The jungles of Papua New Guinea can be a dark and foreboding place for the unwary. During the Kokoda campaign darkness came swiftly as the overhead canopy didn’t allow any form of twilight to penetrate below. Fires were forbidden because the glow of embers and the smell of dank smoke could betray a position to the enemy.
Before the transition to darkness each day soldiers would lie still during ‘stand-to’ in shallow pits lest the enemy used the cover to launch a surprise attack. The silence in such an environment is deafening – until battalions of 6 o’clock crickets pierce the air with shrill buzzing calls lasting for up to half-an-hour. For the first-timer in the jungle it is an unnerving sound but soon becomes part of the normal cycle of activity as they acquaint themselves with the sounds of nature.
Speak to any veteran of the Templeton’s Crossing campaign and they will quickly ask if the 6 o’clock crickets are still around. They are – but their status is under challenge from a new creature, the ‘chanting bogan’.
Chanting bogans are keen to tick the Kokoda trek off their bucket list and get across as quick and as economically as possible. Some of the Kokoda eco-operators seem to target the bucket-lister market because they are low maintenance. They don’t want anything more than a superficial introduction to the wartime history – in fact they don’t want anything that will detract them from their egotistical mission of ‘doing Kokoda’.
Just as the peace of a ‘stand-to’ was often shattered by the 6 o’clock crickets during the Kokoda campaign the solemnity of a battlefield presentation or service is now disrupted by chanting bogans shouting ‘Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie – Oi, Oi, Oi’ to keep cadence as they stomp on by. Those on a historical pilgrimage across the trail have cause to cringe.
Six O’clock crickets have endured for centuries and will continue their shrill orchestra for centuries to come. It is hoped that the new bogan-chant, ‘Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie – Oi, Oi, Oi’ will not be as long lived.