Port Moresby Harbour

Port Moresby Harbour

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Port Moresby Harbour

A view of the harbour at Port Moresby, the capital and main port of Papua during the Second World War.

Tag: Port Moresby history

A couple of weeks ago I took these shots of Port Moresby from the road leading up to Paga Hill facing Fairfax Harbour. It was a dull and overcast day so the photos may look a bit dreary.

Dreary but peaceful. Major civil works near the Royal Papua Yacht Club towards Konedobu and the Poreporena Freeway.

Been up this way (toward Paga Hill) before but never paid much attention to the road or surrounds until I ventured up there albeit not all the way to the top given time constraints. So many things have changed. Especially places that I used to know are no longer there or have changed in way or another. The road to Paga Hill on this particular day was a long lonely road. It seemed weird at that time of the day but I guess that’s what Port Moresby is like now.

So many changes have made the place not only unrecognizable in some places but also quite depressing. So many historical buildings that gave Port Moresby her special charm and warmth as a city are gone.

This is a government office. believe it or not! Is this building going to benefit from the anticipated millions expected from the LNG project.

I felt a lump in my throat and realised how strange the place feels now. Thought about the restaurants, the movie theatres such as the Papuan Theatre, bookshops and gift shops and felt really nostalgic. I guess the dull and overcast day didn’t do much for my spirits.

Inspite of these feelings of nostalgia, my keen amateur photographer’s eye did not miss the opportunity to capture some of the views of the harbour and downtown Port Moresby.

Fairfax Harbour - one of the few natural harbours in the world. Views towards Fisherman's Island - tranquility The 'Hiri Chief' berthed at another wharf below Paga Hill and a little ways from the container wharf. Views over Douglas Street, downtown Port Moresby This new building is just up from the site of the former Royal Papua Hotel and a little ways down from the Crowne Plaza. I remember a lovely coffee shop and a hair salon on this site. These are long gone.  Bank of South Pacific - bought off the former PNGBC Pacific Place along Champion Parade, on the site of the former Papua pub/bar and next to Stop 'n' Shop formerly Steamships. Deloitte Towers - cant remember what was there before - the library and theatre?

Unfortunately, I cannot remember where most of the old buildings were located. I am sure someone will come along with a historical map of Port Moresby that should tell us where the old buildings were. They are part of our heritage but with very little preservation of historical buildings in this city I wonder if we will ever recreate the charm and warmth of the city of Port Moresby – once a duty free port.

The million Kina question now is: what would it take to bring back the old charm and vibrant character of this city by the sea – Port Moresby?

Port Moresby Harbour - History


Overlooking Paga Hill at Port Moresby - 1942. The shipping channel is behind the hill. The main shipping channel as seen from Paga Hill in 1956. The location of the Boom is shown. The Malaita after being torpedoed off Port Moresby on 30 August 1942

Port Moresby lies on the southeast shore of Papua New Guinea and is built around Fairfax Harbour, the island's largest harbour. As the city capital and administrative centre of PNG, it has the greatest population density in the country. During World War 2 Port Moresby was coveted by both sides for control of the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. The Allies defeated Japanese naval forces destined for Port Moresby in the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea. The area became a major American and Australian staging area and airfield complex in support of the Allied push to the north of New Guinea. Japan suffered a further blow in 1942 when they were routed on the Owen Stanley Range.

Harbour defences consisted of several army batteries and a naval anti-submarine indicator loop installation. This webpage is mostly concerned with the Indicator Loops. The 'Loops' are long lengths of armoured cables laid on the seabed in shipping channels designed to detect submarines passing overhead. More details of how they work can be found on my How an Indicator Loop works webpage. Other Loop installations can be seen on the Indicator Loops around the World (Home Page).

Papua New Guinea is to the north of Australia Port Moresby is located in Papua New Guinea - along the southern coast

Thank you to John Douglas and Kell Nielsen for supplying many photos and captions for this webpage. These photos are copyright.
For enquiries abou reuse contact John at [email protected] and Kell at [email protected]


In 1873 and 1875 Captain John Moresby RN (later Admiral) aboard the 'old-fashioned paddler' HMS Basilisk wrote of his expeditions in New Guinea on behalf of the British Admiralty. The names "Moresby" and "Basilisk" are synonymous with Papua New Guinea today and his report makes interesting reading. During the survey of the southern coast he discovered the harbour which he named Fairfax after his father Admiral Fairfax Moresby. The town established there, based on already existing native villages (principally Hanuabada) was named Port Moresby and is now the nation's capital. John Moresby was also searching for a shorter route between Australia and China and on the eastern tip of the island he discovered the China Straits. He continued exploring along the north west coast as far as the Huon Gulf. For your information, I have attached selected parts of his second paper "Discoveries in Eastern New Guinea" related to Port Moresby itself, taken from the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 45 (1875), pp. 153-170.


Port Moresby saw little of the Navy in the 1930s - usually just the one visit by the Australian Squadron in September each year. Not all of the squadron would come to Port Moresby, usually just one or two while the others visited other ports (Rabaul, Darwin etc). For example, in 1930 Rear Admiral E. R. G. R. Evans brought the flagship HMAS Australia and seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross for a winter visit from 11-13 September. In 1932, the Spring cruise of the squadron saw the cruiser HMAS Australia and the destroyer HMAS Tattoo drop in. For the Spring cruises in 1935 and 1936 HMAS Canberra, flagship of Rear Adm W. T. R Ford (1935) and Rear Adm R. H. O Lane-Poole (1936) had five-day visits in September but there was little else until the following year. Of major significance to the defence of Papua and New Guinea was the volcanic eruption on Baluan Island at Rabaul, New Guinea's capital on the 31st May 1937. Blanche Bay at Rabaul was said to be a 'sea of terror'. With the death of 400 residents, the Australian Government had to decide the fate of the town. The Australian Governor General Lord Gowrie and Lady Gowrie aboard HMAS Australia had a timely visit in a month later.

