Fair day’s wage

Tawa Airstrip from last ridge

Tawa Airstrip from last mountain ridge

I was reminded recently about the vast difference there is in the world concerning a fair wage for a days work.

It was October and I had just landed at the grass strip in Tawa, Papua New Guinea. The bush plane which we had arrived in had departed. My guide/translator Joseph,and I needed to move my gear and ourselves eight miles over rugged terrain to our target area, the village of Bainu.  My gear and equipment all fit into  two large military style green duffle bags. Each bag weighed close to seventy pounds. I asked Joseph to find us some local help to carry the duffle bags.  With the recent rains the steep mountain trails were going to be very muddy and muddy also means slippery and slippery can cause injuries and I sure did not want any type of injury out here.

About an hour later Joseph shows up with two young girls.  I would estimate their age around fifteen years old.  Very slender and I would call “scrawny”.  Nothing like I imagined for one to be able to carry my duffle bags a hundred feet much less eight miles. Boy, was I ever wrong! Joseph had to explain to me that in this tribal area the men do not carry things. Carrying things is a womans work. So he was not able to hire any men to carry our equipment and supplies.

Typical trail going to Bainu village

Typical trail going to Bainu village

Trusting in his expertise of the local culture we started up the trail to the top of a ridge. I was slipping and sliding back as much as I was climbing up.  Very difficult climb, up and over, then back down the other side for eight long muddy hours.  Those “scrawny” girls put me to shame with their strength and agility on a steep muddy trail.  From the start they carried the duffle bags by putting the shoulder straps across their forehead and letting the bag lay crossways on their shoulders with their neck carrying most of the weight. They would beat me up to the top of a ridge and wait the next fifteen minutes or so to for me to catch up.  As soon as I got to the top of a ridge, off they would scamper, laughing and talking like it was a normal stroll through a park. Meanwhile I was panting and exhausted just to make it to the top. Rest for a while and start the torture down and up the next ridge.

One of the girls who carried my equipment for the * hour hike

One of the girls who carried my equipment for the 8 hour hike

After eight hours of torture for me, we arrived at our destination. Out of a  heart felt thanks and still in awe of these girls with  their strength and endurance I reached into my pockets and gave each girl what would be the equivalent of $5.00 US dollars.  What I thought was really cheap for the eight hours of work they had done for me.

I returned five months later to the same airstrip in Tawa. The plane was still unloading when I was bombarded with the question….”why did I pay those girls so much money?”  I had to think back to remember how much I had paid them and realized the very small amount I had given each of them. It seemed that when the girls returned to the village of Tawa and people heard what I had paid them the “wantoks” showed up for their share of the bounty. Wantoks are family relatives and in this tribal culture relatives are never said no to.  If a relative wants to stay in your hut and eat your food for months…then that is OK.  If a relative needs money and you have some you must share a portion. So these poor girls ended up losing all the money I had given them. Only because of the number of relatives that showed up claimed their portion of the excess wages.

I learned very quickly to give my guide/translator money in advance of needing to hire some one because he would know the fair wages for a days work.  So once more we traveled the same trail, in half the time because the trail was dry, and arrived at the same remote village.  After the girls had left I asked Joseph what he had paid the girls to carry the bags. Three kina, just over $.65 cents US.  Since this was a days fair wages in this area the girls were able to keep the whole amount and go buy something at the local “general store”. I learned that the $5.00 US dollars was a weeks worth of work!

Indava Bio-luminescence

I have been asked to describe the bio-luminescence that I have seen.  According to the local natives this strange flying bioluminescence is from the Inava bird. The natives claim the creatures can “glow” in three different colors. The colors are white, yellow and red.  The colors I have seen are the white and yellow bioluminescence flying.

The easiest way for me to describe this phenomenon is by comparing this bioluminescence to the street lights in a large city. The “white” glow would be very close to a bright white mercury vapor street lamp, the ones that illuminate large areas with a bright white light.  The “yellow” glow would be similar to the orange /brown sodium vapor lights that illuminate with a yellowish light. And when the natives say “bright, big light”….it is a very bright “glow” that flies across the night skies.

Now, I need to return and probe even farther and deeper into this mystery!

Indava Bird Revealed

Well, revealed as to what the natives say they see and the talents of Desiree Byrd of Byrd Creative.  I had an old artistic rendering from 1994 based on the information we had back then.  Now with newer descriptions and higher quality graphics, we can maybe have a glimpse of this mystery creature. If anyone is familiar with the fossil record and pterosaurs , you will notice that this creature has characteristics of both families of pterosaurs.  The head crest of the pterodactyloids and also the long tail of the rhamphorhynchoids.  Makes you pause and wonder how a simple native sustaining in the jungle could know such details from the fossil record!  Maybe they have seen something we do not know about.IndavaBird ArtisticRendering

News from PNG

Heard from my contact in Papua New Guinea.  He is recovering from dengue fever. This his second round with this fever.  As of right now there is no preventive medicine you and take to prevent this.  It is another mosquito borne virus that attacks humans.  Since I will be traveling a couple of days through this hot spot of dengue fever I will have to be very cautious and prepare as much as possible to prevent the mosquitoes biting.  This like repellant, long sleeve shirts, gloves, everything that makes wearing them in the high heat and humidity miserable.  Fortunately my main time will be up in the mountains and the mosquito is not a problem.

