October 2006 A Grass Airstrip at Tawa

Above…Preparing to cross a stream deep in the jungle


October 2006    A Grass Airstrip at Tawa,  Papua New Guinea   

Located just north of Australia, the island of Papua New Guinea is the second largest island on planet Earth. It has been called the Lost World and previously unknown species of  birds and other animals have been discovered within the last ten years.

It’s Friday. Tomorrow the bush plane is scheduled to return and take me back to Wau, Papua New Guinea.  The weather has not looked good over the last couple of days, and with all the mountains and valleys we must fly over before reaching Wau, it could be very tricky. Jim Blume, the bush pilot, has been flying in these jungles since 1969. It is safe to say there is no one better than Jim who knows this area and its weather dangers. In the early 70s, Jim worked hard to put this grass strip in place to serve the people in this region of Papua New Guinea.

Crowds form every time the bush plane lands

I am fortunate to be staying right next to the grass strip in an old abandoned hut next to the “general store.” The cracks in the walls are big enough for the locals to peek in and see what I am doing. Regardless of whether I am sleeping, sitting, reading, or eating, I always have an audience.

My guide Joseph and translator Jacob are with me but have gone into the main village of Tawa to visit people they know. This allows some time for me to cook up a little dinner from my supplies of rice and canned tuna bought next door at the general store. The “general store” is just a better built hut with a locking door and iron screens to separate customer from the merchandise. You point to what you want and then you buy it. All stock is displayed on the shelves….if you don’t see it, they don’t have it. Very simple. When supplies are exhausted, it could be weeks before someone makes a trip to a town, such as Aseki, Wau, or Lae, and returns with another supply of goods.

This will be my last night out in the bush. For three weeks I have lived and visited with the natives in this region. This has given me time to ask them many questions about the creature that flies and glows in the dark. Here in this area of the country, the creature is called Indava. The name Indava in the local language means, “Bird that flies at night, and brings message of death.” Many stories exist about this  animal, stories from the realistic to the absurd. Many of the stories are firsthand accounts, but more include secondhand accounts and others farther removed from the original sightings.

According to the best source I met, sightings of the Indava were more prevalent in the sixties and seventies. On nights the villagers would hear the Indavas coming, they would run outside their huts waving, screaming, and making as much noise as possible in trying to prevent the Indavas from landing. This was a fearsome creature that would attack humans, even attacking small children and carrying them off. On one occasion, a seven-year-old boy was caught and taken away, with the Indava dropping him some distance from where he was caught. However, when the villagers were able to reach the child, they discovered that he was dead. My sources told me that nothing like this has happened in this region since the seventies.

After finishing my supper of rice and tuna, it was time to go outside and start watching the skies for more sightings of the “glow.” Six times over the last weeks I have seen this bioluminescence, but the distance was too great for the camera to be effective. For all those nights of watching, I have nothing to show for my efforts to collect evidence, but just seeing the bioluminescence made my pulse race. However, the most dramatic sighting of the “glow” was one that came floating in the air through the river valley below me.

At this point, I need to explain where I was for my observation point to be high enough that I was able to look down on the bioluminescence that was moving through the valley below me.

The area seen from high garden site

I had traveled from the village of Bianu up higher to what I call the “high garden” site. A local native named Zion had offered me his garden site for an observation point that was a much higher altitude than the main village.

Grass huts at "high garden" site

The grass hut at garden site

The garden site had three round grass huts for shelter and a nicely cleared area with few trees, so I could actually see for many miles over some of the lower mountaintops and into other valleys around this area. I never saw the river that ran its course below me because of the tree canopy that completely covered it. However, the lay of the land let me know the river’s path because the mountains rise sharply from aside the river’s channel.

One night as I was scanning the skies, I saw a “glow” coming from the west that appeared to be following the river channel. As I watched for about a minute, the “glow” traveled smoothly on a level course below me until suddenly increasing its altitude and heading straight for a rocky point on Mt. Hamiya, the closest mountain ridge east of my location. Just as it appeared to be about fifty feet from landing on the rocky outcropping, the “glow” suddenly disappeared, almost like someone shutting off power to a light bulb.

At the time, the distance seemed too great for the camera to be of any use, so I did not even try to video the event. Later I learned from experience that the “glow” will be caught on video at even a greater distance. I had over six sightings of the mysterious “glow” during my night’s observations, but nothing was captured on video.

While back at the grass strip in Tawa, I prepared myself to watch the mountain ridges around the strip, which was about five hundred feet lower in altitude than the surrounding ridges.

