Name drop­ping

John Brooks­bank traces the ori­gins of the names of PNG streets, rivers, towns and is­lands.

Paradise - - Living | History -

In many coun­tries around the world, rivers, moun­tains, towns and streets are named af­ter well-known ex­plor­ers and colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tors. Pa­pua New Guinea is no ex­cep­tion – the na­tion abounds in his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences.

Early maps show the names as­signed by Ger­man, French and Bri­tish mar­itime visi­tors to the coun­try. They re­flect the names of the ex­plor­ers them­selves, their pa­trons, crew mem­bers and even mi­nor of­fi­cials they were try­ing to curry favour with.

Here, we fea­ture some ex­am­ples of th­ese lit­tle re­minders of history.

Start­ing at the na­tional level, the word Pa­pua de­rives from the Malay pua-pua, mean­ing, friz­zled, in ref­er­ence to the peo­ple’s hair.

The Tor­res Strait is named af­ter Luis Vaez de Tor­res, who jour­neyed along the south coast of the main is­land of New Guinea in 1606 and found that it was not joined to Aus­tralia.

Tatana Is­land in Port Moresby’s Fair­fax Har­bour – named by cap­tain John Moresby af­ter his fa­ther, ad­mi­ral Fair­fax Moresby, when he dis­cov­ered the shel­tered

port lo­ca­tion in 1873 – was ini­tially named Jane Is­land by the cap­tain af­ter his wife, al­though its use didn’t last long. More en­dur­ing is the pas­sage through the reef that took its name from his ship, HMS


The calm wa­ters of Milne Bay were also named by Moresby, af­ter a se­nior naval lord.

The ex­act lo­ca­tions of many of the PNG is­lands were not known un­til nav­i­ga­tors and car­tog­ra­phers such as Wil­liam Dampier (1700) and Philip Carteret (1767) trav­elled around them.

Dampier named the is­land of New Bri­tain, and Carteret named New Ire­land and the Ad­mi­ralty Is­lands af­ter his Bri­tish mas­ters.

French­man Louis-An­toine de Bougainville named the Loui­saide Archipelago in about 1768, af­ter Em­peror Louis XV and, of course, the is­land that car­ries his name.

French rear-ad­mi­ral Joseph An­tione de Bruni d’En­tre­casteaux me­an­dered around the is­lands of New Guinea while search­ing for the ships of La Perouse, whose ex­pe­di­tion van­ished in 1788.

He named the Wil­laumez Penin­sula in New Bri­tain af­ter Wil­laumez the El­der, an en­sign on one of the lost ships, and the Tro­briand Is­lands af­ter the cap­tain of an­other of the lost ships, lieu­tenant de Tro­briand.

He gave his own name to the D’En­tre­casteaux Archipelago, whose in­di­vid­ual is­lands were later named by the tire­less cap­tain John Moresby.

Moresby named Nor­manby af­ter the mar­quis of Nor­manby, gov­er­nor of Queens­land; Good­e­nough af­ter com­modore James Good­e­nough, com­man­der of the Aus­tralian Naval Sta­tion; and Fer­gus­son af­ter the New Zealand gov­er­nor Sir James Fer­gus­son.

Port Moresby’s in­ter­na­tional air­port com­mem­o­rates squadron leader Johnny Jackson, killed when his Kit­ty­hawk was shot down dur­ing Ja­panese raids on the town.

The Kiwi premier of the time, Sir Julius Vo­gel, was not for­got­ten ei­ther, hav­ing had a cape named af­ter him.

Some early mis­sion­ar­ies are also im­mor­talised in the nam­ing of fea­tures.

Rev­erend W.G. Lawes, left, of the Lon­don Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety, has that well-known Port Moresby road named af­ter him.

Goldie River, a trib­u­tary of the Laloki River, just out­side Port Moresby, is named af­ter one of the coun­try’s first per­ma­nent Euro­pean res­i­dents, botanist and col­lec­tor An­drew Goldie.

Con­tin­ued in­ter­est in the coun­try by the English saw cap­tain F.P. Black­wood in HMS Fly in the 1840s nam­ing that well-known large river af­ter his ship, and Aird Hills af­ter a mate on board.

A few years later, lieu­tenant Charles Yule was re­mem­bered in the nam­ing of an is­land down the Cen­tral Prov­ince coast. Cap­tain Owen Stan­ley was hon­oured by hav­ing the cen­tral moun­tain range named af­ter him in 1889 by lieu­tenant gov­er­nor Sir Wil­liam MacGregor, above.

Not many of the Ger­man place names have sur­vived, de­spite Ger­many’s rel­a­tively long oc­cu­pa­tion of New Guinea.

