History of how Voco Point got its name by Malum Nalu
March 13, 2003 Vew Point -Letters To The Editor - Post – Courier
P.O. Box 85 - Port Moresby
Commendations to the people of Lae on their new – look Yacht Club and to the Post – Courier for an excellent supplement in yesterday’s (Wednesday, March 12, 2003) newspaper.
However, there is one point that needs to be clarified.
Your correspondent, Sampson Bonai, asserted, “how Lae’s Voco Point came to acquire its name is a mystery to everyone in Lae. Some say the name may have been derived from events of underground volcanic activity or from the nearby Lunaman Hill”.
Being from Lae, and an avid history buff, prompts me to write in reply to Mr Bonai’s assertion.
The pre – war Vacuum Oil Company – Mobil – had a depot at the site of Voco Point; hence, Voco is short for Vacuum Oil Company.
Mobil Oil Australia was established in Australia in 1895 and traded as Vacuum Oil Company. It was the first oil company to operate in Australia, New Guinea, and of course Lae.
As Lae boomed with the Wau and Bulolo goldfields in the 1920s, a shipping depot connected by railway to the airstrip was established at Vacuum Oil Company (Voco) Point, and remained as the main wharf until after the war.
The local Lae villages call Voco Point Asiawi, and in days of yore, it was a traditional trading ground that bustled with activity.
They came from as far away as the Siassi and Tami Islands, Bukawa, Salamaua, and Labu to meet and exchange goods in this ancient market place.
Researchers know that around the Huon Gulf, a complex and extensive trading system – dependent on canoe voyages – had existed long before contact with Europeans.
The greatest mariners were the Siassi and Tami Islanders, whose boats sailed up the Rai Coast towards Madang, plied the coast of New Britain, and penetrated far to the south in the Huon Gulf.
Supply lines stretched across the Vitiaz Strait to New Britain, up the Rai Coast towards Madang, and deep into the Upper Markham and the high valley of the Huon Peninsula.
The Lae produced taro and fruits, the Labu specialized in woven handbags and baskets, the Bukawa produced taro, fruit, rain capes and mats of pandanus leaves sewn together, the Tami Islanders carved a variety of wooden bowls, while Siassi Islanders acted as middlemen, trading Huon Gulf products into New Britain and bringing back obsidian for knife blades and ochre for paints.
The inlanders and mountain people brought to the beach produce that the coast did not grow so well: yams, sweet potato, and tobacco.
They also brought with them items of wealth such as birds of paradise plumes, dog’s teeth, and cockatoo feathers.
In return, they took shells and shells ornaments, pigs, fish, and salt.
The inland trade route at Lae ran through Yalu to the Markham Valley, and through Musom to the highlands of the Huon Peninsula.
Trading was carried out through a system of partnership with certain individuals and families at different ports.
This may explain how traces of the old Ahi – Wampar language are said to exist as far away as the coast of West New Britain.
It may also explain the undercurrent of friendship and co – operation between the people of the Huon Gulf coast – from Salamaua to Siassi.
Voco Point is now the terminal for local shipping and small boats, second to the Lae Port.
But it has made an indelible mark on the history of Lae, Morobe Province, and PNG, and continues in the same vein.
Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the history of Voco Point.
I have collected a lot of material and pictures of Lae over the years, and later this year, I hope to start work on my long – overdue book and on developing a website on the history of our beloved town.
God bless Lae and Papua New Guinea.
The reason for this letter to the Editor of Post Courier was due to an article in March 12, 2003 re "Voco Point mystery" by Sampson Bonai.
How Lae's Voco Point came to acquire its name is a mystery to everyone in Lae.
Malum Nalu through his love of history and also his love of Lae & the Morobe Province, provided the answer, per his reply above.
Well done Malum !
This photo taken by Malum Nalu last year when he returned to Salamaua :
Thank you wanples for the lovely history of our ples. Yes, mum told me about "Asiawe". Voco point is a colonial bastardized name! The same as Mount Lunaman! In your book, mum told me the original name of Mt Lunaman (named from my side of the Gawac language) as "Locwamu" or thereabouts in the Ahi dialect. My grandfather originated from Butibam..ples.tru, tru Ahi too. Hey bro correct me, if I wrong but please lets reclaim what is ours- origionalities.
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