Editor's Note -
I received a sad email today from my colleague Michele Westmorland about the passing of Dick Doyle. It included the wonderful words written below by his friend, and captain of the Febrina, Alan Raabe. Even if you never met Dickie, you will enjoy what Alan has written about him. I’d also like to say some words about Dick, a man I knew for only a few days.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dick on our DPG charter of the Febrina in 2010. Unlike Michele and Alan, PNG isn’t a place I am associated with, but my sole trip there had a tremendous impact on me. I went there as 23 year old kid, pretty fresh out of college, when I unexpectedly had to lead a DPG Expedition. This also happened to be at a point in my life when I was decideding whether I wanted to stay on the course of being involved in travel, photography and diving or do something more conventional.
On the Febrina I met Dickie, a man that had been living in the remote Witu Islands for decades and had come on board as we were passing his home. I asked him if he’d take my group on land. Not knowing what to expect, we followed this enthusiastic, lanky bald white guy onto a seemingly random island in a remote section of Papua New Guinea.
Dickie showed us an amazing village, filled with people that did not have much but who were excited to show us what they did have. He, and they, also showed us what is perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen: a temple built on a cliff overlooking the Indo Pacific, with intricate designs and bright colors, built in the shape of giant mask. It made such an impact on myself, and my group, partially because of its beauty, but mostly because of how unexpected it was and how much it stood out against the setting.
That was the moment I decided to stay the course of finding a life that would allow me to see the world. Dickie, a man I only knew for a few days and someone who probably would never have remembered me, was the first person who really made me realize that conventional is overrated.
- Matt Weiss
In Memorium – Dick Doyle
By Alan Raabe
I first met Dickie in 1986 when I was on Reef Explorer. I was out at Witu Islands and out of water, so I went up to Dick’s house at Langu Plantation and asked him if there was any way I could get water on the boat. Dick’s reply was, “No, but I can give you a beer”. So I had a couple of beers with him and we ended up with all the guests from that trip (Chris Newbert) up at Dickie’s house.
Dickie liked holding court and he started telling everyone the history of the place. I particularly remember the story of Peter Hansen who lived at Peterhaven in the 1890’s. Apparently, Peter Hansen wasn’t adverse to using his gun to sort things out. The story goes (according to Dickie) that Peter shot the number one spear thrower from a neighbouring village, chopped off his arm and gave the arm to the local village people, the reasoning being that they could eat it and gain the spear throwing powers. Dickie then summarised, straight off the cuff, “You might say that Peter Hansen was the first arms dealer in Papua New Guinea”.
That is pretty typical of Dickie’s dry sense of humour!
Dickie was an Ameriphile, he loved baseball and American football. Dickie’s house had become a “stopping point” for many passing research and tourist boats, as well as the dive boats operating out of Walindi. At one time, Dickie had some visitors up to the house and Dickie was talking about his love of baseball . One fellows ears pricked up and he asked what team Dickie followed in the US. He said “I like the Oakland A’s”. The visitor was Roy Eisenhart, and he says, “You know something Dickie, I happen to own the Oakland A’s. If we make it to the world series, you can come and sit in my box at Candlestick Park in San Francisco”.
In 1989, the A’s make it to the world series. Dickie had not forgotten Roy’s promise. Using his old antiquated phone system, Dickie rings up the offices of Roy Eisenhart and speaks to his secretary …. “Crackle, pop …. Listen can I speak to Roy please?.” The secretary politely responds, “I am sorry sir, Mr Eisenhart is in conference at the moment. But if you leave your name and number I will get Mr Eisenhart to ring you back”.
“Oh no,” says Dickie, “it costs a lot of money to ring me here, just give me a time when I can ring him back. I live on an island in the middle of the Bismark sea”. Straight away, the secretaries tone changes and she asks, “Is that Mr Doyle from Witu Islands? We have been expecting your call. I will put you straight through to Mr Eisenhart”.
And sure enough, it turns out that Dickie was there in the San Francisco stadium at the final of the world series … and that was when the big earthquake hit during the middle of the game!
Dickie also loved Harley motorbikes, and after a win at Las Vegas, he purchased a 1987 Sportster Harley and took it over to Langu. The only place he could ride it was the airstrip. One end of the airstrip at Langu stopped abruptly at the ocean and the other end in the jungle. Dickie could get the bike up to 97 miles per hour when he was drunk and 89 miles when he was sober.
