Chris Tabel uses an ancient Roman technique to make bricks

Having a creative mind opens you up to a world of infinite possibilities.
One of these is the ability to make your own bricks and concrete.

Recently, I have been researching ways to make my own bricks (I did it for no particular reason but just out of curiosity). After reading countless internet articles and conducting numerous trial and error samples, I finally made my first Roman Concrete Brick on the 21st of July 2018.

If you look closely at the brick in my picture you will notice it has bits and pieces of seashells. I made this brick by burning 10 seashells with 20 coconut shells and mixing it with clay and gravel. I made a ratio mix of 1: 2: 1- one part calcium hydroxide to two parts clay dust to one part gravel.

Note that this is still a layman experiment. 😊

The result- a brick that will harden over time (boom😲) many of us uninitiated will ask how this is possible. I will explain this later in my article.

In the meantime, let me put my experiment into context.

Many Historians credited the ancient Romans for their various engineering marvels. Their knowledge of making concrete and mortar from volcanic dust and pomus enabled the ancient Romans to build and expand their Empire.

Historians said all roads led to Rome, similarly all these roads also led to Roman towns, cities, military bases and outstations that included aqua ducts, amphitheaters, mansions and public baths etc- all of which were built using Roman Concrete.

I recently discovered that unlike Portland Cement (modern concrete), Roman Concrete that is set under water- actually got stronger over time. How this happens – I’ll get to it shortly.

Romans discovered long ago that by burning limestone (Ca +O2= CaO) and adding water (H2O) produced a very strong binding agent (CaO +H2O = Ca (OH2). By combining this with volcanic ash and pumice, they were able to create their own version of concrete and mortar. Also when the concrete and mortar is left to set under water, its chemical and physical composition reacted with seawater and created additional new mineral properties within its physical structure. These new minerals then grew over time to fill internal gaps inside bricks thus resulting in the mix “growing” stronger over time. This explains why Roman buildings don’t deteriorate quickly and have withstood the test of time.

And since the Roman political and military expansion covered most of the Mediterranean and a few bits of Europe – they used this knowledge to build roads and cities to all these places- an engineering feat that the modern world still observes in wonder to this day.

I am very proud to be part of the preservation of this historical knowledge. The ability to make bricks and mortar using ancient techniques is invaluable especially if you’re in a situation where modern materials are unavailable or in short supply or if you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse situation. I am also happy to share my story with my friends and family and I hope we can use (and improve on) this knowledge.

I will try another experiment with real fine sand apart from my my substitute clay soil.

Tune in for more updates in the coming weeks.

Kris 😊

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Serahphina Aupong: ‘Today, I cannot hold onto the hope that was our future’

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I live in a time of Papua New Guinea that is uncertain.

I want to be able to confidently say my future is intact.

I have paid my dues, followed the rules I am supposed to now live my dream.

I have loved the way it is right and proper fallen in love with the man of my dreams, the love of my life I have a son, whose future is supposed to be bright and beautiful Just as he is.

But I am uncertain. Will my Papua New Guinea be the paradise I wish it to be?

Will I be able to give my child all he needs to live a life he wants and not one he needs to in order to survive?

I love my Papua New Guinea, but I don’t love the people in it anymore. And if there is no love for the people who are mine. What is left?

It is becoming harder each day to hold on to the hope that once burns.

To say tomorrow will be better as we witness the stronghold that is planted into our very earth each day.

Today, we witness another destruction of who we are as people.

Today, we witness the birth of what we are becoming of things and places and people we do not recognise, we do not accept.

Is this the PNG that we will eventually become?

Today, I am again plunged into the hopelessness that is our future.

Today, I cannot hold onto the hope that was our future.

Today, I hope, will die with the setting sun.

Kabwum plane crash investigation highlights weaknesses in rescue coordination

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MEDIA STATEMENT:  PNG ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION COMMISSION RELEASES FINAL REPORT INTO 23 DECEMBER 2017 FATAL AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT IN MOROBE PROVINCE


The Chief Commissioner of the PNG Accident Investigation Commission, Mr Hubert Namani today released the Accident Investigation’s Final Report into the December 2017 fatal aircraft accident on the Sarawaget Ranges in the Morobe Province. Mr. Namani said that “on 23 December 2017, at 10:10am a Britten Norman BN-2A Islander aircraft, registered P2-ISM, owned and operated by North Coast Aviation, impacted a ridge, at about 9,500 ft, that runs down towards the Sapmanga Valley from the Sarawaget Ranges, Morobe Province.

