On the bounding main: 3 [In which things hot up]

On Sunday morning, we sailed through Albany passage, between the tip of the mainland and Albany Island.


The tip of Queensland is seen to the left. The water was such a magnificent colour


We got quite close to the mainland at times.

A tug boat came alongside to nudge the boat into dock at Horn Island, where most of the cargo would be unloaded.


Like many on the trip, I had heard of Thursday Island, which would be our next destination, and had always considered it to be much larger than Horn island. That isn’t the fact, Horn island has an area of 53 square kilometers, compared to a minute 3.5 square kilometers for Thursday Island. The next surprise was the population comparison: Horn island has about 900 inhabitants, while around 3,500 people crowd onto Thursday Island.

During WWII, Horn Island was the site of a large Australian and American army and air force base, with about 5000 troops located there by the end of 1942.

It’s not well known that parts of Australia were attacked by Japanese bombers, with Darwin being the first to suffer, with the first of 64 attacks on 19 February, and the last in November 1943.

What is even less known is that Horn island was the second Australian site to receive the attention of the Japanese, when on  March 14, 1942, Japanese fighter planes targeted Horn Island as part of their campaign to cripple military positions in northern Australia. The Japanese raids on Horn Island in World War II barely rate a mention in Australia’s history books.

It is possible to see the wreckage of  many planes, the remains of slit trenches that were dug, gun emplacements, ammunition pits and dispersal bays to hide aircraft from the enemy.


There are many such wrecks to be found

There are many such wrecks to be found

Zig-zag slit trench

Zig-zag slit trench

Gun emplacement and ammunition bays

Gun emplacement and ammunition bays

The horseshoe shaped markings denote the bays hidden within the trees, designed to conceal the planes from the enemy. The drawindg alos shows the runways, which are still in use today. (After a lot of repair, I'd say.)

The horseshoe-shaped markings denote the bays hidden within the trees, designed to conceal the planes from the enemy. The drawings also shows the runways, which are still in use today. (After a lot of repair, I’d say.)

I noticed this advertisement just before we left for the tour of Horn Island.

Rental is mighty expensive on Horn Island

Rental is mighty expensive on the islands!

We were a hot, sweaty lot when we got back to the ship. The showers worked overtime that evening. And, the bar did a roaring trade in icy cold beer.



Filed under Australia

16 responses to “On the bounding main: 3 [In which things hot up]

  1. Caroline

    How very very interesting! I had no idea any part of Australia had ever been bombed.

    Pah, call $800pm (Aus!) expensive?!? You’re evidently not in Venice now 🙂


    • I think many Australians are surprised to hear about the involvement of northern Australia in the war. There were even miniature submarines in the harbour down in Sydney!

      Hey, that $800/week, in a very isolated part of the world. But, you’re right, many tourists in Venice pay a lot more than that for their accommodation.


  2. Really enjoying these posts. We cruised through the Torres Strait in a big liner earlier this year, and apart from bringing back pleasant memories, your posts have filled in a lot of detail and given a close up view. The pilot on board gave an excellent commentary on the islands and on the Barrier Reef and I think he said that the main pilot base was on Horn Island.


  3. There are many things about the war that aren’t known by many. Thanks for this little nugget of history.


  4. Arthur C.

    I had forgotten about the Japanese military activity in the islands. Interesting photos of the remnants…. I too would vote for cold beer after the expedition.


  5. JoanneH

    Your making my day……………Wasn’t Darwin bombed fairly hard? I seem to recall reading that somewhere along the line


  6. Wow, interesting stuff. What a unique trip.


    • I’m really glad I did it, Darlene, and it has increased my awareness of many things including the isolation of the people who live up there, and their dependence on the the SeaSwift cargo ships and barges for their daily needs.


      • Sort of like some other islands I’m currently near. In a much smaller way of course. But everything by boat.


        • That’s just what I thought; nothing is easy, and everything is expensive. There was quite a lot of building material coming in on the ship, imagine the cost of building a house on the islands. And, most of the tradesmen would have to come in from the mainland.


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