What does the Indava look like?

I have been asked…What does this creature look like?  Since I have only seen the bioluminesence of this creature and no morphology.  I can only give descriptions as reported by those who have seen this creature.

The year is 1875. British explorers were steaming up a newly discovered river in Papua New Guinea they call the Baxter River. ” We often heard the natives speak of a large bird which could fly away with a kangaroo or a large turtle, but I scarcely credited the statement until I saw two of the birds myself. One was seated on the truck of a large tree, and rose as we approached. The noise caused by the flapping of its wing resembled the sound of the locomotive pulling a long train very slowly. When it had flown away we heard another coming, with just the sound of an approaching goods (freight) train. I had a good opportunity of observing it, and it appeared to be sixteen or eighteen feet across the wings as it flew; the body dark brown, the breast white, neck long, and beak long and straight. Our guns had no effect on it. I feel sure I struck it, but flew on as unconcernedly as ever.”

Now advance to August 1944. The war with Japan was ending and Dwayne Hodgkinson, a 19-year-old soldier, was hiking with his friends on a path which led to a local village near the town of Finschaven, Papua New Guinea. As they were walking, they heard the sound of a large animal crashing through the bush. Moments later, a wild hog came out of the dense jungle and began running through tall grass in the adjacent field. The hog’s commotion led to a scene that was permanently burned into Dwayne’s memory. To his amazement, Dwayne watched as a huge “bird” took flight less than 200 feet in front of him and his friends. When this creature rose into the air, Dwayne vividly remembers the tall grass and brush swaying violently from the down rush of air as the creature gained altitude.

Dwayne watched in awe as the creature circled and flew back to where they were, giving them a perfect side view of this unique creature. He estimated that the creature was flying at no more than 100 feet high at that time. What amazed him most was the crest on the creature’s head! Dwayne knew that no birds today have such a crest. He noted the long beak and head crest were each about three feet long. Dwayne said that the creature looked exactly like pictures he had seen of a prehistoric flying reptile only found in the fossil record. He estimated that the tail of the creature was about 15 feet long and the color of the body was dark, “not black, but dark brown.” Before being drafted, Dwayne was a private pilot and flew a small aircraft called the Piper Tri-Pacer which has a 29-foot wingspan. The creature that flew before his eyes had about the same wingspan as his plane back home! We now know from the fossil record that pteranadons had a 30-foot or even greater wingspan. After returning to camp and telling about his “discovery,” Dwayne quickly realized there is a price to pay for seeing something no one else has seen. After being teased by his follow soldiers, he quickly realized it was best not to talk about such things because people will think you are unstable or have been drinking. It was the result of Dwayne’s story that led to the first expedition into Papua New Guinea in 1994.

(Please see a YouTube of an interview with Dwayne about his eyewitness account of the creature.)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl1A2xXnxpU

Now let’s stop in August 1994. I, Paul Nation, was sitting in the men’s hut in Garu Village, Papua New Guinea, listening to natives tell of creatures they have seen that exhibit the same characteristics as the one Dwayne sighted. One group of hunters told about a similar creature that flew into their camp one night to steal the game they had killed. It landed by clinging to a nearby tree trunk and the men could see a “glow” coming from this creature. It terrified these normally fearless hunters to the point that they could not even move! To simulate the creature’s clinging to the tree trunk, one hunter jumped up next to a large support post in the hut, tightly gripped the post with his legs, and then grabbed the top of the post with his hands. This caught my attention because no known birds have “hands” to grip the trunk of a tree. Local fruit bats are plentiful and have claws on their wings, but they land on tree limbs and never on the trunks of trees. The bats will land on a limb and immediately swing down into an inverted, hanging position. But they never land upright on the trunk of a tree. What flying creature would have this ability to land upright on a tree trunk and grip the trunk with both feet and wing claws?

On my expeditions, I have taken a set of silhouettes of flying creatures, both present-day birds and those known from the fossil record. I ask eyewitnesses to pick silhouettes from the head, wing and body types of the one that resembles the creatures they have seen. Without fail, 100% of the natives will pick a pterosaur silhouette. Then to my amazement, 80% will choose the Sordes Pilosus out of all the pterosaur silhouettes!

This brings up a question: How do these natives know to pick this particular creature if they have never seen one?

March 2007 Return to Bianu

Chapter 3 March 2007 Return to Bainu and the High Garden Site

My heart is having a race in competition with my excitement as my plane is on final approach to land on the grass strip in Tawa, Papua New Guinea. Late one evening only five months ago, I was here at this very spot videoing the bioluminescence of a mysterious, rare, and unique flying creature. The weather has been cloudy so I have waited over three days and two aborted attempts for good enough flying conditions for the pilot to safely navigate the plane through the valleys and around mountains to land here.