“The pilot had elected to track from Derim Airstrip to Nadzab Airport, Morobe Province across the Sarawaget ranges. The aircraft impacted the ridge in a steep nose-down, right wing-low attitude about 150 m beyond the last GPS fix. It was destroyed by impact forces.” Rescuers arrived at the accident site on 27 December and reported that the pilot, the sole occupant, was deceased. They felled trees on the steep heavily timbered, densely vegetated slope about 20 metres from the wreckage and constructed a helipad. Mr Namani said “the pilot was expected to contact Nadzab ATC (Nadzab Tower) by 10:20am prior to entering Nadzab controlled airspace. However, because he had not established contact by 10:22am, the Nadzab Tower controller commenced radio communication checks, and subsequently declared a distress phase, which initiated search operations. The aircraft operator contacted the Nadzab Tower controller and reported that, according to their GPS tracker, the aircraft was stationary between Yalumet and the Saidor Gap, Morobe Province.”

In its Final report into the accident the AIC states “the on-site investigation determined that there was no evidence of any prior defect or malfunction in the aircraft that could have contributed to the accident. Propeller blade damage and bending was consistent with the engines producing significant power at impact.”

The investigation concluded that cloud build up along the pilot’s chosen route may have forced the pilot to manoeuvre closer to the ridge, in order to avoid flying into the cloud. The flight track for the last 30 to 60 seconds suggests that the pilot had deviated from his planned track to cross the ridge, possibly to avoid entering cloud. The aircraft impacted terrain while under the control of the pilot; Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).

Mr. Namani said “the investigation determined that PNG had no Rescue Coordination Centre established in accordance with ICAO Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The AIC’s report revealed that prior to 9 July 2010, under Section 13, of the Civil Aviation Act 2000, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that existed at that time was the agency responsible for ensuring the provision of search and rescue services. On 9 July 2010, the Civil Aviation (amendment) Act 2010 was passed in Parliament, in which Section 13 was repealed.

Despite PNG’s international obligations under ICAO Annex 12 Standards, there was no PNG legislated obligation on any organisation in PNG for the provision of search and rescue operations, or the establishment of a RCC, although PNGASL continued to provide some coordination services to the aviation industry through the activation of a RCC on a needs basis. 11/2018 31 July 2018 On 13 December 2016, the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 2016 was certified. Sections 8A and 8B included the requirement for the Minister to direct agencies for which he is responsible, and whose functions are consistent with search and rescue operations, to operate and maintain the search and rescue coordination centre. On 18 April 2018 the PNG Accident Investigation Commission issued Safety Recommendation AIC18- R03/17-1004 recommending that the Minister for Civil Aviation, in compliance with Sections 8A and 8B of the Civil Aviation Act 2000 (as amended in 2016), should ensure that a Rescue Coordination Centre is established, maintained, and operated, to co-ordinate and conduct aviation search and rescue operations in PNG.

This will also ensure compliance with ICAO Annex 12, thereby specifically complying with Section 8A(1)(b)(ii) of the Act. Under international investigation Standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, recipients of safety recommendations are expected to respond to the investigation authority proposing the recommendation within 90 days of it being issued. On 9 July 2018, the Hon. Alfred Manase, MP, Minister for Civil Aviation issued Minister’s Directive No. MD 2018/01 titled Search and Rescue. The Directive requires PNG Air Services Limited to operate and maintain the PNG Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). On 11 July 2018 the Minister directed PNGASL to establish and perform the functions of the RCC on behalf of the State in accordance with ICAO Annex 12.

It requires PNGASL to promulgate, without delay, operational Search and Rescue Policies and Procedures; ensure that the PNG RCC established under the Minister’s Directive is equipped and manned as a dedicated stand-alone unit that is independent of all other Air Traffic Services facilities in order that it cannot be rendered ineffective; and ensure that the RCC is staffed 24/7 by a dedicated team of trained and qualified personnel to coordinate and conduct aviation search and rescue operations in PNG.

On 27 July 2018, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of PNG informed the AIC that a new Civil Aviation Rule Part 176, titled, “Search and Rescue Services Organization – Certification and Operations” will be released for Industry comments in August, as part of CASA’s NPRM Phase 5 rule making cycle and hopefully will be signed into law by the Minister of Civil Aviation by 8 Nov 2018.

Mr. Namani said “it is important for the aviation industry and the travelling public to know that the decisive safety actions taken by the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of PNG have addressed the search and rescue safety concerns identified by the AIC”.

A copy of the AIC recommendation is available on the AIC website: http://www.aic.gov.pg

David Webb shares his experience as a volunteer in Japan’s flood stricken areas

Today, I went to Mabicho (真備町) in Kurashiki that was inundated by floods from the torrential rain a couple or so weeks ago to do volunteer work.

On the dusty, flood ravaged streets, everyone, from the volunteer staff and the locals were giving their best.

It’s a slow progress and it might take five or more years for them to recover. But it is my hope and prayer that the affected will get back on their feet and be proud that they have overcome the hurdle!

Today, listening to the locals, their stories of how the flood started taking over the streets and eventually their homes was devastating and heartbreaking. I don’t think I can endure what they went through. Even though it was hot and humid, I didn’t feel physically tired from the work. But I am emotionally drenched and weak after seeing the damage and hearing the horror the affected locals has to go thru.

