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Leahy’s images were taken while exploring with Marshall in the Eastern Highlands in 1933 and show portraits of Highland people and general village scenes of early contact. The remaining photos were taken by Charles Marshall and include group portraits of local people, landscapes and images from the Fly River, Edie Creek and Bulolo River gold mining activities.
Charles Wooller Marshall (1904-1991) was a leading surveyor and consultant to the mining industry. At the age of 23 he was appointed Surveyor and Assistant to the Field Geologist for the Second Oriomo Oil Company’s Expedition in Western Papua. In 1927-28, as an exploration geologist, he prospected in the Western District and Highlands for mineral deposits and was one of the first three Europeans to enter the Highlands area.
In January 1933, with Mick Leahy, Marshall went to the junction of the Bena Bena and Garfuka rivers, and in February with Mick and Dan Leahy, to the Chimbu highlands and Wahgi valley. From 1933 to1936 he took photos of the early days of mining in the Wau-Bulolo area and Morobe Province, PNG. During this time, Marshall worked for the New Guinea Goldfields Ltd and he produced some of the first accurate maps of Papua New Guinea.
Returning to Australia, Marshall served in WWII and had an illustrious career in the mining industry. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 for his services to the mining industry.
Diaries of Charles Marshall are also held in Archives. Artefacts donated to the Australian Museum and are held in our Cultural Collections.
Michael James Leahy (1901-1979) was famous for his exploration of the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea.
With Mick Dwyer he walked across New Guinea in 1930, prospecting the Ramu River tributaries and the Goroka Valley for gold, and disproving the prevailing opinion that the highlands were unpopulated. Mick and his brother Dan were leaders of the 1933 expedition that opened up the Wahgi Valley. Charles Marshall was part of this expedition (see above) and obtained copies of Mick Leahy’s photographs.
After marrying fellow Queenslander Jeannette Best in Sydney in 1940, Leahy joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a flight lieutenant, and was assigned to the US Chief Engineer to build an airstrip in remote Telefomin. He was awarded the US Medal of Freedom and in 1952 an MBE. After this he settled in the Morobe District as a farmer, and died there in 1979.
The 1983 documentary film First Contact by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson tells the story of these explorations using Leahy’s films, photographs and diaries.