Because Wewak, along with Madang, was one of the biggest towns along the north coast of Papua New Guinea, it had one of the larger diesel power stations in the country. As a result, I ended up making about 5 trips here for one reason or another and got to know the Manager of the station, local Thomas Kabo, quite well. He did his best to try to keep enough generators running to allow the lights to stay on.
This view, from up by his glass-enclosed office (to keep out the noise and heat), shows the line-up of 7 generator positions, with the biggest machine visible near the top of the photo with it's silver exhaust pipe heading off to the left. This was a brand new 1200-kw Detroit Diesel (the new No. 4 machine) that I helped to install during this January, 1980 visit. It was much larger than the four older and smaller English Electric machines, No. 1 & 2 in the foreground and No. 6 & 7 almost out of sight at the far end of the hall. The No. 3 Blackstone was down and out with a crankshaft problem and No. 5 position had been vacant for a long time following the failure of that unit.
On a much earlier trip, in September 1980, I was in Wewak following problems with the big new No. 4 machine. With it out of action, things were not going well for Elcom in Wewak! As a result, a smaller 540-kw Detroit Diesel machine with a Kato generator was shipped in as quickly as possible.
I was part of the small team from Port Moresby who looked after getting it skidded into the vacant spot in the power station where the old No. 5 machine had once resided. It took about a week to get everything in-place and checked out. Once the generator was up and running smoothly, the poor old English Electric machines could breath a sigh of relief and all the lights were now able to be turned on in Wewak once more.
We celebrated with a trip to the nearby beach at Cape Wom Memorial Park!
My final trip to Wewak was in May, 1982, since I was part of a small group changing to a single-engine aircraft there while on our way to Bainyik, a tiny community situated 70 km (45-miles) west and inland of the town. Bainyik is located by the Screw River, a tributary of the mighty 1130-km (650-mile) Sepik River and its endless rainforest and swamps. This part of PNG, north of the dividing mountain ranges, is still one of the most remote areas in the world and is home to many isolated tribal communities.
My assistant, Benson Minit, and I were admiring this carved totem pole beside the Bainyik airport when three villagers suddenly emerged from the rainforest at the edge of the strip. The family, comprising an old man in his shorts with a bag slung over one shoulder and holding a slashing machete, his equally old wife with with a bilum cord across her forehead to support the large sack on her back and their young child, all just stopped and stared at us. Then, without a word or any change in their expression, they continued to walk onward and back into the forest. I have them on a Super-8 Home Movie camera clip (my first 'moving' pictures thanks to a trip to Hong Kong a few months previously), but did not have my 35 mm camera on hand at that moment.