I hope and pray for nothing but a speedy recovery…stay strong Mabicho and the likes affected by the floods.

Dealing with death in PNG’s health system | By Tweedy Malagian

It’s 3:40am and l had just returned home from the Pom Gen Hospital. I was there with my Sepik Son Allen since 6:00pm yesterday.

The Emergency room was full to capacity so Allen joined the waiting list…

While waiting just outside the Emergency room a young couple from Aroma rushed in with their baby with the father cradling his baby in his arms. They went further into the ward. After 30mins the young father walked out without his baby…crying! He walked out the Emergency gate and cried all the way out the main hospital gate. A few minutes later the young mother walked out crying, hugging her baby tightly.

I couldn’t help it. Tears started flowing freely down my cheeks. I really wanted to walk over to her and hug her but l held back. Everyone around were speechless because they all felt her pain. Then l was asked if l could help her make a phone call. I walked over and all l could say was, “Sorry”. I asked her for the number and she called the numbers, one by one in between sobs. I almost lost it there. I fought back my own lump in my throat and dialed the number but the number did not ring so I asked her for another number. By then her hubby had come back and said someone was coming to pick them up.

While crying the young mother said she brought her baby to one of the suburban clinics for her baby’s immunisation injection. The baby was given 3 injections…she never woke up from then on. When they realized something just wasn’t right they rushed her to the Pom Gen Hospital only to lose their baby girl.

She was only 3 months old…😢😢😢

What is wrong with our Health System???