That clear strip in the center is the grass airstrip at Tawa

That clear strip in the center is the grass airstrip at Tawa

The bush plane landed, let me off, and was barely out of sight before questions saturated my mind. The most urgent of these troubling questions was, “Why did you pay the girls so much?” I would never have thought that such a trifling matter would weigh so heavily on my mind. Planning for what I was to accomplish in my research here should not have to take a backseat in my thinking for such a minor thing. Please let me explain.

My last trip here was in October 2006. We left the airstrip at Tawa to hike about eight more miles up into the mountains to reach Bainu. Two heavy duffel bags of supplies and equipment were brought to last me through the month I would be conducting research. In this culture the men do not carry things, but that labor is left for the women and young girls. Many times I have seen women loaded down with seventy-five to a hundred pounds of firewood or coconuts as they transport their burden.

On my last time here, I had asked my guide, Joseph, to find people to help carry my bags to Bainu. I was surprised when I realized that Joseph hired two girls about fifteen-years-old to carry the bags. The girls slung those bags around their backs, placed a shoulder strap across their forehead, and were ready to go. Those girls climbed steep, muddy hills with little effort, always waiting for me to catch up with them at the top of each ridge. They giggled each time I approached the top and needed to pause and rest while they easily traversed the top and started on down. (I can see the humor in this even today.)

Kids playing

Kids playing around my site at the “high garden”

After an eight-hour hike, I paid them fifty Kina, equivalent to about twenty US dollars, which I thought was a fair price for carrying the duffel bags. No! Little did I know about the going wages in the area. I later discovered that I had paid them about a week’s wages for one day’s work. Because the girls had received so much money, their “wantoks” (relatives) came by for their share of the profits. In the end, the girls received almost nothing after the relatives claimed their share. In this culture, if a relative asks another relative for anything, that relative who is asked must give if within their power to do so. If relatives want to room in your hut, you will let them live in your hut until they decide to leave. It works for them, but I could see many problems arising from such arrangements.

I have seen women carry amazing loads for considerable distances and not seem fazed by the effort. I remember while on Umboi Island, Mark Kau’s wife, Deliah, was carrying about forty-five pounds of coconuts to sell at Bunsil Station. When Deliah realized that the person carrying my heavy bag had gotten tired, she took the bag’s shoulder strap by one hand, swung the bag up on the top of her load, and kept walking and talking for another five miles. It is really amazing to see the strength and endurance of these women who are tempered by the constant, hard work they do daily.

It took only four hours to arrive at the high garden site on this trip, cutting my time from the first trip almost in half. On this trip I gave money to Joseph to pay a fair wage, so the girls were happy and able to keep and spend all they earned at the “general Store.” A hard lesson was learned by me. I discovered that a fair wage is three Kina, about 96 cents in US money, for those two girls to carry the heavy duffel bags for eight miles up and down the mountain ridges.

Finally the end of my hike for today

Finally the end of my hike for today

Now I am back at my “high garden” site. The tent is pitched and a sunshade is placed over the tent since I have to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. Let me regress for a moment and recall what happened the last time I set up my tent on this spot.

Natives inspection my tent at Bainu village

Natives inspection my tent at Bainu village

Even though we are close to seven thousand feet above sea level, days this close to the equator are very intense and hot. The nights cool off nicely and make for a comfortable time to watch and do research. One afternoon, I was trying to get to sleep and sweating profusely in the unbearable heat. All of a sudden it became darker in the tent due to a shade cloth being thrown over the top of the tent. I looked outside and saw Zion and six local natives around the tent, staking down the shade cloth so it would not touch the tent or blow away. The inside of my tent was made considerably cooler by the nice shade they provided. This unexpected deed of kindness allowed me to sleep for the entire time I was there without sweating during the heat of the day. This was one memorable act of kindness the local natives showed me while I was with them. Many other times they brought food from the garden and also delivered fresh water to me.

Mt.Hamiya  Coming out of the mist

Mt.Hamiya Coming out of the mist

The first night I eagerly sat and watched intently all night long although my diligence was not rewarded at all. Nothing of interest happened, nothing at all. In fact, during the entire three weeks I spent watching the night skies, I saw no bioluminescence of any kind. The Indava creature must have moved out of this area for some reason. October is springtime in Papua New Guinea. If this creature had young to care for and feed, I should have seen more activity during those fruitless nights. I surmised that if the young were five-months-old or older, perhaps the creatures moved on to other territories and would again return to this region in the springtime.

I have not had enough time in the bush to be able to educate myself about the comings and goings of the flying creatures. I do not yet have an explanation for why their bioluminescence was hidden from me on this trip. Only spending much more time, diligence, and research in this remote and dangerous part of the world will shed more light on the activities of these enigmatic night fliers of Papua New Guinea.

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?