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Island in the Sky


Planes, Salvage and Adventure in
a Compelling Mix

There is gold hidden somewhere in the jungle, gold which aircraft salvage expert, Dave Stark, is determined to find. But others are equally determined and they are willing to resort to sabotage and murder to get to it first.

Surrounded by the harsh beauty of the jungles and jagged peaks of New Guinea, Stark must survive plane crashes, aerial dog-fights, cannibalistic tribes and fierce gun battles as he follows an obscure trail of clues from the past in a deadly race to find the lost wartime treasure.

Finding the gold is one problem – keeping it is another …

Read Chapter One and Chapter Two

“…Fabulous scenes, wonderful characters, excellent dialogue, a well-constructed adventure peppered with wonderful descriptions. It placed me on the mountain, in the jungle, sweating and suffering with the heroes.”

David Foard – ex editor Sydney Morning Herald


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Book Excerpt

A tall bulky figure emerged from the bush-material church. Father James La Rossa was remarkably handsome for his age, smooth suntanned face and straight snow-white hair with matching bushy eyebrows. His native-carved walking-stick was the only clue to a slight disability.

There could be no such thing as a private conversation here. About forty people had gathered in a tight circle around Father James and myself as we introduced ourselves and exchanged courtesies. Some of the bystanders wore European-style clothes, others were near naked, wearing warrior’s regalia and carrying spears or bows and arrows. Most of the children wore nothing at all, their dark skins shining like polished mahogany in the light rain.

Father James led me to the residence alongside the church. My room had an elevated wooden plank floor, with woven pit pit grass walls and a bamboo-reinforced corrugated iron roof. Judging by the pattering rain on the iron, the din would make sleep unlikely during a torrential downpour.

Returning to the Landrover to fetch my backpack and toolbox, I noticed three traditionally dressed warriors standing silent and proud at the perimeter fence of the churchyard. As I entered the yard carrying my gear, they acknowledged my existence only with fiercely inquisitive stares.

The rough high altitude terrain had forced their bodies over countless years of development to adapt to the environment. Except for his muscular physique, the Digendi warrior looked twice his years, heavily lined sloping brow and deep eye-sockets. The septum of his broad nose and flared nostrils was pierced by a large boar’s tusk. It hung across his heavy wrinkled jowls and wide turned-out lips.

As I returned for the toolbox, I studied the ‘bilas’—their regalia and plumage—with interest. They were completely unclothed except for a woven cane waistband supporting ‘arsegrass’ and a sharpened cassowary bone knife. Bows and arrows were hand-held and the warriors’ heads were elaborately capped with multi-hued Bird of Paradise plumes. Around their necks were strings threaded with shells, dogs teeth, bones, and incongruously, a safety pin. My eye was particularly attracted by a three-piece metal figurine, obviously beaten aluminium roughly shaped like the letter ‘N’. The second warrior had a similar figurine, but the third, evidently the leader of the group, had the same ‘N’ elaborately cast from gleaming solid gold.

My hesitation and close scrutiny was causing some consternation and I was arrogantly ignored when I tried to converse with them in Melanesian Pidgin. They couldn’t comprehend and didn’t wish to in any case. Father James interrupted the confrontation with a quick tirade in a strange dialect and the belligerent warriors grudgingly moved away. “Charming friends you have here, Father.”

He chuckled, a touch of regret in his voice. “Some of my failures. I’ve been teaching the word of God to those Digendi for almost forty years, all to no avail,” he said, as he led me to the dining hut.

“Well, you can’t expect success every time, Father. By the way, what’s the emblem they wear around their necks?”

“A symbol of their cult,” he said. “They’re cargo cultists. It’s understandable when viewed through the primitive eye. All is lost, sickness or famine ravaging the tribes, suddenly a few white men trek to the area and carve an airstrip out of the jungle. Within days, the large silver birds arrive carrying food, medical supplies, clothing, jeeps and other items, incomprehensible to men of a stone-age culture. So many tribes deliberately burned their crops and belongings, buried their valuables and then proceeded to hack out a rough airstrip. They would then sit down and await the arrival of the generous silver birds. Unfortunately the planes never came.” As we sat down, Father James turned to me. “David, being at the head of the table, would you say grace?”

I was caught by surprise, so elected something basic. “Oh Lord, we give thanks for the meal we are about to receive. Amen.”

Father James echoed, “Amen,” gave me an interrogative look and we began a hearty meal.

“What does the ‘N’ stand for, Father?” My question seemed to annoy him; he swallowed some sweet potato, coughed, then cleared his throat with a glass of water.

“What ‘N’?” he said evasively.

“The one around the tribesmen’s necks.”

He responded reluctantly. “It stands for both Noah and Nopondi.”

I didn’t ask why, but my inquisitive look was enough, as Father James continued. “These tribesmen, members of the Digendi, heard me preach of the Great Flood, Noah and his Ark. It seems there is a similar Digendi legend. They believe that Noah’s Ark travelled on the Great Flood of the Wahgi Valley and came to rest on the top of Gomugomugo. It still rests there full of valuables and is protected by an evil Maselai.”

“What’s Gomugomugo?”

“The native name for Mt Wilhelm, the highest mountain in New Guinea. We’re 8000 feet up its southern slopes right here.”

“Yes, I realise that. Have you had a look at their so-called Ark?”
“I’ve climbed the mountain on numerous occasions and trekked widely across the more accessible slopes, but I’ve never seen anything resembling an ark or a boat. In fact, the only remains I’ve seen were a few unfortunate wartime aircraft, which collided with the upper saddle in thick cloud.”

I wondered if this might be one of the wrecks Lance mentioned. “So they know where it is, but they won’t tell you?”

“So they say. They regard the area as a ‘place tambu’, because twenty tribesmen were killed by the evil Maselai when they plundered the ark of valuables, including piles of ‘spirit stones’. The legend states that the Maselai killed them in three quick cataclysms.”


ISBN: 0646123971



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