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Early DIving Days in Papua New Guinea
by Bob Halstead 

Before we built Telita in 1986 there was no dedicated liveaboard dive boat established in Papua New Guinea (PNG). If divers wanted to explore they roughed it on chartered fishing or cargo vessels, and slept on deck.

Solatai was our original 36 ft. day dive boat and twice a year I would close down our dive school and take clients, mostly my own certified students but with a growing number of tourist divers, on adventurous “Scuba Safaris”. We initially camped ashore but where we found villages that we liked we had them build a bush materials house for us.These were more comfortable (and rain proof) than tents - but not by much, and many clients caught malaria.

In the late 1970s, sometime salvage diver Kevin Baldwin bought a handsome trading vessel he renamed Seang that had accommodation for 12 passengers and carried two inflatables to dive from. He ran one long scientific charter but soon realized that he needed to go trading to raise the money to keep the boat going, and it never got into tourist diving.

But by the early 1980s the world wanted to dive PNG and See and Sea Travel’s dive adventurer Carl Roessler was leading the pack, as he usually did. Carl contacted me to investigate the possibility of getting a PNG boat to use for exploration diving.

We made a trip to Wuvulu Island together where an enterprising American lawyer had built a small beach dive resort for his son who had married a Wuvulu lady. It had some pleasant but not exceptional diving, but no anchorage nor wharf, was weather dependent and required flights on weight-limited small aircraft.

Jean Michel Cousteau had used Wuvulu for his Project Ocean Search expeditions and for that it was ideal because the project’s hardy young people were able to walk the extensive reef flats to discover marine critters and make the occasional dive. The dive resort was never a success, however in 1988 the Cousteau team went back to Wuvulu and it produced some of the most spectacular footage of all the expeditions to PNG. Orcas killed a shark and brought it to the cameramen on the surface to film in a scene many still remember.

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