Biographical entry: Olsen, Anton (Tony) Daniel (1885 - 1952)

7 October 1952


Born in 1885, in Tunsberg, Norway, 'Tony' Olsen left home at fifteen and signed on a Norwegian sailing ship. He deserted at Cape Town and enlisted in the British Army to fight in the Boer War, but was returned to his ship. He then travelled around North America, South America and north China, witnessing some of the naval engagements in the Russo-Japanese War. In Boston, he joined the Susquehanna, then the largest wooden ship in the world, sailing to New Caledonia in 1904 to take on nickel ore. The ship was caught in a cyclone near the Solomon Islands and the lifeboat in which Olsen travelled reached Makira, where Captain Oscar Svensen (q.v.) picked them up. Three of the crew remained in the Solomons: Tony Olsen, Harry Caspar and 'Long Jack'. Tony Olsen was employed on Levers Brothers trading ships Lindsay and Jessie during the 1900s. He married in 1909 and, accompanied by his young wife Margaret, for a number of years recruited labour from Malaita. He also began Tanemba [Tambea?] plantation on Guadalcanal. During the 1920s, he returned to labour recruiting around Malaita and Makira and in 1927 was involved in the punitive expedition against the Kwaio people after District Officer William Bell and most of his party were killed.

Olsen had been interested in gold-prospecting since the 1900s and in the 1930s, in debt to Burns Philp & Co. (q.v.), he accompanied Jack Clift to prospect on Guadalcanal, discovering gold in the Betilonga River, in the headwaters of the Tenaru River. As well as trading on his vessel AV Piedu, in 1939 Olsen started the Balasuna Syndicate and continued to work the alluvial claim until forced out by the Second World War (q.v.). He spent the war working in the docks in Sydney and returned in 1946 and worked on Ruanu, Onavatuva and Tenemba plantations. A heavy drinker, he died on 7 October 1952 from a gunshot to his head. (PIM Feb. 1953; Golden 1993, 151-152)

Published resources


  • Golden, Graeme A., The Early European Settlers of the Solomon Islands, Graeme A. Golden, Melbourne, 1993. Details