Making History Module Essay by Rachael Lee

Summary

Keywords: Geological samples; Scientific expeditions; Mountaineering; Botanical specimens.

The Chuave Patrol Report no. 1 from 1953-1954 was written by patrol officer A. M. Keogh and details a 13-day patrol of the Mt. Wilhelm peaks and the Guraguraga Valley in July and August 1953.  Keogh was accompanied by two other Europeans, Mr. L Rayner and Mr. N Semple who were climbers from Australia. The primary focus for the patrol was to climb the peaks of Mt. Wilhelm, recording the height of each, and to explore the Guraguraga Valley which had not yet been visited by Europeans. Along their journey, the party also collected botanical, insect and rock specimens as well as coloured photographs of the locations visited so that they could help provide a better understanding of the geography of the Eastern New Guinea Highlands. The patrol report made some significant contributions to the development of knowledge about the area, including finding snow in crevices on the peaks of Mt. Wilhelm, reporting on the previously unknown qualities of the Guraguraga Valley and providing a range of specimen from these areas to be classified.

Essay

To extend control across the regions of Papua and New Guinea the colonial administration used patrols to gather vital information, make contact with the Papua New Guinean people and perform necessary government business.[1] The officers who led these patrols kept detailed reports of their activity and findings, and there is now a large digital collection of these reports kept by the University of California San Diego Library. This collection is an important source of information about the colonial history of Papua New Guinea, revealing not only the details of colonial processes and information that was collected, but also showing the shared assumptions through the colonial ‘gaze’.[2] This essay will explore one particular patrol report from the 1950s from the Eastern New Guinea Highlands area, Chuave Patrol Report No. 1/ 53-54.

The report begins with a Patrol Report summary page which contains information such as where and when the patrol took place, who was in attendance and what the main purpose of the patrol was. From this single page outline of the patrol, readers can gather a lot of information about the patrol in question. This page reveals that the patrol conducted by patrol officer A.N. Keogh occurred over 13 days, from July 25 to August 6 1953, and explored the areas of the Mt. Wilhelm Peaks and the Guraguraga Valley in the Chimbu region of the Highlands. It also tells readers that Keogh was accompanied by just two other people, Mr. L Rayner and Mr. N Semple who were both Europeans. The empty line next to the section ‘Natives’ indicates that no Indigenous Papua New Guineans accompanied this patrol. Additionally, the section that states that the last time this area was patrolled was in August 1938 is an important detail that demonstrates the lack of colonial activity in this area.

Following this outline, the report contains a selection of letters revealing correspondence between colonial officials, scientists and experts, discussing the findings of Keogh’s report and sharing requests for identification or classification for some of the samples that accompanied the report. The letters compliment Keogh’s collection efforts and the condition of the specimen he collected. One letter, written by a Senior Geologist Jack Thompson, commends Keogh’s sample collection process and encourages future patrol officers to take ‘similar action on remote or difficult patrols’ to fill in ‘the many blanks in the existing regional geological map of the Territory.’[3] This excerpt reveals the importance of the work that patrol officers were doing in regards to gaining a better understanding of the largely unexplored Highlands regions. The rest of the report comprises of a short introduction from Keogh followed by diary entries about the day to day events experienced over the two weeks of the patrol, including what happened on the day, where the patrol travelled to and any important notes about the day.

The objects of the patrol that were listed in the initial summary included; ‘1. To accompany the Rayner Climbing Party to the Mt. Wilhelm- Guraguraga Valley areas’ and ‘2. To obtain geographical information on these areas, and also obtain botanical specimens in the higher altitudes.’[4] Expanding on this initial summary, Keogh later declares that another goal of Rayner and Semple was to obtain a collection of colour photographs as a record of what they had encountered on their trip. [5] Accompanying a climbing party appears to be an unusual purpose for a colonial patrol, but it appears that somewhere an agreement of mutual benefit must have been reached, with the importance of learning more about this area providing an opportunity for the party to work together on this patrol. 

