Thursday, August 21, 2008

David Billings replies to the Amelia Earhart story

David Billings crossing a river in East New Britain in his undaunted search for the plane.Picture by

Australian David Billings replies to the Amelia Earhart story below (scroll down one story):


Now that I have some time, I can comment on your writing.

Whoever your "good sources" were, it is time to tell them to give you "correct" quotes, not incorrect fables made up without knowledge of the subject matter.

I take it that you have read my website and I can see that you have partially digested the information contained in the story of the Earhart Project in East New Britain. Your blog has also appeared on my computer and it contains errors which if you had studied the story intently would not have been made. For instance, you have distances and directions completely wrong.

The Australian Army veteran who actually examined the wreckage of the airframe cannot recall the tail section of the aircraft, ie: he cannot remember the tail section being on the aircraft wreckage and this would fit with an aircraft going through trees as the tail sections usually get stripped off the main body of an aircraft in that situation. Two B-24 Liberators I have been to are in exactly that state -"without the tail fins and tailplane". One was at 10,500 feet in the Finnesterres and the other outside of Lae.

The repair tag was not pulled off one of the engines, it was pulled off the engine mount tubing (as written) but this is a common mistake people make so you are not alone.

Marvello River. Well, there is no such animal, I believe you got that from the USA Today story which was published on 14th August 2001 by Gregg Zoroya. The river is the Mevelo River which has its' source as the rainforests on the south side of the Bainings Mountains. It is quite a long river. I have not been to the Mevelo twelve times, it is actually 11 times and it costs a small fortune to get there.

The reason we did not use a helicopter this last time was caused by two problems, initially and a third developed after. The first problem was that even after accepting the charter, five weeks in advance, Niugini Helicopters let the pilot go on tour leave without his replacement arriving. Now, you would be familiar with the "back to back" rule which operates all over Papua New Guinea in Mining Camps, in Aviation Companies etc, etc; but yet, the rule seemingly does not apply to Niugini Helicopters and we were basically abandoned as customers by their devil may care attitude and I believe they need striking off the PNG Tourism "good books" as punishment. I will NEVER use them again. On top of that, one of their staff stole our portable generator out of their "secure" shed which had been left behind after 2006 with their permission. "Yes, it will be completely safe here", their Base Manager said.

For the second problem, after doing the logistics, paying them in advance and paying for airfares and booking leave for the team, organising fill-ins for peoples duties here in Oz, etc, etc, they did the dirty on us and even when I rescheduled the whole thing they then had prior work in Kimbe, so they said. When we eventually got to Kokopo, their helicopter and pilot was there and the helicopter was in the shed when we left. Work that one out. As I say, they need striking off the PNG Tourism books.

The third problem with them was that it took three weeks to get my money back from their office in Kimbe and when I did get it back I was AUD400 short. They are a thoroughly disreputable company, in my opinion. I have known the Managing Director, Dick Grouse for 21 years (from Pacific Helicopters in Goroka) and I have used them three times in the past after Islands Helicopters quit the scene and yet they shat on us as paying customers. Grouse has not communicated with me at all despite me sending mail to his private email address.

Yes, we travelled by boat, from Kokopo to Wide Bay and return.

Camping in the jungle can be considered fun, believe me. We always have a good time. There are no phones, no TV and the river water is crystal clear. We have only ever seen three snakes, two of them not known to the local people so they are probably new species. There are other new species in there also. There is a rusty coloured frog with a long nose and little black claws at the end of its' digits. I puzzled over this for some time but the only food that I could see for the frog were fresh water crab eggs buried in the sand where the frog lived. There were thousands of tiny crabs in the area. The frog lives in an extinct volcano in a black marble tunnel which winds its' way down from the caldera to the river below, the tunnel ending in a waterfall about 100 feet high. There is also a flying mammal akin to a Sugar Glider but the one in ENB has no tail.

Yes, we have been to places where no one has been before. The local people in the area never did enter the rainforest until after 1951. If you have read "Hostages to Freedom, the Fall of Rabaul", by Peter Stone, you will know why.

Indeed, the scenery has changed in the fourteen years that I have been going into that area. This is mainly because the loggers have been in there and ruined the place. They have stripped the ridges and left an awful mess. It is criminal what they have done. In the fourteen years the topography of the place has changed, new creeks, new valleys and landslips are the result. This has quite possibly resulted in the Electra being buried.

There was no boat ride to Port Moresby, our chariot was an Air Niugini F100 P2-ANC, and it took one hour and twenty-five minutes, where you got the boat ride to Port Moresby from I have no idea.... possibly off the back of a cornflake packet ?

When I first went there in 1994, the Aid Post had nothing on the shelves at all, not one single band-aid, no antibiotics, no wound dressings. There was a small fridge but no electricity and all that was in the fridge was the man's kai (away from the ants) and one tube of sunburn cream....... I left him my bag of medical stuff and it was the first he had seen in years.

This last time, the last afternoon and into the evening I and my daughter spent dressing the sores on the legs of the kids caused by them scratching sand-fly bites. Their legs were in a terrible state with open sores supporating and infected. I lost count of the kids we patched up. There was a baby of about four or five months with a burn on the middle of the back. The last patient at around 7:00pm was a little girl with an infected cut on the bottom of her left foot. The cut was full of dirt which had to be washed out before being bandaged. I treated her and a few other kids by torchlight.

A few words of advice for you..... Just because you belong to the Media do not expect people to jump up at your beck and call and respond to you immediately and don't expect them to outlay all their knowledge to you just because you write for a newspaper. I am a very reasonable person, I have great interest in Papua New Guinea and I would like to improve Papua New Guinea by what I do. I have already spent twelve years in the country both at Goroka (Pacific Helicopter bilong Kela) and at PX in “Mosbi". Migat planti pren bilong mi istap long Mosbi. You would know what a find of this magnitude would mean for PNG, it would bring notoriety for PNG, for East New Britain and it would bring Tourism to an area of the world devastated by Matupit and Vulcan. Matupit was still blowing out huge clouds of ash while we were at Kokopo. My objective is just that, plus I would like to improve the lot of the people in the coastal area who have nothing. There is no Government assistance down there except for a DPI post at Milim and an Aid Post but miles away.

So there you have it. Please correct the mistakes that you have made in your writings. If you live in Mosbi, maybe we can meet and discuss the project at leisure as I will possibly be up there again "shottly".

For the Project to succeed now, we have to concentrate on obtaining funding for a Magnetometer Survey. That is a big call and the funds required increase year by year but I do now believe after what we have seen this last time that the Magnetometer is the way forward.

A favour to ask of you: Who was the "American" contact who said "Bull”?


David Billings.

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