Philip Temple


The Last True Explorer: Into Darkest New Guinea

Fifty years ago, a young New Zealand mountaineer headed into the unknown interior of West New Guinea (now Irian Jaya or West Papua) on one of the last great journeys of exploration. Travelling at first with the legendary Austrian mountaineer, Heinrich Harrer (author of Seven Years in Tibet), Philip Temple made the first ascent of the Carstensz Pyramide, which has come to be regarded as the technically most difficult of the ‘Seven Summits of the Seven Continents’. Later he was the last to witness the tool-making rituals of a stone-age culture before it was overtaken by the modern world. Facing daunting physical odds, he went on to explore a swathe of unmapped central New Guinea highlands, and he risked his life to recover the human remains from a US aircraft that had crashed on a sheer mountain face.

Copiously illustrated, Philip Temple’s narrative is one of the great stories from the classical age of exploration. Dramatic, humorous and colourful, it is also a valuable anthropological record, for he tells of living among the Dani people before their primitive way of life was overtaken by the outside world.

The explorations were original. He discovers a plane shot down during World War II and he witnesses ‘probably the last rites of genuinely stone-age culture’. All these years later it makes a fascinating story ... distance provides a clearer view of the value of the adventure, now that so much of what he witnessed and experienced is changed or gone. NZ Herald.

The Last True Explorer is a reminder of a not too distant time when true frontiers still remained, and exploring them was a matter of guts and good planning. Absorbing, dramatic, funny and poignant, it is a good read and a great adventure story. Nelson Mail.

You get the sense that, in his fleeting but intense interactions with the people of the mountains, the younger Temple is growing up fast - judging less and understanding more. The result is a wonderful book. Dominion Post.

Trade Paperback: 250 pages (heavily illustrated). Publisher: Godwit 2002.

Rights Availability: World Rights. Enquiries to Nerrilee Weir,

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