A tribute to those lost at sea | By Isaiah Igish

The sun sets over the vast Pacific Ocean. Its magnificent view brings to life the warmth memories of families.
Deep scented saltwater breeze pounds heavily on your face like a final blow to your forehead by Carterets Islander and Papua New Guinea’s boxing sensation Thaddeus Katua’s ultimate whack to complete the bout.
Not knowing what tomorrow may bring, the 23-foot banana boat floats aimlessly following the direction of the current. Lost and weary at sea, all hopes of survival is hanging by a thread.
Five-men have been lost at sea for 28-days.
Team work, faith and perseverance had driven them to cling on to hope.
The men from Carterets were homebound to the Tulun (Carterets) Islands from Buka.
While Bougainville was celebrating the Autonomous Day on June 15th 2012, these men from Iagain took on a voyage they will always remember.
Sixty-one-year-old Anthon Lesley, a seasoned open sea skipper, was in charge of the boat.
Carterets Island sits 30 degrees North-East off Buka. The 57 nautical miles distance takes approximately three hours to reach aboard a 60-horse powered dingy.
Normally on a fine weather, after traveling for two hours, Buka Island will be hidden under the clouds and Carterets Island would sprout up the vast open sea like a drifting coconut. It would take another hour to reach the island and berth.
Lesly was operating a 60 horse Yamaha machine. Three hours into the trip, he realized he was off-course.
Without seeing land after traveling the hours required, the skipper knew an equipment or accessory on the boat wasn’t functioning well.
A very experienced skipper, Lesley used his 30-years’ experience as an open sea skipper to make a quick check on the equipment and stock.
The two major causes for drifting at sea – shortage of petrol or a faulty engine – were ruled out. There was enough petrol and no mechanical fault with the engine. The weather was fine.
With these two checked, he directed his attention to the compass he was using to navigate the open sea. He soon realised that the compass was tampered with.
The compass was salvage from a wrecked fishing vessel. He used the same compass on many occasions while navigating the open seas across the Bougainville Atoll islands.
“The water in the compass which helps the arrow give direction is actually alcohol. Vodka,” Lesley tells me while puffing his ‘brus-to-brus’ (tobacco).
“I think the night before our trip some drunks got the compass from the boat and emptied the alcohol content. They replaced it with home-brew (moonshine).
“It only needs a skilled professional to do such like a ship captain. The captain will know the volume needed to refill the compass to function 100%.
“The home-brew was the reason the compass didn’t function well.”
Lesley started his seasoned career as a skipper in the late 1980s.
He was the caretaker of the Iagain Island community boat for eight years on Carterets Island.
During the height of the Bougainville Crisis, Lesley was approached by the then North Solomon Provincial Health Division to be employed as the Sohano Hospital’s skipper. He also performed duties as a static guard.
The Provincial Hospital was formerly based on Sohano Island and later moved to Buka Island in 2000.
“During the crisis, there were lots of people who came to Sohano to receive treatments for wounds and other sickness,” Lesley recalled. (The PNG Government imposed a 10-year blockade on the island during the crisis. During this period, all supplies to Bougainville were cut off).
“The hospital kept patients records. Whenever someone passed away, the hospital would repatriate the bodies back to their homes.
“The bodies were repatriated because the morgue at Sohano wasn’t functioning well like the one in Arawa.”
Lesley’s task was to repatriate bodies to the West Coast of Bougainville (Torokina, Hahon, Kounua, Keriaka) by boat.
“It was tough times. Sometimes we were shot at by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). They would think we were doing other business (recon operations for the Bougainville Resistance Force or the PNG Defence Force).
He retired from his work at the Provincial Health in early 2012.
After retirement, Lesley occasionally operated passenger boats servicing Buka and Carterets Island.
One of those trip ended with this ordeal at sea – drifting for a month.
Every person on Carterets Island will relate to the term ‘tirip’ (drift). At least three out of ten heads have drifted while either traveling to Buka from the island or otherwise.
Paul Kerehana, another Iagain Islander, sunk with nine others while traveling back to Carterets Island from Buka.
It was New Year’s Eve – 1st of January 2014. Their boat had a double engine – 60 and 40 horse giving it a total 100 horse power to carry its heavy load. On board were three kids under the age of 10 years and 6 adults.
The crew left Buka around 9am heading into a strong South-Easterly winds.
“We were already in the middle of Buka and Carterets when the weather turned from bad to worse,” Fifty-seven-year-old Kerehana recalled.
“There was no other way but to continue onwards. The wind was between 40-45 knots. The waves rose to 15-20 meters high.
“The boat was just a mere ant underneath these big waves.”
They made it into Carterets waters but before reaching Piul, one of other island that make up Carterets, the boat capsized under a big wave.
“We made it to Carterets. The final part of the journey was to cross the ‘sea buruk’ (surf break) and we were through to the reef and safety,” Kerehana said.
“The wind was so strong. We came under a very big wave which sunk the boat. The current was strong towards the open sea. I forced myself to swim to the reef.
“I was praying all along,” Kerehana, a devoted United Church christian said.
“After a few minutes of swimming against the high tide, my right foot felt a stone.
“I forced my toe into one of the cracks in the stone and never let go. I stood there till day break, singing and praising God for his guidance over me.”
Only three individuals survived the ordeal. The others perished.
The other two survivors are Patricia Topira and her now ex-husband Robin Tsube.
It was a sad day for the couple as they had to celebrate New Year without their two kids – four-year-old Raynad and one-year and seven-months old Cotilda.
Robin also lost his dad Paul Tsube and mother Rose during that ordeal.
The family spent Christmas in Buka and were returning to Carterets when disaster struck.
“The kids were sitting with their grandparents when the boat capsized,” Patricia, who is now an Early childhood teacher said.
“I was too weak and slept all along after too much vomiting. We capsized at about 3pm.
“The kids hang on to their grandmother because she had a life jacket on.
“While in the sea, Robin passed me an empty 20litre water container to help me swim. He swam behind me with an esky lid.
When the wind subdued two hours later, there was no sign of her kids or her parents-in-law.
For Patricia, never a day goes by that she never stopped thinking about her kids. The pain was unbearable for her that she decided to path-ways with Robin in 2015.
Today Patricia has Raynelda Andrea who is one-year and eight months old who consoles her broken heart every time she thinks about Raynad and Cotilda.
