In Search of Relics: Scuba Diving in New Guinea

Looking for Something Priceless: Relics Lost

A few months ago I decided to go over to New Guinea and check out the World War II stuff over there.

New Guinea and Indonesia were the sites of some major World War II battles in the Pacific theater.

I had heard that there were tons of war relics all around in the jungle that had gotten grown over or were just laying around. I wanted to see some of that for myself.

I knew that the island of Bougainville was one of the areas where the heaviest fighting occurred between the Allies and the Japanese.

I had some friends that told me about some of the relics they knew were still there, so that’s where I started my travels.

When I got to New Guinea, I had to take another flight out to Bougainville. We landed in the town of Hutjena and I got off the plane and managed to find a taxi that took me to a hotel.

The next day I hooked up with a guide that I had arranged earlier by email and we got a jeep to take us into the interior of the island. The plan was to go for several days, so I took an overnight bag with a few things and my guide did likewise.

We were able to drive the Jeep pretty far into the interior, to a general location where I knew there had been a Japanese presence and some heavy fighting. I had no idea if I’d really find any relics or if by now everything would’ve been hauled away.

The first two days I actually found nothing at all. My guide and I walked about a million miles of trails and then we made a million miles of our own trails because obviously if any relics were left, they wouldn’t be on a well-traveled route. They would most like be buried under thick jungle growth.

Our goal was something like this:

After two days of looking fruitlessly, I began to think that it was just a wild goose chase and I was wasting my time. It got dark around 6 so we made camp and spent another night talking around the campfire to pass the time.

The next morning as I was packing up, I was digging a shallow hole for dirt to put over the fire. My shovel hit something with a clank and guess what . . . it was an old helmet.

I got so excited. Of course, at that point, I didn’t know if it was from World War Two or from last year.

I dug around it carefully and pulled it out, brushed off all the leaves and dirt, and inspected it. I decided it was indeed a war relic and was probably Japanese.  My guide agreed.

I stowed it in my backpack and I launched into the day totally excited and with all kinds of energy to keep looking.

And I see that my time is up for now, so I will end this here and keep going in my next post.