The climbing of the Mt. Wilhelm peaks was not just pleasure for the climbers, but also led to some important discoveries. One of these discoveries was surveying and documenting the true highest peak of Mt. Wilhelm. In the report, Keogh states that there had previously been ‘a good deal of confusion’ surrounding the peaks of Wilhelm, with some parties climbing the wrong peaks believing they were the true one.[6] To combat this uncertainty, the patrol climbed all four peaks and measured and recorded the height of each one, so that they could be sure of which one was the highest. This was an important finding to convey these back to the colonial administration. Another important finding from the patrol was the discovery of unmelted snow in crevices on the mountain’s peak.[7] The discovery of snow sparked the interest of the press, as reported in an article in the Pacific Islands Monthly from November 1953.This article reported that the party were able to provide interesting information about ‘a New Guinea where cold mist and rain, ice, and even snow take the place of the more usual damp heat of the tropics.’[8] The attention that this specific finding captured by the media demonstrates the need for a patrol into this area in the first place, because so much about this region was still largely unknown to Australians. The idea that there could be snow in a country as warm and humid as Papua New Guinea came as a surprise to many Australians, because most of the colonial activity in the country remained around the lower coastal areas, with the Highlands only recently beginning to be penetrated by the Europeans.[9] Continuing, the information collected about the Guraguraga Valley was also of substantial interest, as it was the first glimpse that Australians had of this area. Keogh compares the lakes that were found in the valleys to being similar to the Blue Lakes in Mt. Gambier back home in South Australia. This comparison was a way to help Australians to understand the landscape, by comparing it to something that was familiar to them. The patrol report provided key findings that filled in many gaps in the colonial knowledge of these areas of the Highlands.

Furthermore, the patrol included only minimal information in terms of contact with the Indigenous people of this area. Mt. Wilhelm and the Guraguraga Valley in the Chuave District were areas that were not highly populated by anyone. While there were records found of other parties venturing to the peaks of Mt. Wilhelm, it was believed by Keogh’s party that they were the first Europeans to visit the Guraguraga Valley. Because of the high altitude and difficult terrain of the areas they were visiting, the patrol did not make much contact with the Papua New Guinean people. In his report, Keogh suggested that while they occasionally visited the Guraguraga Valley to hunt ring-tailed possums, for the most part, these areas were uninhabited and unused by any people. The minimal contact that the patrol did make with the Papua New Guinean people involved some carriers who carried supplies to established based camps, but who did not accompany the party in their climbs of the peaks. The only other mention of the Indigenous people was in a diary entry from August 1 that reported the local people at Waimambuno Rest performing a singsing as a ‘courtesy gesture’ for the climbers. Using Indigenous Papua New Guineans as carriers was a common practice of colonial patrols, however, this report reveals a colonial assumption about the suitability of these people for explorations into high altitude with difficult terrain. The next section of this essay will explore this assumption, as well as exploring what other information can be extracted from this patrol report by reading with the archival grain.

Reading along the archival grain of this patrol report, and making interpretations within the contexts of who created the source, why it was created, and what was happing in the colony at the time is an important way to understand what a primary source can tell us about a time period, on top of just the fragments of history that are succinctly recorded. Stoler explains that ‘documents serve less as stories for a colonial history than as active, generative substances with histories and itineraries of their own’,[10] and therefore can disclose much more than just what appears on the surface, if read with the correct contexts in mind. Keogh’s patrol report doesn’t explicitly state that the Indigenous people of Papua New Guinea were not suited to the conditions of the climbing expedition, but by reading along the archival grain and applying outside knowledge to what is contained in the report, it can be gathered that there was an assumption shared between Keogh writing the report, and the colonial officials who were reading it, that the Indigenous carriers were not to be employed for difficult treks into high altitude. This assumption is again depicted, in a newspaper article from 1953 that details some of the findings of Keogh’s patrol report, in particular, the discovery of snow. The article states ‘No native carriers were taken beyond the base camp because of the low temperatures and difficult rock formations’,[11] the article doesn’t go on to explain why the low temperatures and difficult rock formations meant that Indigenous carriers were not taken beyond the base camp, which highlights that there was a shared, common belief amongst the white people, that did not seem to warrant any further explanations.

The reasoning behind this shared assumption is unknown, perhaps they believed that they were not accustomed to these areas because they did not utilise these parts of the highlands as much as the places where they lived and hunted. The point that Keogh makes in his report about the areas patrolled in the report only occasionally being used by the Indigenous people to hunt ring-tailed possums, [12] may have been the basis of the logic underpinning this shared assumption: if they were inexperienced in these types of environments, then it would potentially be too dangerous for them to assist in these areas.