The Government announced that the two territories - Papua and New Guinea - would be amalgamated and Port Moresby would be the capital. Under the Mandate that covered New Guinea, Australia was not permitted to build defence installations in New Guinea but under amalgamation it could be defended from fortifications in Papua. To strengthen defences, more information about the Port Moresby harbour was needed. On 10th October 1936 1936 Lt Cmr Robert Bagster Atlee Hunt (RAN) from the Hydrographic Branch arrived in Port Moresby aboard the surveying ship HMAS Moresby to make a detailed survey of the approaches to the harbour. This map was of vital importance in the coming war and was considered to be of such a high standard that the approaches were not resurveyed until 1996. Lt Cmr Hunt folowed this up with a survey of the approaches to Port Darwin before returning to Sydney. Land was also surveyed at Port Moresby by military officers and was resumed for defence purposes.

In March 1939, Major Kenneth Drummond Chalmers arrived in Port Moresby with a subordinate officer and 38 men of 13th Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, to assume the position of officer commanding Port Moresby harbour defences. They established a permanent settlement at Paga Point in Port Moresby. They constructed an extension to the road (Chalmers Crescent) around Paga Hill and right up to the 110 metre high crest of the hill. A gun emplacement was built that commanded the approaches to Basilisk Passage, the main shipping route through the reef to Port Moresby harbour (see map below).

The guns of Port Moresby are discussed in more detail at my Port Moresby Coastal Battery page. The history of the Paga Hill Battery can also be found there. For more on the role of the 53 Battalion at Port Moresby see 53 Battalion webpage.


After the outbreak of the European war with Germany in September 1939, life hardly changed in Port Moresby, or in Papua and New Guinea for that matter. In July 1940, a detatchment of 150 men from a Queensland militia unit was sent to Port Moresby, and they were joined by small naval and airforce units. This was followed up with a visit to Port Moresby by the cruiser HMAS Canberra on 18 August 1939. On 10th September 1940 the Naval Board (of the Royal Australian Navy) wrote to the Naval Officer In Charge at Port Moresby asking for his recommendation about naval defences. He wrote back on 13th September recommending a minesweeping unit of 2 vessels, an anti-submarine unit of 3 vessels and a series of minefields. He also recommended that the guns be modified (to a 20º mounting, if nothing else) and extra searchlight to cover the minefield. The minefields proposed were: Entrance to Bootless Inlet, Pyramid Point to reef, the anchorage off Porebada (Haidana Island) and, when necessary, Baselisk Passage. By this they meant that when intelligence suggests an naval attack on Port Moresby is imminent.

In late November 1940, the Australian government advised the public that the budget now allowed for naval bases and anti-submarine defences at Darwin and Port Moresby but the Government was advised by the Navy that 4000 mines would be needed to fight a Pacific war and 100s of these would be required at Port Moresby. Prime Minister Robert Menzies was tardy with this - he still believed that Japan would not attack and only placed an order for 500 mines. However, back in Port Moresby, with the establishment of the gun emplacement at Paga Point, the town had in effect become a garrison town and changes were now about to happen. In September 1940, the The Navy recommended

On February 11, 1941, In response to the ominous signs that Japan was preparing for military aggression in the South-West Pacific region, the Australian Federal Opposition leader John Curtin weighed into the debate with a public call for strengthening of defences at Darwin and Port Moresby. The Australian government undertook a rapid expansion of Australia's volunteer Citizen Military Forces - the 'militia' - for the defence of the Australian mainland and overseas territories. Although liable to be called up to defend Australia, these militia troops were inadequately trained, and lacked adequate equipment and weapons. One-thousand garrison troops - a company of the 49th Battalion of the Australian Military Forces - arrived in March 1941 without the most basic infantry equipment. The 49th had been raised from conscripts in Queensland for "tropical service" in February 1941 and sailed to the islands in the Torres Strait where some disembarked for garrison duty at Thursday Island. The rest of the battalion arrived in Port Moresby in March. The battalion undertook little training once in Port Moresby and mainly provided labour for working parties and unloaded ships’ stores at the expense of weapon and infantry training, cohesion, morale and discipline. During this time the 49th’s morale was low and had reportedly the worst discipline in Moresby. It is fair to say that they were young (the average age of these militia recruits was 18½ years) and poorly trained. They placed a heavy burden on the town.

The 39th and 53rd Battalions were raised in Australia, departed Sydney 27th December 1941 on the Aquitania and reached Port Moresby on 3rd January 1942 to form the 30th Brigade commanded by Major General Basil Moorhouse Morris, Commander of the 8th Military District. They they could not immediately be fed and sheltered because their food supplies and camping equipment had been stowed at the bottom of the ship's hold. Many of the raw recruits of the 53rd Battalion had never handled a rifle until they were put on board the ship bound for Port Moresby. The 53rd battalion was assigned to the Napa Napa peninsula, an arid strip of stony, timbered hills and mosquito-infested mangrove swamps on the remote western side of Port Moresby harbour. Until Japan invaded New Guinea in 1942 the responsibility for the defence of Port Moresby was tasked to these battalions where they would play a critical and heroic role in delaying the momentum of the Japanese advance.