There was never a chair for me to use while on watch. Many times, I would be so tired from hiking on the water-soaked, muddy ground, that all I wanted to do was relax in a chair. Not to be! Usually nothing could be found but a log, and I felt lucky if it was a big log. The natives would just squat and sit on their heels by the hours while I struggled to find something more comfortable. But why no chairs?

In the sixties, many customs and traditions in this culture were changing and some had radical changes from the way things had been. For example, people would be killed for various reasons and then eaten by the other villagers! Apparently, the last man who suffered this fate was Zion’s father, who, for his only “crime” of accepting Christianity, was killed and eaten in the sixties. Thankfully, that custom has been abandoned!

Now back to the chairs. I learned why there were no chairs for my use. Possibly, chairs bring to the natives’ minds another one of the old, outdated customs of this area. When a highly respected leader or tribal elder died, the villagers would build a chair, tie the body to this chair with vines, and then set the body and chair inside a hut. Then for about six months, the villagers would keep a smoky fire going 24/7 in the hut which would dry out the body until it was like meat jerky. Once or twice a day someone would enter the smoky hut and wipe off the body fluids until the body became completely dried. After the process was completed, the person of honor was memorialized by being mounted to a large rock overhang while still seated in the chair. There was one such rock ledge with a couple of bodies not far from where I was standing. What was left of the bodies and chairs had a grotesque appearance with the bones and teeth shining white against the leathery, blackened, and dried skin. This practice has since been banned because some say that many people got sick and died after several times of entering the hut and wiping off the body during the drying process.

While back on watch as the night continued to grow blacker and blacker, I kept a constant vigil by scanning the horizon and the tops of the mountain ridges close by for any type of luminescence. Suddenly a “fire” seemed to be ignited, and it rapidly bloomed into a “flame.” I remember thinking, “Wow, someone just threw some gasoline on that fire.” As it grew in intensity, a second “fire” started to glow. That’s when I thought my heart would jump through my chest as I realized what I was seeing was not  a “fire” at all.   Seeing what I thought was a fire seemed strange because I had never seen a fire outside the huts in this area. At this high elevation and thin atmosphere, we are constantly in a cloud cover and the rains and mist make it very difficult to keep a fire going. On my expeditions, all the fires I had ever seen were inside grass huts.

Fire in the center of a grass hut on a split bamboo floor.

(Being inside a grass hut having a split bamboo floor with a fire in the middle of the floor causing smoke to fill the hut from the roof down to two feet off the floor left me wondering what to do if the floor catches fire and the grass hut goes aflame in seconds. But after being in the huts around the fires for weeks with nothing tragic happening, I had come to accept the fire inside a grass hut as a normal part of their lifestyle. If placing a fire outside, one would constantly be fighting the rain and mist to keep the fire alive.)

I threw the video camera into action, knowing the objects seemed too far away to get good video, but also knowing this was my last chance to capture any video of this bioluminescence I had witnessed over the last several weeks. Nothing showed in the viewfinder so I just carefully pointed the camera and started to record. A few seconds later the first “fire” died away and the second “fire” flew up and over, then down the back side of the mountain I had been viewing.

Later that night, about 10 pm, Jacob and Joseph saw a single bioluminescence returning.  It flew along a ridge to the east of us heading back to the same general area I had seen the two “glows” appear earlier.

After twelve years of hearing about this bioluminescence or “glow,” and how bright, how big, and the colors look, I have  become an eyewitness to this mystery. But what kind of flying creature is it?

Two of the Indava’s bioluminescence or “glows” magnified when both intensities are the same. Shortly after this, the (1) source, on left, starts reducing in intensity.

After arriving back in the United States, Cliff Paiva, with BSM Research Associates, did a computer enhanced analysis of the video.  His enhancement was done with computer programs, checking edge gradients and radiation intensity.  The plates which follow are the results of Cliff’s analyses.  The first plate below shows the radiation intensity for both objects. The whiter the color the more intense is the radiation, so farther away from the body naturally shows a weaker intensity. The absence of radiation intensity in the “body” is certainly unique.  If this had been a fire, flashlight, or any type of artificial light source, the center would have the most radiation intensity and not be devoid of radiation intensity as this analysis demonstrates.

Computer enhanced radiation gradients.       White is intense and blue is cool.

This confirms the light sources are not from an artificial source. (Neither a car, airplane, flashlight, nor any other man-made light source would be expected in this area because of its remoteness, ruggedness, and lack of any human population or facilities.) Also, two distinct sources of radiation with different intensities are demonstrated. This further indicates that the two sources of light are two separate entities.

What kind of flying creatures can generate such visual radiation?