Support for Nat Map Activities in Papua - New Guinea 1960s - 1970s

National Mapping undertook surveying and mapping activities in Papua New Guinea from the late 1950s to the mid -1970s.† In 1958, the then Administrator of the then Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea requested advice on how best to satisfy the mapping needs of the Territory from Bruce Lambert, Director of National Mapping. †Lambert flew to Port Moresby in July 1958 to attended conferences of the Technical Committee on Photogrammetric Mapping, make an aerial reconnaissance of the area and form an appreciation of the mapping requirements.†

Between July 1959 and January 1960 Nat Mapís supervising surveyor HA Bill Johnson undertook preparatory and reconnaissance work in PNG with support from staff from the local Department of Lands, Surveys and Mines, local missionaries and others.† As well as reconnoitring and constructing beacons on some survey points near Port Moresby, Johnson made a reconnaissance flight over some of the mountains to be occupied for the high level geodetic survey. †Nat Map planned to carry out this geodetic survey in conjunction with the Royal Australian Army Survey Corps that had its own discrete operational area.† †In 1961, fresh from two summer seasons in Antarctica, DP Dave Cook was appointed Nat Mapís resident surveyor in PNG and moved to Port Moresby with his young family.

1962 to 1964: beacons were erected on mountain tops by parties led either by members of the PNG Department of Lands, Surveys and Mines or by Nat Map.† Local native carriers were recruited to assist with this work and assistance was also provided by district patrol officers. Some 31 mountains had beacons erected on them; 17 by National Mapping led parties and 14 by PNG Lands, Survey and Mines led parties.† Beacons were erected on 22 mountains that rose to over 10,000 feet above sea level, of the remainder only one was less than 5,000 feet above sea level.†

During the beaconing phase extensive support was provided by both fixed wing aircraft and by helicopter.† Cessna 180 and 182 aircraft operated by Missionary Aviation Fellowship (Mafair) were used to airdrop stores and material to beaconing parties. †Cessna 185B (VH-BVM) operated by Mafair was used for this beacon parties support.† It was wrecked in a crash at Katbaka in West Irian on 10 December 1966. †VH-GMW was another Cessna that was used to support Nat Map activities during this period as was Ansett MALís DC3 (VH-MAT).† Also in 1962 a Bell 47G helicopter (VH-UTN) chartered from Helicopter Utilities supported beaconing party operations.† Flying in PNG was usually arranged for initial take-off at official first light which was about 20 minutes before sunrise and was often curtailed as early as 10:00 am by cloud build-up on the mountain tops.

1963: Between May and September Nat Mapís PNG geodetic survey observing work was commenced with support from a Bell 47G-3-B1 helicopter (VH-UTJ) which was chartered from Helicopter Utilities and used for beaconing and observer party positioning work.†

This aircraft was the first of two turbocharged helicopters to operate in PNG and had sufficient engine power to operate in the thin air to reach mountains above 10,000 feet.† VH-UTJ was brought to Port Moresby on 21 May 1963 onboard an Army LST vessel (landing ship tank).† (The other Helicopter Utilities aircraft (VH-UTG) was initially used by the Royal Australian Army Survey Corps.† It was flown as air cargo in a Royal Australian Air Force C‑130 Hercules transport plane directly from Sydney to Lae accompanied by pilot George Treatt.)† Pilots included: John Stanwix, George Treatt and John Arthurson (a former RAAF fighter pilot in Korea).†

1963-64: Between November and January Nat Mapís PNG geodetic survey work continued with the use of a Bell 47G-3-B1 helicopter (VH-UTJ) chartered from Helicopter Utilities for the positioning of observation parties.† Pilots included: George Treatt, John Hurrell and John Arthurson.† (On 10 January 1964, the helicopter chartered for the survey crashed on Mount Otto (11,634 feet above sea level), whilst proposed relief pilot Wally Rivers was practising high altitude landings and take-offs prior to a planned pilot change-over with George Treatt.† The two pilots onboard escaped serious injury but the aircraft was destroyed.† The pilots were recovered by pilot John Hurrell and engineer Phil Latz in the only other Bell 47G-3-B1 then operating in PNG (VH-UTG).† George Treatt recalled being flown directly from Mt Otto to nearby Goroka where he had a gash in his leg stitched up at the hospital.)

1964-65: Between October and January Nat Mapís PNG geodetic survey work was completed with support from a Bell 47G3-B1 helicopter (VH-UTG and VH-UTN) which was chartered from Helicopter Utilities and used for observer party positioning.† Pilots included: George Treatt.

1966-67: Nat Map surveyor DP Dave Cook assisted PNG Department of Lands, Surveys and Mines staff in the early stages of undertaking survey observations to determine the positions of monuments on the proposed international border between the then Territory of Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya.† The survey was carried out in conjunction with survey teams from the Indonesian government.† One of the PNG Administration surveyors on this survey was Bruce Willington who later joined Nat Map.† The survey was supported by helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.† Helicopters were used to position survey parties and to take spot photography.† One of the helicopter pilots involved was John Hurrell.

1973: Nat Map surveyor Jim Steed and other Nat Mappers were engaged in a crustal movement survey in PNGís Markham Valley. †The Valley runs inland for about 160 kilometres from the north-east coast port of Lae.† (Between September 1943 and April 1944 Australiaís 7th Division was engaged in heavy fighting against the Japanese in the Markham Valley as part of the Ramu Valley-Finisterre Range campaign.)† The 1973 survey had aerial support from a float-equipped Bell 47G3 helicopter.

1975: Nat Map surveyor Jim Steed and others were supported by a float-equipped Bell 47G3 helicopter when undertaking a survey St Georges Channel in the Bismarck Archipelago between New Ireland and New Britain in the Pacific Ocean north-east of Papua New Guinea.

1976: Nat Map surveyor Jim Steed and others were supported by a fixed wing aircraft as well as water craft when carrying out a Doppler satellite survey of the Queensland-Papua New Guinea border in Torres Strait between the Mai Kussa River (in PNGís Western Province), Boigu Island (Queensland), Saibai Island (Queensland) and Daru Island (PNG).