The bike hasn’t been used for quite a while since the strip became overgrown. It now resides in his lounge room in the house at Langu and he would start it up every now and then for old times sake. The bike will be inherited by Harry, Dick’s daughter Nancy’s husband.
Dickie has always known how to make the best of any situation, as you do living in such a remote area. In 1994, Paul Allen pulls into Witu Islands in his boat “MY Charade” and Paul and his guests were drinking and riding their jet skis up and down in front of Dickie’s place. Now Dickie thought this was just a little bit over the top and not polite for visitors to flaunt their wealth while visiting less affluent places. So he gets a couple of young bucks to paddle him out in a canoe to confront the people on board.
He says to one of the people on boat “Where’s the skipper?”. “What do you want?” the guy says.
Dickie responds, “I want you guys to pick up your jet skis and piss off”.
“Oh, but this is Paul Allen’s boat. Paul Allen of Microsoft.”, says the guy on board.
“I don’t give a rat’s arse who’s boat it is, just piss off”, says Dickie.
The message is relayed to Paul Allen, and he comes down to talk to Dickie, all apologetic, “I am terribly sorry about all this, but we wouldn’t mind a guide to show us around the island, would you like to come on board?”. Dickie says, “Not interested!”
Paul Allen tries again, “We have Peter Gabriel on board from Genesis.”
“Never heard of him. You have to go”.
“We have 65 year old scotch on board.”
“Give me 10 minutes and and I will get my bag!”
And so started a friendship between Dickie and Paul Allen.
The world came to Dickie frequently, and everyone was enthralled by his knowledge of the world, local history and ability to tell a good yarn.
Lenni Reifenstahl (Hitler’s film maker) visited on FeBrina one year…. She would have been 94, and Dickie would have been in his 50’s I guess. I still remember Lennie grabbing Dickie’s hand across the table and the look in her eye was “If only you were 20 years younger Dickie, I would have you for breakfast”.
I remember we were heading over to DEMA one year at Annaheim. This was back when DEMA was in February. Dickie came to me and said, “If you are going to Annaheim, I might come with you and go to the Superbowl down in San Diego”. I mentioned that I thought you had to have tickets 10 years in advance to get into the Superbowl. Quick as a flash, Dickie said, “No worries, I will just give Paul Allen a call”. And he did. “Hey Paul, can you get us a couple of tickets to the Superbowl in February?”
“Yeh, sure Dickie, where would you like to sit?”
And that’s how Dickie ended up watching Superbowl with Dick Rothschild (the Australian Rothschilds).
Dickie has proved that you don’t have to live in isolation from the rest of the world, even when you live in a tiny speck of an Island in the middle of the ocean. His visitor’s book at the house lists many famous names, all of whom would call Dickie “friend”. Dickie would stay in touch with everyone by way of a letter and a photo, and there are many people around the world who will miss those welcome hand written notes.
FeBrina’s guests will certainly miss his gregarious personality and tall tales on board FeBrina.
I will miss our “mateship”.
The world is a lesser place with the passing of our mate Dickie.
Fantasea FG7X II
Ikelite Housing for Nikon D500
I-DiveSite Venom 35s
Dickie always chuckled about my hobby of collecting canoe paddles from the various corners of the world that I visted. One year, after the death of his wife, he brought her paddle onboard the FeBrina. He made sure I brought it home with me. It is one of my proudest possessions and hangs proudly in my home.
Now, I have to know that the next trip to PNG will have a large void. No Dickie to look forward to.
I believe he and Tao are sitting up there, somewhere, looking down on us, with a beer in his hand, and cracking jokes.
Here's to you, Dickie......I will see you, someday.
Alan, thanks for letting us know. I think of you often, all that you taught me, all our friends on at the most excellent Walindi/FeBrina, and the good times we had. All of the challenges of PNG have faded out of my memory, and all I remember now is the good times in the coolest place on Earth. Hope to join you out there some time soon on your boat again, but yep, it won't be the same without Dicky. Few knew Dicky better than you, and you've written the perfect memorial to a great man. -Chris Gug