Planning the expedition to retrace Caroline and Margaret’s journey was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences a person could ever have. It took months of planning and it started with our friend, Dickie Doyle, reading Caroline’s books then mapping each and every location for our expedition. It took over 8 months to complete the task. It was then the responsibility of Captain Alan Raabe to work with Dickie and select an itinerary which would achieve our goals at the best time for weather conditions that included long crossings.
Captain Alan and the M.V. FeBrina would be home for this two-month long expedition. We could not have had a better vessel and crew! I assembled an incredible team to document and provide expertise during this journey. Jeff Streich, cameraman; Austin Storms, audio; Dr. Andrew Moutu, anthropologist and adviser; Danny Kennedy, adviser/ground ops in the Solomon Islands; and our beloved Dickie, who since the journey, passed away. Check out the map and just look at the distance we traveled!
Our long crossing from Rabaul, our launching location, took us to the Solomon Islands. The numerous stops had us meeting some talented carvers, watching traditional canoes practicing their racing strokes and, most important, meeting so many villagers who made us feel welcomed. Our ground operations guru was Danny Kennedy of Dive Gizo. An expert in the territory after living in the Solomon Islands for some 30 years, we would not have had the introductions to the various communities.
It was another very long crossing to Rossel (once called Yela) where very few visitors get a chance to see the how valuable chama shells are carefully made into beads for trade purposes. On to other Panasesa and Panapompom, all in search of people who may have heard of Caroline. After refueling in Alotau, we would make the coastal crawl, as Caroline and Margaret did on their adventure, to stop in a variety of beautiful villages where we learned about the tradition of full body tattooing and pottery making.
Although we did not get to the Fly River Territory as Caroline and Margaret did, we spent time in Hanuabada and Elevala Villages to meet more descendants of Caroline’s paintings. For our small vessel to cross the Gulf of Papua with strong winds would have been far too dangerous. Instead, we flew to Oro Province to spend several days living in Kofure Village and learning more about traditional tattooing.
What was the biggest result of the expedition? Finding descendants to four of Caroline’s paintings. Watch here – it’s amazing.