Prin­ci­pal coastal set­tle­ments re­verted to lo­cal names – partly in re­sponse to the rec­om­men­da­tions of a re­port to the League of Na­tions in 1923 – in­clud­ing Her­bertshohe to Kokopo, Ber­lin­hafen to Ai­tape, Kaiser Au­gusta River to the Sepik River, Simp­son­hafen to Rabaul and Friedrich-Wil­helmshafen to Madang. One that sur­vived is Fin­schafen.

Other Ger­manic names that re­main are dis­tinctly hard rock – the Bis­mark Sea, archipelago and range was named af­ter Ger­man chan­cel­lor Otto von Bis­mark, along with four peaks along the range named af­ter his four chil­dren, in­clud­ing Wil­hem­berg or Mount

Wil­helm, the high­est moun­tain in PNG.

Fur­ther west, Mount Ha­gen, known as Ha­gen­berg to the Ger­mans, was named af­ter colo­nial of­fi­cer Curt von Ha­gen.

Along the east coast of New Ire­land, the 193-kilo­me­tre high­way from Kavieng to Na­matanai – built by dis­trict of­fi­cer Franz Bo­lu­min­ski – still car­ries his name.

As the seat of gov­ern­ment, the grad­ual ex­pan­sion of Port Moresby re­sulted in streets be­ing named af­ter colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tors, no­tably spe­cial com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas and his deputy, cap­tain An­thony Mus­grave. Sur­veyor Wal­ter Cuth­bert­son named a street af­ter him­self as well.

Sir Peter Scratch­ley, left, gave his name to the street in Badili that leads to Kila Kila and Sabama. The less-known Mary Street, which pro­vides ac­cess to the Grand Pa­pua Ho­tel, was prob­a­bly named af­ter the wife of Sir Wil­liam Macgregor, the first lieu­tenant- gov­er­nor of Bri­tish New Guinea, or Pa­pua.

Af­ter World War 2, land was re­claimed in front of Cham­pion Pa­rade, named af­ter Her­bert Cham­pion, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer from 1902 to 1942. The new wa­ter­front road was called

Stan­ley Es­planade af­ter Evan Stan­ley, the first gov­ern­ment ge­ol­o­gist who, al­though he died in 1924, pre­sciently fore­saw the fu­ture im­por­tance of petroleum to the coun­try.

Three com­pa­nies that formed the Aus­tralasian Petroleum Com­pany (APC), ac­tive in the coun­try for many years, are re­mem­bered in the nam­ing of Air­vos Av­enue on Paga Hill –

an acro­nym of the ini­tial let­ters of An­glo-Ira­nian, Vac­uum Oil and Shell.

Wars are also good for leav­ing a few names be­hind. Port Moresby’s in­ter­na­tional air­port com­mem­o­rates squadron leader Johnny Jackson, killed when his

Kit­ty­hawk was shot down dur­ing Ja­panese raids on the town. He was op­er­at­ing from a wartime airstrip that had been built over the lo­cal race­course, one of seven air fields con­structed around Port Moresby.

Gur­ney Air­port, near Alotau, built as No.1 Strip by a US Army En­gi­neer Unit dur­ing World War 2, was named af­ter squadron leader C.R. Gur­ney in 1942 af­ter he was killed dur­ing ac­tion there.

In 1935, R.A. Gor­don took a 99-year pas­toral lease over 40 hectares of land out­side Port Moresby to run his dairy and butchery busi­ness. All too soon, how­ever, Port Moresby ex­panded d and the land was taken back in 1962. The sub­urb of Gor­don was cre­ated, tak­ing the fam­ily name de­spite ef­forts to utilise lo­cal al­ter­na­tives.

As PNG moved to­wards In­de­pen­dence, in­creas­ingly sub­urbs and fea­tures were named d us­ing lo­cal lan­guages, ei­ther us­ing tra­di­tional place names or de­scrip­tive terms such as Hanu­abada, ‘big vil­lage’ in Motu.

It has re­cently been the prac­tice to name pres­ti­gious build­ings af­ter prom­i­nent politi­cians and other im­por­tant in­di­vid­u­als of the day – Mo­rauta Haus, Bo­gan Rumana, Sir Buri Kidu Haus, Marea Haus and Danaya House in Port Moresby are among them. Sir John Guise Drive, in Waigani, com­mem­o­rates the coun­try’s first gov­er­nor- gen­eral.

On the draw­ing board ... Port Moresby as seen by sur­veyor Wal­ter Cuthbertson, who named a street after him­self.

Early days ... many of Port Moresby's streets were named after colo­nial administrators.

Name drop­pers ... (from far left) Rev­erend Wil­liam Lawes, Sir Wil­liam MacGregor, Sir Peter Scratch­ley; Mus­grave Street, Port Moresby (above).

Street scenes ... Dou­glas Street in 1943 (top); the Pa­pua Ho­tel in Mus­grave Street in 1960 (right). The streets were named after colo­nial administrators John Dou­glas and An­thony Mus­grave.

The Pa­pua Ho­tel in Mus­grave Street in 1942.

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