In July 1941 Menzies informed the public that the first minefield of the war was to be laid in the approaches to Port Moresby. But, to the Navy, this was not enough. Other ports needed defending. When the Labor Government under Prime Minister Curtin assumed office in October 1941 another 2000 mines were ordered for the eastern seaboard of Australia (Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane. ).


Japan's strategic planning of its war operations was based upon intelligence gathered by the armed services and their overseas agents over a considerable period of time preceding the outbreak of hostilities. When the Japanese forces struck on 8 December 1941, they possessed a fairly accurate knowledge of ground, air, and naval strength in the areas attacked, of the locations of airfields and fortifications, and of the terrain and climatic conditions under which they would have to fight. Detailed reports by military intelligence agents who toured the southern areas prior to the war were also in the hands of the Japanese Army planning staffs. One such report, made by Major Tetsuo Toyofuku on the basis of personal observation in March 1941, covered British New Guinea and was used as the basis of an intelligence study on this area compiled by the Japanese Army General Staff. The study known as "Military Data on British New Guinea" was reproduced by (Japanese) General Headquarters, Southern Army, in 1942 for use in the Papua New Guinea operations. An extract from the Japanese study shows the assessment of Port Moresby's harbour was very accurate:

(1) General Condition of Harbor and City: Port Moresby has a good, wide harbor, and the bay is entered by passing between Hanudamava Island (at the mouth of the harbor) and Bogirohodobi Point, approximately 1.5 miles (2400m) to the east. At the beginning of 1940 there were approximately 800 Europeans, approximately 20 Chinese, and no Japanese residents. The natives (approximately 2000) have built their village over the water and live apart from the white residents. The city is situated between Tuaguba Hill and Ela [Paga] Hill on the eastern shore of the harbor, and is the center of the government, military affairs, economics, transportation, communications, etc. of Australian-controlled New Guinea. There are various offices, including government offices and branch offices, a radio station, a government-managed electric power plant, church, school, European and native hospitals, an ice plant, bank, hotels, etc.

(2) Value of Port Moresby as a Naval Base: Although the harbor is rather small for a fleet base, it is fairly deep (maximum 10 fathoms), and the bottom is alluvial soil, and one or two squadrons could anchor without difficulty. A space between the coral reefs outside of the harbor offers a very wide anchoring place, large enough for a large fleet to anchor. However, installations for repairs and supply have not been fully established, so it is valuable only as a port of call.

(3) Military Preparations: Information obtained by observation of the actual area follows: (a) Garrison Strength: Army: There is a barracks at Granville East (approximately 1 kilometer northeast of the city), which, judging from its size and the amount of equipment, can accommodate approximately 1,000 men. The present garrison appears to be composed wholly of infantry troops, without artillery. Others: A Royal Australian Artillery Detachment (2 Officers, 38 non-commissioned officers, and privates, who arrived with 6-inch guns) apparently is stationed on Ela Hill and will be reinforced, judging from the fact that the number of barracks on the hill is being increased. Navy: The strength is not known but appears to be about 30 men. The orderly room is located at the side of the government pier. The station ship has not been identified only 2 or 3 launches have been identified. (b) Installations: A road for military use has been built to the top of Ela Hill, and two 6-inch guns are placed on top of this hill. The main line of fire of these guns apparently is directed toward Basilisk Passage. The guns are exposed on top of the hill. According to information, they will be increased by two more guns. In addition to the Kila Kila airfield, approximately 4 kilometers east of Port Moresby, an airfield for military use, approximately 11 kilometers from Port Moresby (location unknown), is expected to be constructed. A single road parallel to the coastal high­way, and halfway up the hill of Tuaguba, is being constructed.

(4) Passage of channels: The greatest difficulty in a landing operation at Port Moresby would be passing through the waterways. There are three channels entering the harbor of Port Moresby. Liljeblad Passage, on the extreme west, has a very strong current and shoals. This passage cannot be used in general because there are shallows before the mouth of the harbor. Therefore, it is difficult to enter this passage. Basilisk Passage, in the center, is the channel used by vessels at present, but it is about 6 kilometers from the gun emplacement on Ela Hill and thus is within the guns' effective range. In general, unless the gun emplacement is destroyed, it would be difficult to enter through this channel. Padana Nahua, at the extreme east, is quite wide (about 900 meters and is outside the effective range of the gun emplacement (about 18,000 meters). This channel should be selected for an entrance. However, all three waterways are neither very deep nor wide, and could easily be covered with mines and other obstacles. These obstacles must be cleared first of all. If a place where the Nateara and Sinavi coral reefs can be passed over with boats could be found, then an approach could be made without risking the danger of passing through the channel. Anchoring outside a coral reef is very difficult, so in such a case the transfer to boats would have to be made while drifting.

What is interesting is the lack of commentary on the possible use of Indicator Loops. There is no evidence that Japan knew of the planned use of Loops by the allies prior to WW2. It wasn't until the Japanese captured Penang that they realised that the harbour defences installed there were unknown devices the British called indicator loops.


There were four coastal batteries protecting Port Moresby: Basilisk Battery (Idlers Bay), Gemo Island Battery, Paga Hill Battery, and Bootless Bay Battery. The current state of the batteries can be found at Port Moresby Coastal Batteries. It was the Paga Hill Battery that covered Basilisk Passage where the loops were located.


