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Old 24-04-2003, 08:02 PM
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Leahy and Taylor have left a lasting legacy in the Highlands - 70th anniversary !

The 70th anniversary of a momentous occasion in the history of Papua New Guinea passed recently without much fanfare.

This was the discovery of much of the Eastern Highlands, Chimbu, and Western Highlands provinces by the famous Leahy brothers and Jim Taylor.

To this day, Leahy and Taylor have left a lasting legacy in the Highlands through their achievements, which include the planting of coffee as well as the Collins & Leahy empire.

Most notably, April 1933 was when the great Waghi Valley of the Western Highlands was first opened up to the outside world through Mick and Dan Leahy, Taylor, and surveyor Ken Spinks.

They also opened up air travel in the Highlands with airstrips in Bena Bena, Eastern Highlands in December 1932, and the iridescent Waghi Valley in April 1933.

The discovery of gold in New Guinea in 1926 lured Michael (Mick) Leahy and later his brothers Pat, Jim, and Dan into an adventure that opened up the hitherto unknown Highlands region to the rest of the world.

Mick Leahy gave the world its first glimpse of a land that time forgot; of cloud – covered mountains and valleys occupied by thousands of people whose very existence had been unknown before 1930.

He, like his companions and others to follow, were young and independent, courageous and ambitious, self – confident, and above all intelligent.

He took over 5000 35 – mm still photographs and several hours of 16 – mm movies film under most adverse conditions.

These have been immortalized in the famous “First Contact” movie and numerous black and white photographs, as well as Mick Leahy’s edited diary “Explorations Into Highlands New Guinea”.

These additional qualities that he possessed – the ability to see and describe, verbally and with the camera – gives his readers a vivid sense of the man, the land, and the people.

Mick Leahy’s explorations had a lasting impact on the development of New Guinea and earned him recognition by the Royal Geographic Society in 1936 and the US Explorers Club in 1971.

Between 1930 and 1935, he and his companions made 10 prospecting and exploring trips through what is now known as the Central Highlands.

Their grueling travel through some of the most – rugged terrain in the world and dangerous encounters with the natives did not lead them to the El Dorado they dreamed of.

The adventure began in April 1930 when Mick Leahy and his partner, Michael Dwyer, were grubstaked to prospect for gold in the headwaters of the Ramu River.

Along one of these tributary streams, the Dunatina, they were the first white man to look on the Goroka Valley, which sparkled at night with the cooking fires of thousands of people.

They discovered the Waghi River, where bloated corpses gave further evidence of a dense population further up in the Highlands.

They also made the first crossing of the Bismarck Range, the central mountain chain of New Guinea.

The band, including 14 native carriers, ended up at Port Romily on the Gulf of Papua having discovered, among other things, the headwaters of the Purari River.

They traveled by steamer to Port Moresby and hiked 150 miles in 13 days across the Owen Stanley Range (before it became famous in World War 11 as the Kokoda Trail) to Morobe on the Huon Gulf, arriving at their base in Salamaua in September 1930.

Their trip lasted six months and covered more than 800 miles, most of it traveled on foot.

Some of the routes covered previously traveled terrain, including places visited by German traders in prior years, but most trails brought Mick Leahy and his party into areas never before seen by white man.

Beginning in the fall of 1932, the last five of the journeys were into the Mount Hagen area, the most – distant from the permanent Leahy base at Salamaua.

From here, Leahy hoped to prospect and explore the Sepik River, which flows into the Bismarck Sea 150 miles to the north, but this goal was not realised.

Mick Leahy lived to see Papua New Guinea’s independence from Australia in September 1975, an event that he saw as ending white domination and causing ultimate disaster for the Highlands peoples themselves.

Ends

Michael (Mick) Leahy in the Wabag area in 1934. Picture courtesy of Michael Leahy's book Exploration into Highlands New Guinea :
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Old 24-04-2003, 08:38 PM
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James (Jim) Taylor, the Administration Officer of the 1933 expedition of discovery, at the Baiyer River Divide. Picture courtesy of Colin Simpson's book Plumes and Arrows :
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Old 24-04-2003, 08:43 PM
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Danny Leahy, meeting Waghi natives who had never before seen white men !
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Old 24-04-2003, 10:43 PM
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Message from Robert Akepa, Bena Bena Village :

When Jim Taylor and one of the leahy brother's were at Bena Bena (my area) the locals were frightened and scared when the Whiteman unbuckled their belt, to change their shorts.

The locals thought the white men have long ***** when they unbuckled their belts. They normally would flee into the bush and have to be persuaded to come back by the local carriers or boys.

Robert is the son of Sir Akepa Miakwe, former member for Unggai-Bena :
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Old 01-02-2004, 08:21 AM
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robert akepa

hey aussie

we are doing a project on the leahy brothers explorations and would like to interview him. We have talked to you before about him but then our email couldn't get through to you or Mr. Akepa
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Old 01-12-2004, 05:15 PM
Apo Mokane Apo Mokane is offline
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The Legacy of the famous Leahy Brothers and Jim Taylor are real. They are part and partial of the History of Highlands Provinces. As an Eastern Highlander I reckon and award at the annual coffee festival is appropriate in recognition of their contribution to the Coffee Industry. Perhaps organisers might consider introducing quiz for school kids at the festival so that the great story of Coffee and its pioneers remains...

Thank you.

Apo Mokane
Local Coffee Grower
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