protected from the prevailing winter trade winds and offering shoal ground which terminate at a black sand beach. Its only disadvantage is in the complete lack of facilities, but the regular buses which run between Kieta and Arawa solve this problem. It should be pointed out here that customs prefer you to first clear with them at Kieta before settling into Kobuan Bay.
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