Port Moresby harbour is protected from the open sea by a barrier reef that extends right along the coastline of Port Moresby and the land to the west and east. South-west of the city is an island called Daugo (Fishermen's) Island and outside this, a reef called Sinavi Reef. This reef makes up the western barrier to the harbour and is also the western side of the main entrance to the harbour, Basilisk Passage.

HMAS Basilisk Shore Station - October 1943


On the 2nd September 1939 - one day before war with Germany was declared - the Admiralty warned the Australian Navy Office of the deteriorating situation with Germany and the RAN immediately began an Examination Service at all capital city ports, and at Darwin, Newcastle and Port Moresby. Vessels about to enter a defended port would be stopped by the Examination Service steamer under guns of the shore batteries, and identified before being given permission to enter. This was the start of Port Moresby's naval defences. However, Port Moresby was without passive harbour defences such as antisubmarine nets, booms, indicator loops or mines up until the entry of Japan into the war. Preparation for defensive minefields in Australia and its neighbours to meet an Eastern (Japanese) war began much earlier.

In 1923 the Admiralty recommended to the Australian Naval Board that naval mines should be manufactured in Australia and finally in October 1939 an agreement with Ford Australia saw the first mines ordered (500). A naval mining policy was adopted by War Cabinet in September 1940. The coastal vessel Bungaree (3155 tons) was requisitioned in October 1940 as a minelayer and was commissioned on 9th June 1941. The next month (August 1941) Bungaree laid the first defensive minefield at Port Moresby and the Naval Board requested equipment from the Admiralty (in London) for indicator loops that were to be laid at Port Moresby [MP 1049/5 Item 1855/3/314]. The request was for:

• 1 x Type 803 Loop Installation (comprising three 3-legged loops)
• 2 x HDA (Harbour Defence Asdics)
• 10000 yards of Type 1989 Loop cable
• 7000 yards of Type 7048 Tail cable
• 15000 yards of Tail cable for the HDAs

The Admiralty replied that it would be available at the end of December 1941 but Port Moresby would have to wait until the Darwin loops had been relaid. In October and November 1941, the Navy laid additional fields in Torres Strait and in passages through the Barrier reef. The antisubmarine school HMAS Rushcutter had been instructed to begin planning for the deployment of loops at Port Moresby. This was prior to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the war in the Pacific.

Soon after the entry of Japan into the war on 8th December 1941, Port Moresby defences were strengthened by the appointment (on 29th January 1942) of Commander Robert B. A. Hunt OBE of the Royal Australian Navy as Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) of Port Moresby and Acting Commander (see photo below). Hunt was a 41 year old highly experienced officer in charge of the Hydrographic Depot at HMAS Penguin in Sydney. He was a career naval officer starting as a cadet midshipman in 1914. He had only just completed a hydrographic survey of the New South Wales coast and more importantly, in 1937, of Port Moresby harbour. With the United States arriving in Australia in early 1942, a reconsideration of seacoast defences was vital. Vice Admiral Herbert F. Leary, commander of Allied Naval Forces in the Command HQ SWPA requested a report on the reinforcement of seacoast defences and this was undertaken by Major General J. S. Whitelaw MGRA, Australian Army, Capt. H. J. Ray USN, Staff Officer, HQ SWPA, and Cmr H. J. Buchanan, RAN. Their report of 18 May 1942 recommended, for Port Moresby, an advanced air base to supplement the 2 x 6" guns at Basilisk Battery, Paga Hill. They also recommended the following antisubmarine defences: controlled minefields for Pyramid Point (at the west entrance of Bootless Bay Inlet) and west of Hanudamava Island (now known as Gemo Island) and for contact mines at Bootless Point (an inlet to the east of Port Moresby). They also recommended that the installation of indicator loops to cover Basilisk Passage: 3 loops surrounding Lark Patch in water between 6 fathoms and 15 fathoms. Buchanan asked that the NOIC Port Moresby select a site for the Loop Control Hut - suggesting either Paga Hill or Water Catchment Hill (Tuaguba Hill). He also said that the hut should be at least 200 yards from the guns to prevent ground vibrations. Lastly, Buchanan asked that a site be selected for the landing of the loop tails. He said that in the vicinity of the Native Hospitals or Ela Beach may be suitable. The Naval Board also wanted 2 Harbour Defence Asdics to be laid: No.1 at 149° off Bogirohodobi at a distance of 1.82 nm, and No. 2 at 249° off Paga Point at 0.75 nm. [1855/3/230, 12 May 1942].

The appearance of the Japanese submarine I-22 off Port Moresby on 4 May 1942 (after her efforts at Pearl Harbor and while on her way to the Coral Sea for battle) was insufficient to raise the priority of loop installations in Port Moresby harbour (Basilisk Passage). Nevertheless, cable and instruments were ordered with an expected delivery date of September/October 1942 (see below). However the detection of Japanese submarine RO33 off Port Moresby (and the successful attack by HMAS Arunta on 29 August 1942) made the need for passive harbour defences imperative and the loop laying program began in earnest.

In September 1942 the NOIC Port Moresby wrote to the Naval Board saying that the only practicable site for a Control Hut was at the old Port War Signal Station on Paga Hill. The NOIC said that a good concrete structure exists (the Army's Close Defence Battery Command Post - CDBOP) and it wasn't being used. So, the Naval Board wrote to the Army (18 September 1942) requesting the CDBOP and received a terse reply from the Army 6 days later saying that the reason it is not being used is because they are waiting for the Radar (RDF) equipment which was currently in transit to Port Moresby. So the NOIC had to find somewhere else. On 2 November 1942 Commander HJ Buchanan and Engineer Commander CW Bridge visited Paga Hill and selected a site further up the hill.


