Kiaps and the Antarctic – Sept 2020 Kundu

Kiaps and the Antarctic – Sept 2020 Kundu

This is a short, and probably incomplete, history of kiaps and the Antarctic.

Around 1975, when Papua New Guinea gained Independence, many kiaps began to consider their future job prospects. Contract kiaps, in particular, began to realise that most were not particularly qualified to slot into any field of endeavour in Australia, although some managed to gain employment in various aboriginal affairs disciplines.

Peter & friends, Mason 1977

In my case (Seniority 1/04/64), whilst on leave, I happened to notice an advertisement in The Age newspaper for a position as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of an Antarctic station. Many of the attributes and requirements for the position appeared to echo the attributes and requirements of a kiap.

I applied in 1974 and was short listed for interview in Brisbane. I travelled from Tabibuga in the then Western Highlands to Brisbane, and had a haircut plus shaved off my beard, to be interviewed by a panel of three men with long hair and beards.

I was not successful on this occasion; however, I was informed that I was one of the last six for four positions.

I reapplied in 1976 and was successful in being appointed to the position of OIC at Mawson for the 1977 expedition.

In January 1978, the incoming OIC at Mawson was Ken Chester (Seniority 11/12/46), another ex-kiap. Ken had been the OIC at Casey in 1976. Peter McKenzie (Seniority 27/08/62), another ex-kiap, was the OIC at Macquarie in 1976. Bob Lachel (Seniority 18/07/69), yet another ex-kiap had been at Mawson in 1965, and returned as OIC at Macquarie in 1986.

Ex-kiap Alistair McArthur was appointed as Base Commander (Base Leader/OIC) for two consecutive years (winters of 1967 and 1968) at Base ‘E’, Stonington, with the British Antarctic Survey. He travelled over 2,500 kilometres by dog sledge conducting geophysical and topographical surveys on the Antarctic Peninsula (British Antarctic Territory). In the early 1960s Alistair McArthur worked as a kiap at Kundiawa, Kainantu, Gumine, Okapa, Henganofi and Wonenara.

After returning to PNG to work initially at Mt Kare, and more recently for employment in the oil and gas industry, I have spoken with Dave Ekins (Seniority 13/06/67), who stated that he was interviewed for the position as OIC of an Antarctic station but was unsuccessful. *

Additionally, John Reid (Seniority 24/08/70) informed me that he was interviewed and was successful in being appointed as OIC Macquarie, but declined the position as he only wanted a position as OIC on the Antarctic continent.

Peter Russell (Seniority 24/06/68) was married to Joan Russell, and Joan became one of the first female OICs of an Antarctic station. Joan was OIC at Casey in 1990 and at Macquarie in 1994.

No doubt there were other ex-kiaps who applied to join the Antarctic Division, but either were not selected for interview, or who were unsuccessful at interview.

It would be interesting to hear from other ex-kiaps who considered the Antarctic as a possible transition from Papua New Guinea.

* Chris Warrillow tells us that actually Dave was selected at an earlier interview, but had to decline when his fiancée informed him that she might not be still around when he returned. He was assured of a position when he next applied and that his interview was merely a formality. However, by that time, a standard question was in regard to attitudes towards drugs. Dave stated that he would not tolerate ‘hard drugs’, but would be inclined to turn a blind eye to anyone smoking an occasional marihuana so long as it did not in any way interfere with that person’s performance of their duties. Asked: ‘What if someone hallucinating walked out into -50° temperatures?’

Dave assured the interviewer that one does not hallucinate on marihuana—end of interview! Dave saw a few more years in PNG including work with the oil and gas industry).


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

Leave a Reply