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Elliott Smock - Travels in Irian Jaya
by Elliott Smock

Click For EnlargementI came back from a long trip (six weeks during 2000) though SE Asia and the SW Pacific. Travel was tough. Across land on train, car and motorbike! Sea, river (in dugout - of course!) and air. We stayed with either local families or in local hotels.

Generally speaking, the big problem is scrapping. Intact aircraft on land are incredibly rare. The best chance are wrecks from the sea. However, the poor infrastructure makes diving very difficult. All the coastal airfields have been cleared out long ago - I think PNG has more opportunities, but even there it is not possible to protect wrecks! It was my first trip to Irian. It is very easy to underestimate its remoteness. Travel here is very very expensive. The need for a guide is also very high which adds to cost.

Biak Island
There are still any wrecks on Biak and it is a great place to visit. A trip to the old cave still revealed bone fragments and items of personal equipment in the mud and gravel of the cave floor. Locals are helpful. I learnt to speak some of the language which was very useful, especially at the end of the trip where I found I could function without a guide. Unfortunately a lot of local people see MIAs as an opportunity to make money. I was offered personal effects and dog tags for sale. Very disturbing trade.

Ki-43-II Oscar
"I saw this aircraft. It is an Oscar and she went in vertically. The whole aircraft is smashed. The Oscar picture here was described by local people as intcat - unfortunately, it most definately is not!"

Ki-43-II Oscar
"Another Ki-43. This one alledgedly has .50 Cal holes in the wreckage although I didn't see any. There is nothing substantial left unfortunately - the guns were at the site about 10 years ago but are gone now."

P-39 Airacobra
"The pilot of this P-39 bailed out successfully according to local people over northern Biak. his aircraft smashed into the hard coral limestone that forms the back of the northern hills in Biak."

Broken up

Mokmer Drome
The main airport is still used and is a great way to enter Biak. Coming in over low forest, you get a great view of some of the old abandoned strips. Also visible are coral lagoons although I could not see any aircraft in them!

Biak Museum
There were some old vehicles at a local museum but everything is rusting away and not looked after properly.

Numfoor is very underdeveloped and there are no hotels. We stayed with a local police man and his family for two weeks - it was fantastic. Very few people here speak English so it is only for people who are prepared to learn some of the local language! Many aircraft bits but no intact ones. Snorkelled on a pair of B-24 wings in 2m of water.

The airstrip at Kornasoren in still there, but it appears to be named Yebruro now after the local village. Australians came in the 1950s and melted most of the wrecks down however many bits and pieces do still remain.

C-47 Dakota
"Local people say it came down in 1962 and is not a wartime wreck. This particular wreck is very accessible. The fuselage appears to be used as a store room today. There are many parts of the aircraft around the village including the fuel tanks, engine firewalls and undercarriage parts."

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