No Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Of course, I don’t mean that literally. The sun did  come up this morning. The resulting light show was very subdued, but it had a power of its own, so it seemed worth capturing. Ordinarily, this gloomy display would urge me into a similar mood. I seem strangely unaffected by it today, though I know that Eunie will complain, “It reminds me of winter.”

After yesterday’s Marathon of babel, my word machine is in recovery mode. Today will be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  Lite. I ran through a few images from the last week and came up with these. 

As I was driving past the location of the Arcade fire some time ago I snapped this shot:

The remains of the building are gradually disappearing. If left long enough there will be no expense for removing it. Gradually, bit by bit, every scrap of it will be carried off.

If you look just to the right of the remains of the Arcade in the image above, you will see a vacant lot. That is the former location of the Chemcare pharmacy. After the fire, over a period of months, the lot was picked clean. Here is a shot of our old friend Greg O’Keefe looking a bit glum as his workplace goes up in smoke:

We’ll see how long it takes to have two vacant lots in a row.

On Sunday morning I went over to the beautiful grounds of The Madang Lodge and Restaurant to shoot some family portraits for our friends Jimm and Heidi. They have been absent from Madang for a while, so I’m including this shot so that their friends can see that the family is well and enjoying a visit to Madang:

Getting Keyen to pose is not unlike herding cats. In principle it should work, but in practice . . .

While at The Lodge, I got this nice shot of the Finisterre Mountains  across Astrolabe Bay  with the swimming pool in the foreground:

The Lodge is one of my favourite spots to get images of friends. The garden is immaculate and a riot of colours.

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The Arcade Lights Up

Posted in Madang Happenings on June 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, there is no shortage of news from Madang today. Yesterday afternoon at about 18:00 Erastus, our Translation Coordinator, called me from our office where they were having a dinner to greet our new intake of interns. He said that there was a big fire in town. He told me that he thought that Papindo’s was burning down. I ran to grab my camera and rushed out into the front yard to be greeted by this:

It certainly looked like a big fire to me. I haven’t seen anything like that since the Lutheran Shipping Fibreglass Shop burned. I could hear pops like guns going off clear across the harbour.

Here is a telephoto shot taken only a few minutes later when the fire appeared to be at its peak:

Within a short while it died down significantly.

As it turns out, it was not Papindo’s which was smoked. It was the building across from the Development Bank (the building you can see on the left in the light of the fire). We called this building “The Arcade”. Don’t ask me why. That’s just always what we’ve called it. It’s pretty much gone now.

Eunie called me from the office to tell me that she was worried that the fire would jump the street and get the bank and then us. I couldn’t get into town. because she had our car. I told her that all that they could do was wait until it was pretty certain that our building was in danger and then yank the wires out of every computer in the building and carry them someplace safe where the inevitable looters could not grab them. I remember when a hotel in Goroka burned and people were throwing television sets over the fence to be carried off by wantoks.

Here is the heart of the beast. This shot and the one before were taken by Eunie. I think that she was a very brave little photojournalist. Click on this one for some interesting detail:

She said that she couldn’t get any closer because of the heat. I told her that she got quite close enough, thank you.

Here is a shot in the morning from the same angle as the first fiery shot:

As you can see, the place is pretty well trashed.

This morning there was still a fire burning inside. The fire department did not seem to be around. I was told that the cops bashed a looter earlier in the morning. I’m just as happy that I wasn’t around to snap that:

People were standing right up in front of this door when I came across the street. Things were still popping inside. I wanted to say something about safety, but then decided to save my breath.

Even the darkest clouds bring refreshing rain to someone. So, I did get to take away a bit of grim comedy. This guy was astonishingly angry at the door:He was bashing away at it and cursing it to hell. He had a big iron bar in his hands and kept dropping it on his feet which only fueled his fury to the next level when he got his arm caught between the door and the bar and nearly broke it – the arm, not the bar. I never did get what his problem was. The door was not locked. It was swinging wildly on its hinges as he pounded away at it. Why he should have been so enraged at a defenseless door is beyond me.