Continuing, another way that we can look at this report, is by understanding it as a form of ‘survey modality’ that Cohn outlines in his book Colonialism and its forms of Knowledge: the British in India.[13] The patrols conducted by the Australian Colonial Administration exemplify many of the different investigative modalities that Cohn discusses. Cohn describes investigative modalities as ‘the definition of a body of information that is needed, the procedures by which appropriate knowledge is gathered, its ordering and classification, and then how it is transformed into usable forms’.[14] Like other colonising powers, Australia utilised these modalities to gather information and establish colonial control over Papua New Guinea. The investigative modality that is most evident in Keogh’s report is what Cohn would describe as ‘survey modality’, which involves examining, inspecting and exploring the ‘natural and social landscape’. [15] Practices that are typical of survey modality that are evident in Keogh’s report include the collection of botanical specimens, the measurement and recording of the peaks of Mt. Wilhelm, and the investigation of the Guraguraga Valley that had been untouched by white people. By understanding the investigative modalities that were used in the patrols, historians can access a greater understanding of the rationale behind the processes that colonial governments used when extending their control in their colonies.

Bibliography

Cohn, B., ‘Introduction to Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India’, in Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1996, pp. 3–15, retrieved from <http://ezproxy.deakin.edu.au/login?url=http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.01826.0001.001>.

 Dwyer, P.D., & Minnegal, M., ‘On Reading Patrol Reports – 1: South of the Blucher Range’. The Journal of Pacific History, 55:1 2020, pp. 115-125.

Keogh, A.M., Chuave Patrol no. 1 of 1953-54, 25 July- 6 August 1953. National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Chimbu District, Chuave, 1953-54,  https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb9490131s/_1.pdf accessed 15 September 2020.

Nelson, H., ‘5. On Patrol’, Taim Bilong Masta: The Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea. Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1982, pp. 51-56.

 ‘SNOW ON THE EQUATOR What Three Climbers Found 14,000-ft Up In NG’, Pacific islands monthly : PIM, vol. XXIV, No. 4, November 1 1953, p.103, Trove [online database] accessed 19 September 2020.

Stoler, A., ‘Prologue in Two Parts.’ In Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009,  https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy-b.deakin.edu.au/lib/deakin/reader.action?docID=617242&amp;ppg=12. [online database], pp. 12-26, accessed 2 October 2020.


[1] Hank Nelson describes ordinary government business as being things such as census data, taxes, health checks etc.

 H. Nelson, ‘5. On Patrol’, Taim Bilong Masta: The Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea. Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, 1982, p. 52.

[2] P.D. Dwyer, & M. Minnegal, ‘On Reading Patrol Reports – 1: South of the Blucher Range’. The Journal of Pacific History, 55:1 2020, p. 116.  

[3] A.M. Keogh, Chuave Patrol no. 1 of 1953-54, 25 July- 6 August 1953. National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Chimbu District, Chuave, 1953-54,  https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb9490131s/_1.pdf accessed 15 September 2020, p. 9.

[4] Ibid., p. 5.

[5] Ibid., p. 17.

[6] Ibid., p. 23.

[7] Ibid.

[8]  ‘SNOW ON THE EQUATOR What Three Climbers Found 14,000-ft Up In NG’, Pacific islands monthly : PIM, vol. XXIV, No. 4, November 1 1953, p.103, Trove [online database] accessed 19 September 2020.

[9] J. Ritchie, Week 9 Patrolling: The extension of colonial control, AIH399, Deakin University, [Study notes], Trimester 2, week 9 2020.

[10]  A. Stoler, ‘Prologue in Two Parts.’ In Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2009, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy-b.deakin.edu.au/lib/deakin/reader.action?docID=617242&amp;ppg=12. [online database], p. 1, accessed 2 October 2020.

[11] ‘SNOW ON THE EQUATOR What Three Climbers Found 14,000-ft Up In NG’, p.103.

[12] A.M. Keogh, Chuave Patrol no. 1 of 1953-54, p. 20.

[13] B. Cohn, Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1996, retrieved from <http://ezproxy.deakin.edu.au/login?url=http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.01826.0001.001>.

[14]B.  Cohn, ‘Introduction to Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India’, in Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: the British in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1996, p. 5, retrieved from <http://ezproxy.deakin.edu.au/login?url=http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.01826.0001.001>.

[15] Ibid., p. 7.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.