Many families from the Atolls will relate to the drifting experience. Many have lost loved ones at sea who have never returned.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jethro Toukena was on-board the boat skipped by Anthon Lesley.
He was fortunate to survive the ordeal and has a story to tell of his experience.
The same couldn’t be said for his dad Michael and elder brother Kevin.
Jethro’s dad and brother went missing when traveling from Buka to Carterets in 2015.
Till today, their remains have not been found including the other 12-people on board the boat.
Currently there is no passenger vessel servicing the Atolls.
This makes it riskier for boats traveling the open seas to Buka to get mostly food supplies.
Carterets has been hardly hit with effects of rising sea level.
The salt water has entered the island destroying food crops mainly swamp taro (kanokano), banana, sweet potato (kaukau) and cassava.
With no option of making gardens, the villagers heavily depend on rice as their ‘adopted’ staple food.
Boats need to frequently travel to Buka to get rice, flour, sugar and salt to ensure supply is maintained on the island. A one-way boat-fare is K150.
A boat owner would need one drum (200L) of petrol to make a return trip to Carterets from Buka. On the island, one-litre of petrol cost K10.
Hunger only strikes on the island when there are strong winds which stops the boats from traveling, because of the rough seas.
In these tough situation, the villagers resort to fish and coconut as their meals to see off a day.
However, boats still take the risk of traveling during strong winds.
In the 1990s North Solomon Provincial Government owned MV Sankamap used to make monthly trips to the Atolls – Carterets, Nissan, Nuguria (Fead), Mortlock, and Tasman.
Kerehana recalled that it was a good service and should be revived.
“We need a ship to service the Atolls like what (MV) Sankamap did,” he said.
“Many lives have been lost already.
“A ship traveling the Atolls will stop the boats from traveling to Buka and mitigate the risks on drifting at sea.”
Life on the island is more laidback – which only involves fishing. There is no space to make gardens.
The islanders depend on selling fresh fish and pislama (sea cucumber/beche-de-mer) as the only form of social income. Others have moved to Buka in the hope of building a better life.
The only way out for the inhabitants of the island is to find formal employment outside of Carterets to sustain their families back on the island.
Transportation remains yet a major challenge for the Carterets islanders.
Anthon Lesley and his crew were lucky because they had enough materials and supply on board to help them survive.
“During this trip, we were transporting mangroves sticks and ropes for a seaweed project on the island,” Lesley said while pointing to the location where the project once stood.
“The boat was loaded, even with food supplies.
“When I realized the compass was faulty, I killed the engine and told the boys ‘yumi tirip nau’ (We’re now drifting)”.
“We had a tank (25litres) remaining so I reserved it.”
The skipper said the boys gave up after the first three days of drifting.
“All hope was gone. We had food on-board but no one bothered to eat.
“Being a cheerful person, my tricks didn’t help.
“After the third day, they realized that we needed to keep fighting on for survival.”
When survival instincts kicked in, the idiom ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ came into effect.
Every cargo they had brought with them came in handy. It was like they had packed to get ‘lost’ at sea.
They used the mangroves sticks to build a shelter (Carterets is a coral island with no mangroves).
The taupalin they used was salvage from Peter Sharp’s MV Solomon Queen – before it got burnt down on Buka Passage in 2012. The taupalin was used as shelter and used to fetch water during the rain.
An aluminium bowl on board was used as a pot, tying it onto two sticks to be held on both ends over a fire. A shovel was used as the fireplace and mangroves as firewood. When cooking it was a balancing act waltzing with the waves for the two individuals as they keep the bowl of rice steady.
“We had one meal a day. It consisted of two spoons of rice and water. And that’s it,” Lesley said.
For a week there was no rain so they had to do without clean rain water.
Jethro Toukena came up with the idea of flavouring the salt water but it ended the same – salt water.
“We had no hope but to drink salt water,” Toukena said.
“I tried different mix with Tang, Sugar and Milk powder but it still tasted salty. You could only make two sips.
“We nearly died of dehydration.”
While drifting they were able to catch fish in an improvised manner. A nylon rope was used as a string and an Ox & Palm Bully Beef Key was used as a hook for deep sea fishing. Crazy but that’s survival instinct.
With his years of experience, Lesley avoided waves during thunderstorms by throwing the anchor down. The boat would turn to face the oncoming waves and remain afloat, swaying to the beat of the waves and wind.
Carterets fishermen are known sailors. They use sails mounted on canoes to go fishing, trawling or island-hopping. With that experience, the men built a sail from the materials on-board to navigate the bad weather.
During the month long tribulation at sea, they kept drifting between the waters of Bougainville and New Ireland.
“We drifted past Carterets, Nissan and Fead. We came near Anir in New Ireland but the strong currents pulled us back into Bougainville waters,” Lesley said.
If the current had not pulled them back into Bougainville, they would have drifted the open Pacific Ocean to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
One afternoon on their fourth week at sea, a seagull landed on the boat’s sail to rest. The other bird flew past without stopping.
Lesley’s traditional fishing skills came into play.
“I recalled back to when we went out fishing,” he said.
“When a bird ate enough at sea, it will fly straight to land without stopping.
“I watched as this seagull flew right past us so I started sailing following the direction of the bird. When the bird disappeared I took mark on the cloud it was flying towards.
“When night fell, I picked a star in the same direction and sailed towards it. When the star came over our heads, I picked another star and that’s how we travelled all night.
“After hours of sailing, we decided to rest so the boys to threw the anchor.”
And just like that, they found land the next morning.
“When sunrise, one of the boys came out of the shelter to pee and saw land.
“He shouted ‘LAND!’”
“I was surprised! All around us was just reef!
“We came in through a passage and through to the reef. If we had hit the surf breaks (sea-buruk) it would have been a different story.
“I started the engine and used the last fuel to reach the island,” said Lesley.
They were on land and it was Bougainville soil. The men had anchored on one of the atoll islands on Fead (Nuguria).
From Fead, they made their way back to Carterets.
The same cannot be said for the others who never did. When the sun sets over the vast Pacific Ocean, families still pray that their loved ones are still out there in good spirit.
This is a tribute to loved ones lost at sea. May their soul Rest In Peace.Published in The National, Friday July 27, 2018.