Three Indicator Loops (Type 803) and two Harbour Defence Asdics (HDAs) were thus planned for Port Moresby (Operation 'Silver'). On 31 Jan 1943 it was decided to postpone the laying of the HDAs and to lay only the three loops. The Loop Control station was to be constructed at the top of Paga Hill and the loop tails were to come ashore to a "Link Hut" at Bogirohodobi at the base of Paga Hill. The cable ship HMAS Bangalow, under the command of Lt F. C. Audall RANR (S), arrived on 25 March 1943 and laid the three loops and this was completed on 12 April 1943. To set the loops in correct position, their placement was triangulated from three marker flags: one on Kila Kila Hill to the east, one on Paga Hill (HMAS Basilisk flagstaff) and one was placed on top of the hill on Gemo Island. The Basilisk Beacon on Nateara Reef was also used. The position of the loops as shown on RAN charts is depicted on the map below. The loop station was set up by 28 year-old A/S Officer Lt Edgar Dillon RANVR (the Port A/S Officer at HMAS Basilisk shore station) and they were ready for operation on 16th Nov 1943.

Dillon had been an Instructor at the HMAS Rushcutter Anti-submarine school in Sydney since May 1941 and this was his first posting. He graduated with 'above average ability' in February 1941 and by February 1943 had also completed qualifications with distinction in Navigation and Fairmiles at the Fairmile School (at HMAS Rushcutter). It was usual practice to send one of the A/S Instructors from HMAS Rushcutter to set up the Loop Station and oversee the installation of the recording equipment and the connections of the tails to the instruments inside the hut.

Port Moresby

Yesterday . . .

Captain John Moresby, commander of HMS Basilisk, sailed into a harbour on the shores of the Gulf of Papua on the south-eastern coast of the Papuan Peninsula at 10.00am on 20 February 1873. He proudly named the two harbours he sailed into after his father Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby.

Captain Moresby&rsquos exploration of Papua New Guinea in the three-masted paddle-steamers lasted until 1874, after which he retired to a desk job at the Admiralty, London. Perhaps his greatest achievement, apart from the &lsquodiscovery&rsquo of Port Moresby, was his survey of 1.200 miles of New Guinea coastline and the finding of the China Strait at the eastern end of Papua.[i]

The colonial headquarters for Britain was established at Hanuabada from 1884 &ndash 1906 and Australia from 1906 &ndash 1975.

The Japanese bombed Port Moresby repeatedly in 1942. At the start of World War 11 American General Douglas MacArthur, overall commander of the Allied forces, made his headquarters at Port Moresby for a time. Most Motu and Koitabu men were enlisted as carriers, labourers, clerks or medical orderlies. The women and children moved to safety at villages far to the east and west. When the war ended in 1945, the Motu-Koitabu found their villages either destroyed or run down. They built temporary shelters with abandoned war supplies. In the late 1940s, Australia helped them rebuild Hanuabada.

Scientists believe Motu people settled in the area more than 400 years ago. The land may have been vacant because of its harsh climate and poor soils. The Motu started Pari and Badihagwa villages about 250 years ago and Hanuabada &ndash the great village &ndash 130 years ago. The Motu built houses on stilts over the sea. Bananas, yams and fish were their basic foods. Sago was their main food from November to May, between the yam seasons. The Motu used lakatois (big 2-hulled sailing canoes) to take pots and shells to Gulf to trade for sago and canoe logs. The inland Koitabu people befriended the Motu and traded plants for fish. The Koitabu built Baruni, Kilakila, and Korobosea villages in the coastal hills. They also settled at the edge of Motu villages, and intermarriages brought the two people closer together.

The Badili industrial area was developed in the 1950s, the Hohla, Gordon, and Six Mile areas in the late 1960s. The University of Papua New Guinea opened in 1965. Development of the new national government office centre at Waigani began in the 1970s. Port Moresby had an elected city council from 1971 &ndash to 1980, when the National Cabinet suspended it for financial mismanagement. The council had 21 members representing 7 wards. It ran markets and clinics and upgraded squatter settlements with water supplies, toilets, footpaths and other improvements. In May 1982, Parliament adopted an appointed government system for the National Capital District while alternatives were studied. Since 1991, the National Capital District has been governed by four different combinations of elected and appointed commissioners.

Over recent years Port Moresby has been in a state of transformation from a shanty-city to a modern metropolis. The city now boasts 5-star hotels, shopping malls, quality restaurants, waterfront cafes, modern sporting stadiums, contemporary office blocks, tropical gardens, nature parks and stunning harbours. New housing estates are rapidly replacing the old settlement areas.

It&rsquos an exciting place to be.

Interesting places . . .

National Parliament
Presented to the PNG at Independence by the Australian Government. It was built in the style of a haus tambaran (house of spirits). A most impressive building combining modern and cultural tradition.

National Museum and Art Gallery
Located near the National Parliament the National Museum and Art Gallery was also donated by the Australian Government at independence. This is a must see for anybody with more than a passing interest in the cultural history of PNG. Various displays and exhibitions throughout the year include culture, flora, fauna, geography, ethnology and history of PNG.

