‘Sea in the highlands’


WHAT holds the landlocked Kutubu periphery of the Great Papuan Wonderland located in the heart of the Southern Highlands is its majestic lake.
Interestingly, it is the lake that was named after the geographic periphery and not the oil and LNG resources.
According to anthropological records of the area, that date between 1940-50, a European missionary evangelist Murray Rule and Dick Donaldson and Corporal Hector Hicks, of the Australian Air Force, asked the local people at Wasami Island in the middle of the lake its name.
“Gurubu”, the villagers delightfully responded.
Gurubu in the local Foi vernacular refers to the lake.
The missionaries, however, wrote “Kutubu” in the English accent.
In 1991 multiple drilling operations began in South-East Mananda, Agogo, Usano and Hedinia.
Appraisals in the limestone ranges to the east of the lake and the joint production and commercialisation of these adjoining well pads led to the adoption of the word Kutubu to refer to the joint venture operations.
Kutubu subsequently became synonymous with crude oil.
I visited Kutubu for my Christmas holiday in Dec 2016.
As the Airlines PNG ATR turbo engine screeched and hovered over the Muvi River, and the wide adjacent low-lying hill, I saw a blue like no blue I had ever seen in my travels in the Highlands.
It was Lake Kutubu – bigger than what I had seen earlier in the inflight magazine.
The water was crystal blue and it had a couple of big islands with clusters of communities.
There were a lot of rivers, creeks and streams feeding it from all sides but there was just one outlet which I felt was mindboggling.
I quickly recalled what I had overheard about Lake Kutubu being  ‘the sea in the highlands’.
Now, truly, I was over the ‘sea in the highlands’.
I was drowned with insatiable curiosity as the aeroplane landed at Moro Airport on the western shore of the lake.
I disembarked from the aeroplane and walked towards the terminal where there was a waiting vehicle.
As I hopped on the vehicle and left the Moro Oil Search camps for the Inu Mission Station on the shores of Lake Kutubu, I was suddenly possessed by zeal, youthful spirits.
I wanted to learn more about the ‘sea in the highlands’.

Mike Haro