TRIBUTE TO LIVES LOST AT SEA
The Carterets Islanders Tale

By ISAIAH MANISH IGISH

The sun sets over the vast Pacific Ocean. Its magnificent view brings to life the warmth memories of families.
Deep scented saltwater breeze pounds heavily on your face like a final blow to your forehead by Carterets Islander and Papua New Guinea’s boxing sensation Thaddeus Katua’s ultimate whack to complete the bout.
Not knowing what tomorrow may bring, the 23-foot banana boat floats aimlessly following the direction of the current. Lost and weary at sea, all hopes of survival is hanging by a thread.
Five-men have been lost at sea for 28-days.
Team work, faith and perseverance had driven them to cling on to hope.
The men from Carterets were homebound to the Tulun (Carterets) Islands from Buka.
While Bougainville was celebrating the Autonomous Day on June 15th 2012, these men from Iagain took on a voyage they will always remember.
Sixty-one-year-old Anthon Lesley, a seasoned open sea skipper, was in charge of the boat.
Carterets Island sits 30 degrees North-East off Buka. The 57 nautical miles distance takes approximately three hours to reach aboard a 60-horse powered dingy.
Normally on a fine weather, after traveling for two hours, Buka Island will be hidden under the clouds and Carterets Island would sprout up the vast open sea like a drifting coconut. It would take another hour to reach the island and berth.
Lesly was operating a 60 horse Yamaha machine. Three hours into the trip, he realized he was off-course.
Without seeing land after traveling the hours required, the skipper knew an equipment or accessory on the boat wasn’t functioning well.
A very experienced skipper, Lesley used his 30-years’ experience as an open sea skipper to make a quick check on the equipment and stock.
The two major causes for drifting at sea – shortage of petrol or a faulty engine – were ruled out. There was enough petrol and no mechanical fault with the engine. The weather was fine.
With these two checked, he directed his attention to the compass he was using to navigate the open sea. He soon realised that the compass was tampered with.
The compass was salvage from a wrecked fishing vessel. He used the same compass on many occasions while navigating the open seas across the Bougainville Atoll islands.
“The water in the compass which helps the arrow give direction is actually alcohol. Vodka,” Lesley tells me while puffing his ‘brus-to-brus’ (tobacco).
“I think the night before our trip some drunks got the compass from the boat and emptied the alcohol content. They replaced it with home-brew (moonshine).
“It only needs a skilled professional to do such like a ship captain. The captain will know the volume needed to refill the compass to function 100%.
“The home-brew was the reason the compass didn’t function well.”
Lesley started his seasoned career as a skipper in the late 1980s.
He was the caretaker of the Iagain Island community boat for eight years on Carterets Island.
During the height of the Bougainville Crisis, Lesley was approached by the then North Solomon Provincial Health Division to be employed as the Sohano Hospital’s skipper. He also performed duties as a static guard.
The Provincial Hospital was formerly based on Sohano Island and later moved to Buka Island in 2000.
“During the crisis, there were lots of people who came to Sohano to receive treatments for wounds and other sickness,” Lesley recalled. (The PNG Government imposed a 10-year blockade on the island during the crisis. During this period, all supplies to Bougainville were cut off).
“The hospital kept patients records. Whenever someone passed away, the hospital would repatriate the bodies back to their homes.
“The bodies were repatriated because the morgue at Sohano wasn’t functioning well like the one in Arawa.”
Lesley’s task was to repatriate bodies to the West Coast of Bougainville (Torokina, Hahon, Kounua, Keriaka) by boat.
“It was tough times. Sometimes we were shot at by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). They would think we were doing other business (recon operations for the Bougainville Resistance Force or the PNG Defence Force).
He retired from his work at the Provincial Health in early 2012.
After retirement, Lesley occasionally operated passenger boats servicing Buka and Carterets Island.
One of those trip ended with this ordeal at sea – drifting for a month.
Every person on Carterets Island will relate to the term ‘tirip’ (drift). At least three out of ten heads have drifted while either traveling to Buka from the island or otherwise.
Paul Kerehana, another Iagain Islander, sunk with nine others while traveling back to Carterets Island from Buka.
It was New Year’s Eve – 1st of January 2014. Their boat had a double engine – 60 and 40 horse giving it a total 100 horse power to carry its heavy load. On board were three kids under the age of 10 years and 6 adults.
The crew left Buka around 9am heading into a strong South-Easterly winds.
“We were already in the middle of Buka and Carterets when the weather turned from bad to worse,” Fifty-seven-year-old Kerehana recalled.
“There was no other way but to continue onwards. The wind was between 40-45 knots. The waves rose to 15-20 meters high.
“The boat was just a mere ant underneath these big waves.”
They made it into Carterets waters but before reaching Piul, one of other island that make up Carterets, the boat capsized under a big wave.
“We made it to Carterets. The final part of the journey was to cross the ‘sea buruk’ (surf break) and we were through to the reef and safety,” Kerehana said.
“The wind was so strong. We came under a very big wave which sunk the boat. The current was strong towards the open sea. I forced myself to swim to the reef.
“I was praying all along,” Kerehana, a devoted United Church christian said.
“After a few minutes of swimming against the high tide, my right foot felt a stone.
“I forced my toe into one of the cracks in the stone and never let go. I stood there till day break, singing and praising God for his guidance over me.”
Only three individuals survived the ordeal. The others perished.
The other two survivors are Patricia Topira and her now ex-husband Robin Tsube.
It was a sad day for the couple as they had to celebrate New Year without their two kids – four-year-old Raynad and one-year and seven-months old Cotilda.
Robin also lost his dad Paul Tsube and mother Rose during that ordeal.
The family spent Christmas in Buka and were returning to Carterets when disaster struck.
“The kids were sitting with their grandparents when the boat capsized,” Patricia, who is now an Early childhood teacher said.
“I was too weak and slept all along after too much vomiting. We capsized at about 3pm.
“The kids hang on to their grandmother because she had a life jacket on.
“While in the sea, Robin passed me an empty 20litre water container to help me swim. He swam behind me with an esky lid.
When the wind subdued two hours later, there was no sign of her kids or her parents-in-law.
For Patricia, never a day goes by that she never stopped thinking about her kids. The pain was unbearable for her that she decided to path-ways with Robin in 2015.
Today Patricia has Raynelda Andrea who is one-year and eight months old who consoles her broken heart every time she thinks about Raynad and Cotilda.