Nature Park
This is PNGs only combined botanical and zoological park and garden offering a great opportunity to view numerous native plants, including rare orchids and animals in a safe, tropical and large open space. More than 150 animals are on display including multiple species of trek kangaroos, cassowaries, wallabies, birds of paradise, parrots, pigeons and reptiles.

There is a beautiful café in a tranquil setting surrounded by nature. There is a small admission fee.

Visual materials in the Archives do not circulate and must be viewed in the Society's Archives Research Room.

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Wisconsin Historical Society Citation Wisconsin Historical Society, Creator, Title, Image ID. Viewed online at (copy and paste image page link). Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research Citation Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, Creator, Title, Image ID. Viewed online at (copy and paste image page link).

Press Releases

Harbourside South has started rising out of the Port Moresby Down Town construction site with the assembly of the yellow tower crane.

Steamships Corporate Affairs Executive, Mr David Toua, expressed satisfaction that the construction was becoming more visible across the Port Moresby skyline.

&ldquoThe current economic downturn caused by necessary Covid 19 restrictions has cast a bit of gloom around the place so seeing a construction site full of activity is certainly positive.&rdquo

&ldquoThere aren&rsquot a lot of tower cranes up at the moment so this is quite exciting for us and for Port Moresby.&rdquo.

&ldquoThe tower crane being assembled has a forty meter jib with a maximum hoisting capacity of twelve tonnes and will eventually rise to eighty meters,&rdquo he said.

At eighty meters, that would be as high long as two Fokker 100 aircrafts stacked end to end. A twelve tonne lifting capacity is enough to easily lift three Land Cruisers.

Harbourside South is the latest addition to the Precinct that consists of Harbourside East and West being developed by Harbourside Development Limited, a joint venture between Steamships and the PNG Sustainable Development Fund.

Once complete, Harbourside South will overlook Fairfax Harbour offering leisure, retail, commercial and residential amenities with a safe transit point between Champions Parade and Stanley Esplanade through the overhead pedestrian walkway.
Harbourside Development Limited, is a joint venture between Steamships and the PNG Sustainable Development Program., the Harbourside Precinct is managed by Pacific Palms Property, a division of Steamships Trading Company.

Where to Stay in Port Moresby?

It is better to stay in high-quality hotels in Port Moresby. The city is not dangerous but also not %100 secure for tourist. As you can check from this website there is always a risk of crime in the city. There will become tribal fighting in the city at any time and they are well-armed. By taking into account the warning like this you can choose one of the famous hotels in downtown. They will help you in any case.

If you have any experience about Port Moresby please share them in comments to give an idea the people who want to go there are already in.

Collection PHOTO 46 - Photographs: Papua New Guinea 1966-1988

Bill Gammage was born in 1942. He arrived in Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 1951 after living about 2 years in Orange and about 7 years in Sydney. He went to Wagga Demonstration School and Wagga High School. During his school years, he worked in a range of jobs including a market garden, a cordial factory, and as a farm labourer. From 1961 he was a regular employee of the Heckendorfs of “Mountview”, Lockhart, during the long Christmas holidays, working mainly on the wheat harvest.

In 1961, Bill went to the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. In 1964, he completed his Teachers’ Certificate at the University of Sydney and in 1965 his honours year in History at the ANU.

In 1966, Bill went to Port Moresby to teach history in the preliminary year of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). At the end of the year, he returned to ANU to do his PhD on Australian soldiers in the Great War. With his PhD finished, Bill travelled the world for a year.

On return from his travels in 1971, Bill worked for 5 months as a research assistant for Ken Inglis, Professor of History at UPNG, then accepted a job teaching Australian and Papua New Guinea history in the History Department at UPNG. In February 1972, he and Jan married and went to Port Moresby.

At the end of 1976, Bill left UPNG and joined the History Department at the University of Adelaide, teaching Australian history. From 1987 to 1990, he was Senior Research Fellow in Pacific History at the ANU, and from 1996, he was in the Humanities Research Centre at ANU, where he remains today as Adjunct Professor. He continues to supervise post-graduate students.

Bill’s books include The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War (1974), An Australian in the First World War (1976), Narrandera Shire (1986), The Sky Travellers: Journeys in New Guinea 1938-1939 (1998) and The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (2011). He has written articles, including on Papua New Guinea, and worked as a historical adviser/consultant on films and documentaries. He was a member of the Council of the National Museum of Australia for three years. He contributes to the work of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the National Library of Australia’s Oral History Unit.

In 1987 Bill was made a Freeman of the Shire of Narrandera, in 1991 he became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and in 2005 he was awarded the Order of Australia (AM). Several of his books have won prizes, most recently in 2012 The Biggest Estate on Earth won seven prizes, including the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History and the Victorian Prize for Literature.

The Infamous Scribblers

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, has a colourful history behind it, particularly during World War 11 when it saved Australia from being invaded by the Japanese.
Many of our young people also do not know of the pivotal role our capital city played in swaying the tide of WW11.

Long before the arrival of the white man, the Motuan people of the area now known as Port Moresby, traded their pots for sago, other food and canoe logs, with their partners from the Gulf of Papua.They sailed from Hanuabada and other villages, built on silts above the waters of the bay.They also intermarried with the Gulf people and created strong family and trade links.

The Hiri expeditions were large-scale.As many as 20 multi-hulled canoes or lakatoi, crewed by some 600 men, carried about 20,000 clay pots on each journey.To the Motuans, the Hiri was not only an economic enterprise but they also confirmed their identity as a tribe because of the long and dangerous voyages.These voyages are commemorated in modern times by the annual Hiri Moale Festival held at Ela Beach in September.