Well, nothing new there. There is a lot in PNG which is still well beyond me. I have the rest of my life to try to figure it out.

By the way, I’m goign to Fiji next week. SURPRISE!


Up In Smoke – Burns Philp Moresby Lights Up

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on July 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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Good buddy and Madang- Ples Bilong Mi  reader Rich Jones shot me an email this morning with photos of the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby.

This from Rich Jones:

We were sitting on the balcony drinking wine and saw a huge plume of smoke from downtown. Like any good PNGer we immediately raced towards the disaster and saw the final moments of the famous yet flammable Burns Philip building, once home of the excellent Tribal Den nightclub and currently under, um, renovation. There were vast and knowledgeable crowds who were remarkably close to the action and a few brave firemen trying to save Westpac with some very leaky hoses.

Check out Jenn’s chairs in the heart of the fire.

It was quite a communal affair. Well ordered and quite solemn at times.

Rich sent some shots of the fire along with the email. The Sunday night fire, which rated a short blurb in the Post Courier’s online rag, was apparently spectacular and a great crowd pleaser:

Burns Philp in Port Moresby lights up

The building was under renovation at the time of the fire. You can plainly see the scaffolding.

Here it is getting well and truly under way:

Burns Philp in Port Moresby lights up and stays lit

I’m not familiar with Port Moresby (and I can’t say that I’m a big fan either), so I don’t know what we’re looking at in this shot:

Part of the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby

A lot of money burning up, I’d say. Rich explained to me on the phone that the firemen did manage to save the bank next to the blazing building, but doesn’t give huge credit for that, since the wind was blowing the other direction quite strongly.

Here is a shot showing the mystery chairs, which were, by all accounts, amazingly fire resistant. Sounds like a handy thing to save your home in case someone spontaneously combusts while napping in front of the tellie:

The "Mystery Chairs" in the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby

I recall several huge fires here in Madang. The first that I remember, strangely enough, was the Burns Philp warehouse fire way back when. Then Binnen Bakery burned down, followed soon by the Lutheran Shipping Fibreglass shop. That one was very spectacular. There were 200 litre drums popping like bombs and rocketing many tens of metres into the air trailing orange flames. A terrific show which we could easily watch from our house.

Probably the most well remembered fire in Madang is the old Chemcare shop. Here’s our old buddy Greg O’Keeffe looking a little bewildered as his shop burns to the ground behind him.

The old ChemCare store burning in Madang

The Fire Service makes an easy target, since the equipment is laughable, and the record of success rather thin. I can’t recall a single fire in Madang at which the Fire Service made much impression on the fire. Maybe it’s just my poor memory.

Lest we pick on the poor Fire Service fellows, let’s remember that they are about as effective as any other government operation. Let’s not single them out for abuse. There’s enough to go around to everybody.

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Not Trapped in a Hotel Fire in Hamilton

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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One thing that will really get your attention is a fire alarm blasting you out of a peaceful sleep in a hotel room. That happened to us a few mornings ago. On the day after we arrived, alarms were going off all over the hotel. The staff said to ignore them, as they were testing the system. It went on all day. Two days later, at about 07:00 the alarm came on and did not go off. I stuck my head out in the hall to sniff for smoke. Amazingly, Eunie was sleeping through it. I did see a few people strolling out, so I woke her up and said that it might be a good idea to go outside for a while. She grumbled, but complied. Here’s the small mob milling around outside trying to figure out what was going on:

Guests milling about while the fire alarm blasts insideMost guests were still in the building eating breakfast. I couldn’t stay inside. I’ve got ear damage from gunfire and flying helicopters, so loud noises really hurt. The staff finally told us that someone had tripped the alarm on the third floor. Soon the Hamilton Fire Service arrived:

The Hamilton Fire Department arrivesI think that they already knew it was a false alarm, but they scurried inside with all their gear anyway. “Good practice”, they said:

A Hamilton fireman investigatesEunie stood bleary-eyed out in front clutching her precious Toshiba notebook:

Eunie waits outside in the cold clutching her precious Toshiba notebook

I had grabbed my computer, my three cameras and a backup hard disk which contains our whole life. Eunie forgot her glasses and jewellery. Fortunately, I was spared the hazard of running back into a burning hotel to retrieve her missing items.

