Thursday, January 8, 2009

East New Britain Province

I guess if Lae and Morobe are my PNG home away from home then the East New Britain Province is my holiday home away from home. I have spent a fair deal of time in the province and as mentioned once before in this blog, I never tire of watching Tavuvur, the active volcano.

The provincial heart of East New Britain is now Kokopo as much as those in Rabaul disbelieve, but the true business heart is on the other side of Simpson Harbour. Rabaul got dumped on in 1994 and covered with Ash from Tavuvur and Vulcan (original name for a Volcano) and despite rescue attempts to save the Town, it survives purely as a shipping port and tourist draw card. The ash which has now fallen in the last 12 months is ringing out the end of this once beautiful town. The people, who still live here, are ash coloured and depressed, the Frangipanis still hang in despite their leaves being continually darkened from the sun and the Mangoes of Mango Street are a thing of the past.

PNG almost gets tourism right here, and it is making inroads to improving what possibly could be a sustainable and economic future. Diving, Fishing, War History and the Volcano could all be a boom for this part of the Pacific.

I remember one time jumping into some very deep water just off Pidgin Island into a pod of Dolphins and for a brief moment I swam with these large mammals of the deep. I could hear their whistles and clicks and it is a very surreal feeling watching them play and swim around. The surrealism got even more intense as I then had the strongest feeling that one of the Dolphins was not looking at me, but through me, looking at something behind me and over my shoulder. I turned around in the water to see a rather large fish with a big pointy nose, an intense black eye and a long pointy tail. It was a close encounter with a shark.

I then started to try to walk/run on water whilst calling back to the crew on the boat to come and get me as there was a shark in the water. During my impression of a wounded seal I could only think of where the shark was and how fast was he going to hit my legs at. Well something was on my side because it was a whole minute later when I was picked up by the old Sea Cap’n and his boat, which was more than enough time for old Chompy to have a bite, but thankfully Sharky didn’t.

My pulse still elevates when I think of that big black eye in the water.

Don’t know what is safer, standing underneath Tavuvur is when it is chucking out molten VWs or swimming in the water...?


Tavurvur said...

I've ventured many a time to the Pidgin Islands.

Give me the sharks over the mountain any day.



Lucky-1 said...

Amazing photos......not sure which one is more powerful.

Steve Bennett said...

Thanks Tavurvur and Lucky-1,

After swimming accidently with a Great White 20 years ago, I'll take a big steaming Volcano first up!

Still can't help but jump in the water up here in PNG, the underwater life and the sea temp is simply gorgeous.

And Lucky, I think the fact the Volcano shot is well set up and composed through a thoughtful process makes it an impressive shot, only the Volcano had to respond accordingly, but the shark shot was a "Holy Crap, there's a shark looking at me and I have my little underwater point and shoot camera set to movie-mode" makes that still a scarier image.

Both these two shots were taken on the same weekend.