The area was already an important trade centre by the time Captain John Moresby, of HMS Basilisk, first identified the area of the site later to become known as Port Moresby.

The Englishman had just ventured through the Coral Sea at the eastern end of New Guinea and upon encountering three previously unknown islands landed there.
At 10 o’clock in the morning of the 20th February, 1873, he claimed the land for Britain and named it after his father, Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby.He called the inner reach “Fairfax Harbour” and the other “Port Moresby”.

Actual European settlement of the site did not occur until a decade later when the south-eastern part of New Guinea island was annexed to British Empire. British New Guinea was passed to the newly established Commonwealth of Australia in 1906, and became known as Papua.

From then until 1941 Port Moresby grew slowly.The main growth was on the peninsula, where port facilities and other services were gradually improved.Electricity was introduced in 1925 and piped water supply was provided in 1941.

Before WWII, Port Moresby was a small administrative center for the Australian territories of Papua and New Guinea.

Japanese air raids against Port Moresby started on February 2, 1942, and continued until April 12, 1943 (plus later nighttime harassment raids).The area became a major American and Australian staging area and airfield complex in support of the Allied push to the north of New Guinea

On January 23, 1942, the Japanese landed at Kavieng on New Ireland and at Rabaul on New Britain where they quickly overcame the Australian defenders.On March 8, the Japanese established themselves firmly at Lae and Salamaua in Morobe.

However, the Battle of the Coral Sea from May 5 to 8 averted a Japanese sea borne invasion of Port Moresby and the American success at the Battle of Midway in June not only destroyed Japan’s capacity for undertaking long range offensives but also provided the Americans with the opportunity to move from the defensive to the offensive.

The Japanese, who were regularly bombing Port Moresby with twenty to thirty bombers with fighter escort, decided on the overland attack across the Owen Stanley Range.
It was on July 21, 1942, that Japanese troops landed on the northern coast of then New Guinea and unexpectedly began to march over the Owen Stanley Ranges with the intent of capturing Port Moresby.

On the Kododa Trail the Australian 7th Division resisted the Japanese General Horii’s overland attempt to capture Port Moresby, and the advance was halted within 30 miles of the city.
Had they succeeded, the mainland of Australia would have come under dire threat.
Kokoda was arguably Australia’s most significant campaign of the Second World War.
More Australians died in the seven months of fighting in Papua, and the Japanese came closer to Australia, than in any other campaign.

Many of those young Australians, whose average age was between 18 and 19, now lie buried at the Bomana War Cemetery outside Port Moresby.Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery is about 19 kilometres north of Port Moresby on the road to Nine-Mile, and is approached from the main road by a short side road called Pilgrims Way.The cemetery contains 3,819 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 702 of them unidentified.

Port Moresby has grown considerably since the end of World War 11 and many traces of the war have been removed or disappeared, but airfields and dive sites still remain.

The city is home to the PNG National Museum with a collection of war relics and artifacts.
One of the best-known landmarks in the city is the wreck of the motor vessel Macdhui.The vessel, sunk in the harbour by Japanese bombs in 1942, is plainly visible on the reef near Tatana Island.

Numerous WW11 aircraft wrecks lie in shallow water around the coast or on the reefs near Port Moresby and can be viewed by diving.

Nearly the entire city has some connections with World War II. These include Port Moresby (Town) Prewar town and wharf area Konedobu Northern area of the town Kaevaga North of Konedobu Waigani former 5-Mile Wards Drome and the PNG goverment headquarters Gordons South-east of Waigani PNG Modern History Museum Boroko Located to the east of town Gerehu Area to the north of the present day University of PNG Kila Kila East of Port Moresby town, former 3-Mile Drome Mount Lawes Peak behind Port Moresby Fairfax Harbor Port Moresby’s Harbor Bootless Bay Inlet to the east of Port Moresby Idlers Bay Inlet to the west of Port Moresby, Roku village Joyce Bay Bay to the east of Port Moresby, Local Island

By 1944, Port Moresby had six airfields. Jackson was the largest, and was named after Australian ace pilot John Jackson, leader of RAAF Squadron 75, who was killed in a dogfight against Japanese planes over Port Moresby on April 28, 1942.

Wartime airfields in the area included the following: Kila Drome (3 Mile) Airfield for fighters and bombers Ward Drome (5 Mile) Airfield for heavy bombers and transport planes Jackson Airport (7 Mile) Main airfield still in use today by Air Nugini Berry Drome (12 Mile) Fighter and medium bomber base near Bomana Schwimmer (14 Mile) Fighter and medium bomber base Durand Airstrip (17 Mile) Fighter and medium bomber base Rogers (Rarona, 30 Mile) Fighter and medium bomber base Fisherman’s (Daugo) Emergency landing strip on off shore island

There are a number of abandoned gun emplacements, bunkers and fortifications.
These were constructed by Australian Engineers in 1944, but never used, then abandoned after the war: Basalisk Battery Largest, three gun battery to the west of Moresby Paga Hill Battery Gun battery and radar set location hill outside Moresby Gemo Island Battery Gun position on offshore island, overlooking the east Bootless Bay Battery Gun position at Bootless Bay Boera Battery Gun position west of Port Moresby.

Posted by illaine on Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

I reckon this should be added to the history classes taught in schools.