All this is mildly amusing, but it’s not the best of the story.

As I stood out in front, I was waiting to hear the grumbling, cursing, blaming, lawsuit threats and the other usual reactions that I was expecting. Instead, it was like a garden party. People stood around joking and smoking and generally trying to out-quip each other. When we were told that some jerk had tripped the fire alarm, the most vicious remark that I heard came from a laughing woman who asked, “When you catch him, we can beat him up, eh?” All of this seemed rather surreal to me, as if I had suddenly been teleported to Munchkin Land. I expected to see Dorothy exit the hotel at any moment in her ruby slippers.

Then it came to me. I’m in Canada.

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Fire FIRE!! The Yamaha F-100 Deathtrap

Posted in At Sea on September 7th, 2007 by MadDog
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This FROM: MadDog

One of my dive buddies (Val Jerram) and I were scouting out a dive site for the Faded Glory Dive Crew on Saturday morning (a couple of weeks ago). Just as we had finished discussing the strong smell of fuel (overfilled the tank again), I turned to ask her, “What else can go wrong?” Well, it’s probably always a mistake to ask that question, but I forgot that.

Just then the motor (a ten year old Yamaha 100HP 4-stroke) began sputtering. I shut it off immediately. Looking behind, I saw what appeared to be steam. I said, “Must have picked up a plastic bag.” Val said, “NO! IT’S ON FIRE!” Just then, I also smelled the smoke. I stepped back to lift the hood and saw, to my utter terror, that the whole plastic panel in the front that covers the electronics and spark suppressor area was on fire. Bright orange flames were licking up the panel and black smoke was now billowing up.

Not having a fire extinguisher (bad, bad boy), I grabbed a big funnel, stuck my thumb in the tiny end, and began scooping up ocean water and throwing it on the burning plastic. Yeah, sure . . . salt water is just what you want to throw all over your electronics.

The fire being extinguished, it was time to either try to start the engine or call for a tow. Being predisposed against embarrassing tows back to port, I gave the ignition a try. Amazingly, the engine started, though it ran very rough.

This photo looks into the fire-damaged area.

The area of the fire on the Yamaha F-100

This photo shows two of the many damaged parts. The part on the left (the voltage regulator) is the one that started the fire. The part on the right is the ‘power pack’.

Some of the parts damaged in the Yamaha F-100 fire

As a bonus, fire was sucked into one of the carbies. Now the motor runs okay at idle (after balancing the heck out of the carbies) and okay at high speed, but there’s a 1200 to 2400 RPM ‘three cylinder’ range that ruins your day every time you hear it. Forget trolling! Oh, well, I don’t like to fish anyway. Drift dives are miserable now for the boat driver.

If you have a Yamaha F-100 (other models also??), I’d recommend that you check your battery charge voltage regularly. An unusually high charging voltage seems to be the first indication of trouble. The first time (that’s right, this is the second charred regulator – the first one just did not catch fire) this happened, my first indication of something fishy was when the battery charge voltage went up to about 16-17 volts. When the unit stopped charging altogether and I removed it, I noticed that the plastic potting material on the back was well toasted. This time I figured I would just wait until it gave up the ghost before replacing it (new batteries are cheaper than new regulators here). BAD THINKING! BAD, BAD BOY! This time I got a boat fire for my trouble.

You know that tingly feeling . . . the one that comes right before you could swear your body is turning to stone? That’s what I felt when, as I watched the flames dancing, I noticed I could still smell the strong, sweet perfume of petrol floating on the bilge water two feet below the fire.

Boating fans: How many rules did I bust? (Oh, by the way, other than floatie toys, we had no persnoal flotation devices aboard.)

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