By Kevin Botherway
Papua New guinea was certainly an interesting trip and to experience its history was truly memorable.
On arrival we were met at the airport by our dive leader, Jerry, who took us to our accommodation at Rapopo Plantation Resort to have a good breakfast and make ready for our dive. The first dive was around 100 metres from the resort, a small wall drift dive in lukewarm 30 degrees water watching the small coral fish for about 40 minutes, it was a good chance to sort out our weights and gear.After lunch our second dive was on a tug boat in 20 metres of water with visibility of eight metres, all dive gear checked out fine, then back to the bar, a good meal and early to bed.The following day we took off in the dive boat for a wall drift dive out from the airfield. With a depth of 36 metres and 10 metre visibility there was great fish life with good current along the wall. We followed this with a dive on a small freighter called the Kazi at 26 metres where we were again surrounded by fish life.We were keen to accept the invitation to fish from a 42 foot steel hull catamaran so we also made the most of the opportunity to check out the volcanoes Tavurvar and Vulcan which erupted in 1994. They had dropped 11 cubic kilometres of ash over Rabaul and the old airport – buried the lot!With our desire to explore it was decided to check out the other side of Rabaul where the Japanese subs came in for supplies. We walked through small caves, entering five metres from shore into a very deep wall. Descending to 42 metres along the wall we discovered a torpedo in the wall. We were keen to experience the variety of Papua New Guinea and naturally the shore dive to a piper Cherokee plane then on to an old barge with lots of fish life made for some interesting diving.
However as the day drew to a close we decided to test our golfing skills on the nine hole golf course, complete with caddies and clubs.
We set off early the next day for Rabaul Harbour to meet the dive boat as we were scheduled to dive on the 7000 ton Italy. She lay in 41 metres, so we had to make the most of our 14 minutes bottom time. It was a good dive through parts of the hull but the visibility was down to seven metres but nonethless a memorable dive.
Sightseeing included lunch at Rabaul’s Hotel Resort. It had been buried in the 1994 eruption but because it was a pub took priority in being the first to be dug out! Also on our list of ‘got to see’ was Quasimodo’s house and bunker, Fred was keen to leave his calling card on it as pay back for the bombing at Pearl Harbour!
Our dive on a small ship called the Manko Maru was to a depth of 27 metres where we experienced large bat fish but with even with the low visibility we considered it a good dive. As we were leaving the boat ramp, the volcano Tavurvur erupted. It was putting on a great show so we roared off for a better view. It was blowing its stack every 10 to 12 minutes – what a great and memorable experience!
The following day, with the volcano still working at 20 minute spurts, we loaded up the catamaran and headed across Blue Lagoon, around the point from the other volcanoes and headed up the coast to dive a small mine layer at 42 metres, moved up the ship to the wall along the wall to the end of the dive.
Our tenth dive was on a Japanese float bi-plane at 21 metres, I attempted a photo of my dive buddy wearing sunglasses and sitting in the cockpit but it didn’t turn out!
For our last dive of the trip we headed back to the harbour under the Tavurvur volcano and at 15 metres spotted coral reef gardens and fish – the black volcanic bottom provided the coral with a contrasting background. This last dive was a good one in luke warm water of 30 to 31 degrees. We headed back late to watch and cheer on the All Blacks who beat the Springboks, a good game!
Saturday was our lay day, our penultimate day on PNG, so we headed off early to do a final spot of sight seeing, Our guide showed us the sub caves and explained how the submarines were loaded and supplied then we visited the gun turrets on the hill which were built to protect the area. The observatory on volcanoes and earthquakes was a fascinating tour. The area gives you the uneasy feeling that there could well be larger eruptions in the near future.
We passed the volcano Vulcan near Kokopo as we wanted to visit the cave for the barges that were used for unloading ships; four barges are still in the caves today. We also went through the hospital caves where over 300 people lived underground, very interesting. Finally off to the cemetery to see a well presented Australian and Indian tribute to the people who lost their lives in WW2.
Papua New Guinea was certainly an interesting trip and to experience its history was truly memorable.