Many families from the Atolls will relate to the drifting experience. Many have lost loved ones at sea who have never returned.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jethro Toukena was on-board the boat skipped by Anthon Lesley.
He was fortunate to survive the ordeal and has a story to tell of his experience.
The same couldn’t be said for his dad Michael and elder brother Kevin.
Jethro’s dad and brother went missing when traveling from Buka to Carterets in 2015.
Till today, their remains have not been found including the other 12-people on board the boat.
Currently there is no passenger vessel servicing the Atolls.
This makes it riskier for boats traveling the open seas to Buka to get mostly food supplies.
Carterets has been hardly hit with effects of rising sea level.
The salt water has entered the island destroying food crops mainly swamp taro (kanokano), banana, sweet potato (kaukau) and cassava.
With no option of making gardens, the villagers heavily depend on rice as their ‘adopted’ staple food.
Boats need to frequently travel to Buka to get rice, flour, sugar and salt to ensure supply is maintained on the island. A one-way boat-fare is K150.
A boat owner would need one drum (200L) of petrol to make a return trip to Carterets from Buka. On the island, one-litre of petrol cost K10.
Hunger only strikes on the island when there are strong winds which stops the boats from traveling, because of the rough seas.
In these tough situation, the villagers resort to fish and coconut as their meals to see off a day.
However, boats still take the risk of traveling during strong winds.
In the 1990s North Solomon Provincial Government owned MV Sankamap used to make monthly trips to the Atolls – Carterets, Nissan, Nuguria (Fead), Mortlock, and Tasman.
Kerehana recalled that it was a good service and should be revived.
“We need a ship to service the Atolls like what (MV) Sankamap did,” he said.
“Many lives have been lost already.
“A ship traveling the Atolls will stop the boats from traveling to Buka and mitigate the risks on drifting at sea.”
Life on the island is more laidback – which only involves fishing. There is no space to make gardens.
The islanders depend on selling fresh fish and pislama (sea cucumber/beche-de-mer) as the only form of social income. Others have moved to Buka in the hope of building a better life.
The only way out for the inhabitants of the island is to find formal employment outside of Carterets to sustain their families back on the island.
Transportation remains yet a major challenge for the Carterets islanders.
Anthon Lesley and his crew were lucky because they had enough materials and supply on board to help them survive.
“During this trip, we were transporting mangroves sticks and ropes for a seaweed project on the island,” Lesley said while pointing to the location where the project once stood.
“The boat was loaded, even with food supplies.
“When I realized the compass was faulty, I killed the engine and told the boys ‘yumi tirip nau’ (We’re now drifting)”.
“We had a tank (25litres) remaining so I reserved it.”
The skipper said the boys gave up after the first three days of drifting.
“All hope was gone. We had food on-board but no one bothered to eat.
“Being a cheerful person, my tricks didn’t help.
“After the third day, they realized that we needed to keep fighting on for survival.”
When survival instincts kicked in, the idiom ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ came into effect.
Every cargo they had brought with them came in handy. It was like they had packed to get ‘lost’ at sea.
They used the mangroves sticks to build a shelter (Carterets is a coral island with no mangroves).
The taupalin they used was salvage from Peter Sharp’s MV Solomon Queen – before it got burnt down on Buka Passage in 2012. The taupalin was used as shelter and used to fetch water during the rain.
An aluminium bowl on board was used as a pot, tying it onto two sticks to be held on both ends over a fire. A shovel was used as the fireplace and mangroves as firewood. When cooking it was a balancing act waltzing with the waves for the two individuals as they keep the bowl of rice steady.
“We had one meal a day. It consisted of two spoons of rice and water. And that’s it,” Lesley said.
For a week there was no rain so they had to do without clean rain water.
Jethro Toukena came up with the idea of flavouring the salt water but it ended the same – salt water.
“We had no hope but to drink salt water,” Toukena said.
“I tried different mix with Tang, Sugar and Milk powder but it still tasted salty. You could only make two sips.
“We nearly died of dehydration.”
While drifting they were able to catch fish in an improvised manner. A nylon rope was used as a string and an Ox & Palm Bully Beef Key was used as a hook for deep sea fishing. Crazy but that’s survival instinct.
With his years of experience, Lesley avoided waves during thunderstorms by throwing the anchor down. The boat would turn to face the oncoming waves and remain afloat, swaying to the beat of the waves and wind.
Carterets fishermen are known sailors. They use sails mounted on canoes to go fishing, trawling or island-hopping. With that experience, the men built a sail from the materials on-board to navigate the bad weather.
During the month long tribulation at sea, they kept drifting between the waters of Bougainville and New Ireland.
“We drifted past Carterets, Nissan and Fead. We came near Anir in New Ireland but the strong currents pulled us back into Bougainville waters,” Lesley said.
If the current had not pulled them back into Bougainville, they would have drifted the open Pacific Ocean to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
One afternoon on their fourth week at sea, a seagull landed on the boat’s sail to rest. The other bird flew past without stopping.
Lesley’s traditional fishing skills came into play.
“I recalled back to when we went out fishing,” he said.
“When a bird ate enough at sea, it will fly straight to land without stopping.
“I watched as this seagull flew right past us so I started sailing following the direction of the bird. When the bird disappeared I took mark on the cloud it was flying towards.
“When night fell, I picked a star in the same direction and sailed towards it. When the star came over our heads, I picked another star and that’s how we travelled all night.
“After hours of sailing, we decided to rest so the boys to threw the anchor.”
And just like that, they found land the next morning.
“When sunrise, one of the boys came out of the shelter to pee and saw land.
“He shouted ‘LAND!’”
“I was surprised! All around us was just reef!
“We came in through a passage and through to the reef. If we had hit the surf breaks (sea-buruk) it would have been a different story.
“I started the engine and used the last fuel to reach the island,” said Lesley.
They were on land and it was Bougainville soil. The men had anchored on one of the atoll islands on Fead (Nuguria).
From Fead, they made their way back to Carterets.
The same cannot be said for the others who never did. When the sun sets over the vast Pacific Ocean, families still pray that their loved ones are still out there in good spirit.
This is a tribute to loved ones lost at sea. May their soul Rest In Peace.

