Event: Sandfly Passage, Nggela, Incident, 1880


In October 1880, HMS Sandfly had anchored at Guadalcanal when its commander Lieutenant Bower came across to Nggela in a small boat and camped at Mandoliana. Vuria, son of Kalekona, a bigman from Gaeta, observed them, as did Holabosa (Holambooa). They were joined by Tavu, Utumate and Puko, and together they organised an attack. The naval party was unprepared and three sailors were beheaded with long-handled axes. One of party, named Savage, escaped and swam sixteen kilometres to Honggo where Pitia, a returned labourer, saved him and took him to Tambukoro for protection. Bower, who had been sketching at the time of the attack, ran into the forest and hid in a hollow tree, but was found and killed.

The Sandfly searched for the missing party and found Savage, and then returned to Sydney to report the incident. The navy sent HMS Emerald to punish the offenders, and many houses were burned. When the news reached England, public opinion demanded further action and HMS Cormorant and two smaller ships were despatched under Captain Bryce. The Australia Station virtually declared war on Nggela and blockaded the area. Bishop John Selwyn (q.v.), who was on Nggela at the time, aided by Charles Sapibuana (q.v.), persuaded Kalekona to give up the four murderers and his own son, with the promise that there would be no further reprisals. Holabosa was shot at Mandoliana in the presence of a large group of local people, Tavu and Vuria were shot on another island, and Utumate was executed on Nggela. Vuria, who had given evidence against the others, was returned to his father, and Puko escaped and hid at Mboli for almost twenty years. (Fox 1958, 33-34)

Related Places

Published resources


  • Fox, Charles E., Lord of the Southern Isles: Being the Story of the Anglican Mission in Melanesia, 1849-1949, Mowbray, London, 1958. Details