Thanks for sharing such beneficial information with us because I am also looking for a blog which can give me information regarding this.Please keep sharing more.

Hello, I note there is not any recent posts but I will leave a comment anyway. I grew up in Port Moresby during the early/late 50s. I live with my parents and younger sister first in Government Road Konedobu and then on Boroko Drive just opposite the far end of Ororo Crescent.
My dad was a keen photographer and I have many black & white as well as some coloured photographs from around PM and over the islands in general.
Living in PM is still a vivid memory for me. I attended the Boroko Coronation Primary School.

I went to Boroko Coronation Primary School from 1955. The headmaster's name was Baguley (excuse me if I got this name spelt wrong) - he was a former RAAF fighter pilot. Hs daughter was Roslyn Baguley. A few other names from 65 years ago: John Nelson, Paul Cleeve, Chris Owen, Elizabeth Wightman (Whiteman?).

My Dad was at Pearl Harbor (Hickam AFB) during the attack, and after spending time back in the USA, was assigned to a bomber crew and flew to Townsville Australia. Fortunately he was transferred to another aircraft, because his original aircraft (Island Princess) was shot down during a mission to Palau on 9 Jun 1944 with the loss of all crew other than one pilot (my father was in another plane on that same mission).

Because Port Moresby was under attack by Japanese aircraft, they would fly from Townsville to Port Moresby, refuel, then fly on their missions on the northern side of Papua. The USAAF base at Port Moresby had many names (Ward's Strip, Dobodura) and after becoming a drive-in movie theatre was redeveloped into a suburb called Hohola.

So after the war (after doing 47 combat missions as a gunner/armorer in a B-24 bomber) my father went back to Yale where I was born, then moved to Sydney, then moved to Port Moresby. My father was an architect at the Department of Works, mainly designing hospitals.

I look back on those days with great affection (except for the time spent in boarding school in Sydney until Port Moresby High School was established). Names I remember there with great affection include Alannah Parker, Gloria Hammond and Patricia Dishon.

I also recall the Saturday football matches at the new field off the "Access Road" to Boroko - the kids would get to play football during half time. A problem for playing football at High School was that student players came from different states in Australia, so football was a mix of Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules - made for a messy game.

It is such a sad outcome that Port Moresby is regarded these days as such a dangerous place. Some years ago I was an executive at ANZ Bank with responsibility for approving major capital expenditure projects. One of these was upgrading security for a residential "compound" for ANZ staff. The justification, which detailed the violent state of the place, made me quite sad - of course it got approved. I guess the most recent statement that Port Moresby is still in that state was the APEC Conference in 2018, where the 10,000 delegates and guests spent their time on chartered cruise ships rather than spend their time on shore.

My mother was a RAAF nurse during the war, dealing with soldiers brought down from the north. Both of my parents had personal experience of the carnage of war, and were often visitors to the cemetery at Bomana.

The Big Ship Sailed…Island Chief Casts Off

I couldn’t ignore this departing ‘Chief’ from the Port Moresby container wharf a few days ago. There are quite a number of these container vessels called ‘something’ Chief. Since locating to this office I’ve seen a couple of the other ‘Chiefs’ as well namely, the Moresby Chief, Hiri Chief and a few others.

The Island Chief was built in 1990 and registered in Hong Kong. It is one of the multi-purpose container vessels belonging to the Swire Shipping fleet represented here in PNG by Steamships Trading Company. STC has been in operation in PNG for nearly a century – celebrating 90 years of operations in PNG in 2008.

There she goes all 'laden with treasures'.

Against the morning sun, the coastal hills in the background and a calm sea, it was a magnificent sight! I couldn’t help wondering where the containers were been shipped to. This could be cargo bound for Lae or farther afield.

I imagined this ship being transformed into a PNG tourist ship for inter-island and coastal tourism. Something along the lines of leisure cruises like this idea in Vienna, Austria but along the coast of PNG. Hmm…how many passenger cabins can it hold complete with en suite bathrooms and toilets, a dining area, a swimming pool perhaps etc. For instance, this ship could be on its way to Magarida, Suau, Alotau, Tufi, Lae, Madang, Rabaul, Buka or Manus etc. Yeah, and what if this present container wharf were to be transformed into a base and hub for seagoing PNG domestic tourist vessels. We could have shops selling artifacts, food, PNG jewellery etc all along Stanley Esplanade. This would be a welcomed hive of tourist activity. It is an exciting thought I must admit. I came back to planet earth when the telephone on my desk started ringing…ahhh

Tres magnifique. oui mes amie

Anyway, the sight of these big container carriers – large and small, coming in and going out each day is supposed to be a good indicator of economic activity, right? I’m sure it’s a question that everyone asks or ponders and many other questions pertaining to economic activity and the real results on the ground I guess, especially the one very big question – why are food prices so high these days in Port Moresby? I need to ask an economist one of these days.

As I watched Island Chief manoeuvreing out into the calm blue waters of Fairfax Harbour this morning en route somewhere, I recalled a song I learnt at Brownie gatherings on Kwato Island, Milne Bay Province. It goes something like this, “The big ship sails on the alley-alley o…”. It is actually a nursery rhyme. I surprised myself. This ship, the Island Chief, setting sail had triggered off a memory – a song I learnt many years ago when I was a child. I guess the next question I’ll be asking is what triggers memories? I need to ask a psychologist for this, right? But for now I’ll just relax.

Watch the video: Harbour City #Downtown #Port Moresby #NCD #PNG


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