The noble job of fighting fake news and why PNG should be ready

Regional news content producers and other stakeholders are currently meeting at Google’s Asia-Pacific Headquarters in Singapore to discuss methods on how to combat misinformation or fake news.

The collaboration is driven by Industry Google, Facebook, Storyful and the International Fact Checkers Network (IFCN).

We’ve come out of the first half of the day’s session and my mind is working in overdrive. The kind of fake news being talked about is nowhere near what we know as problematic in Papua New Guinea.

The morning part of the session was about the creation of, not just fake social media accounts, but of sophisticated network of fake websites created in foreign countries for both political disinformation and short term profit.

Debunking fake news through research, education and technology has become a genre of its own. Various organizations including traditional news outlets like AFP and BBC are dedicating resources to combating fake news through fact checking and reporting the fact checked content and dispelling fake news.

“It’s crossing borders and its crossing boundaries,” says Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed news, the news service known for its use of user generated viral videos. “The internet is important to us.”

Silverman and the Buzzfeed team, taken debunking to a whole new level by using crowd-sourcing tools and applications normally used by marketers and cyber investigators.

“And these are tools not designed for journalists, but we’ve found them useful.”

Over 10 years, fake news has become so much of a concern for mainstream and online news platforms. The concerns have been largely driven by the rise of user generated content on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Increasingly, those at the forefront of debunking fake news have been thrust into the global discourse. Most of the players are small non-profit organizations who have becoming involved in debunking things like the supposed Russian involvement in US politics.

Again, I’m being reminded that fake news knows no boundaries.

Others like the online news service, Storyful did an investigation which proved how a group of Macedonian teens had tried to interfere in US politics by spreading fake news that supported US President Donald Trump prior to the elections.

Why did they do it? For internet traffic from the US and for short term profit. As one commentator put it during the session, US eye balls are worth much more.

But fake news is as diverse as the Asia-Pacific region.

In some countries, fake news and misinformation is being sponsored by government. In other countries, fake news is on mainstream media. The internet is making the ‘weaponizing’ of fake news a serious concern.

“We’ve also found instances where right wing organization in the US are training right-wing groups in Europe,” said one presenter.

Where do we stand as a country?

We are on the crossroads. With increasing access to technology and the internet, Fake news will soon become a serious cyber crime concern if we are not concern. The solution is not to ban social media or have stricter laws put in place by NICTA. We all know that won’t work.

The solution is to involve the media and those who produce the content and to leverage to tools offered by internet giants like Google and Facebook to both debunk and clamp down on misinformation.

I’ll talk about the methods in another post.