Tag Archives: Sea Swift

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 Days before the Mast

The Dismal Swamp newspaper recently advertised “local’s rates” for a 5 day cruise up to some of the Torres Strait Islands. During the wet season (November to April), the weather can be unpredictable, so that’s when we locals are invited to take advantage of the special rate. 

Don’t get too excited, this was not on some luxury cruise ship, but rather the hard-working cargo ship MV Trinity Bay. Here is a recent photo from the company website, showing happy passengers on the lower deck, waving at a passing helicopter. Well, I assume they’re happy, and not signalling to the pilot their desire to be rescued!

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The Trinity Bay is one of 27 vessels owned by the Sea Swift shipping company. The fleet delivers a variety of general and refrigerated cargoes to remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory. For many people, these ships represent the only way they can obtain needed goods and supplies. (Does that remind anyone of another city that many of  us like?)

The Trinity Bay can carry up to 48 passengers in 15 cabins. There were 26 of us on this trip, which left Cairns on 15 November.

We travelled inside the reef, this  sheltered us from any rough weather that might have been encountered in the Coral Sea. It’s about 1000 km (468 nautical miles) from Cairns to the tip of Cape York.

Our first destination was Horn Island off the tip of Cape York, and just north of Thursday Island, which was the second stop. (REEFVTS represents Reef Vessel Traffic Service.)

Image courtesy of AMSA

Image courtesy of AMSA

Here’s what we saw from the deck, as we waited for the ship to be loaded.

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OK, that sets the scene. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about the northbound trip, and the history of Horn Island.

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