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The Rock-itt : May 2010
HOBART TO HOLLYWOOD So far in our series, Errol Flynn has travelled from Hobart to Sydney then to Papua New Guinea, where at the age of seventeen for a period managed a copra plantation, Captained a schooner up the dangerous Sepik River, and now is about to embark on a trek to the Edie Creek Goldfields where he intends to make his fortune as a gold prospector. Nothing seems out of the ordinary here with the exception that Errol has only just turned 18 years of age. With his small party of Kanakas and limited equipment ,Errol set off from Salamaua for the gold fields, full of confidence and enthusiasm. He had heard it was a tough trek and it would take his party over a week to reach Edie Creek but he never expected the "Black Cat Track" as it was called, to be so harsh. It was virtually the bowels of the earth with every human and inhuman predator that man had to face, waiting around each bend. The natives who lived in these areas were mostly hostile and would rob then kill strangers entering their domain given the opportunity. But the natives were only a small part of what Errol and his party had to face. As the constant dull beat of the drums kept the nerves on edge, leeches and malaria carrying mosquitoes continually attached themselves to the flesh of the men, and sleep was impossible for fear of attack by hostile natives or wild animals. The slither of snakes in the tall grass in the darkness of night was a living nightmare. Errol had the Kanakas build a waist high enclosure around their camp each night and stretch a fishing line as an outer perimeter. He then told his men to make it known in local dialect to anyone outside their party that if they entered within the boundary of the fishing line they would be shot dead. This message would have been sent by jungle telegraph right the way along the Black Cat Track to tribes who were laying in wait to plunder Errol's party. In Errol's memoirs, he describes how one night a native youth reached under the fishing line, obviously to steal something and the guard on watch blew his hand off with a single shot. But the incident showed the native predators that the threat issued by Errol's party was not to be taken lightly and from then on Errol and his men were shown a healthy distance. There were many daunting incidents along the way to the goldfields which would discourage anyone, yet finally after more than a week of arduous trekking, Errol and his men reached the Edie Creek Goldfields. Mining parties came and went so no one took much notice of Errol's party when they arrived on site and set up camp. Errol found a piece of ground around a hundred yards square which he thought might be worth working and staked a claim. Edie Creek was high on the side of a mountain and weather conditions were harsh, temperatures dropping in the night making living conditions uncomfortable and affecting the health of the native workers who were used to the warmer climate, and as a result many died of pneumonia. Errol and his crew enthusiastically began working the claim but as time evolved the enthusiasm began to evaporate as the realisation that extracting the minimal amount of gold from the mountains of earth was painstakingly slow and time consuming. Finally with his crew tired of the back breaking work, harsh conditions, and the risk of contracting pneumonia, decided to pack up and go home. Errol had also run out of money and without it could no longer buy supplies which meant the end of his dream of becoming a rich gold prospector. Errol and his crew left Edie Creek and headed back to the coast, Salamaua