australia

Shipwrecks have always intrigued me. Of course, you always hope that everyone got out alive, but the unfortunate truth is that usually that is not the case. Most shipwrecks sink to the bottom of the ocean, and often it takes years to even fins them. That was not the case with the SS Ayrfield, as well as a couple of other ships that “sank” in plain sight.

The SS Ayrfield was built in 1911, and it really didn’t sink. The plan was for it to be decommissioned and scrapped. The SS Ayrfield’s fate was sealed. She had served faithfully for 60 years, having been built in Scotland and sailed to Australia. She was used as a transport supply boat to US troops in the Pacific in World War II, and then retired. She was then used to run coal from Newcastle to Sydney for the rest of her working life. She was finally sent to Homebush Bay, which is where the old marine wrecking yards were. Ships didn’t come back from Homebush Bay. That feels a little sad to me. The plan was to scrap the ship, but that wasn’t exactly what happened.

As the ships sat rusting, waiting for the final scrapping, somehow it just didn’t happen. As they sat there, their insides slowly became completely colonized by mangrove trees. Branches and bark replaced the railings and ropes. The trees have taken root and as they have grown, they have created a giant leafy dome over the slowly disappearing hull. The ships have become known as the “Floating Forest” for obvious reasons, and just like a forest, their beauty is amazing.

Homebush Bay is actually home to the remains of the SS Ayrfield, as well as her neighbors, SS Mortlake Bank, steam tugboat SS Heroic, and boom defense vessel HMAS Karangi, all of which were broken up in the early 1970s. It is thought that there may be as many as seven ships in the bay. They now lie near the south-western shore of the bay, and they are completely visible from land and the hundreds of homes just a short distance away. Some people consider the ship graveyard, a little creepy, but since these weren’t sinkings with a loss of life, I think they are very cool.

Unfortunately, during the 20th century, Homebush Bay was a heavy industry center, home to many industrial facilities. When industrial operations scaled down, the bay became a dumping ground for a large range of unwanted material…from waste to broken up ships, even toxic industrial waste. Union Carbide had manufactured chemicals, including Agent Orange, on the site and dioxins produced as a byproduct were buried in landfill or left in drums. The area has been in the process of being reclaimed, but fishing is prohibited, and I would not want to go in the water. It just doesn’t seem safe…even if it is beautiful.

When most of us think of going to the lake, we envision the cool blue water of a lake, most likely somewhere near our city of residence, but if we were to live in Australia, while we might picture a lake near our home, we might not necessarily picture cool blue water. That would be because Australia has more than ten pink lakes. Yes, I said pink. One well known pink lake, is located in Western Australia’s Goldfields-Esperance region.

Pink lakes are salt lakes, and their color can vary due to the salt content in them at any given time. Pink Lake has lost much of its pink color due to a reduced amount of salt in it right now. The lake’s waters were visibly pink in years past, but it has not been rosy since 2017. The concentration of salt in the lake is essential to the pink color and, if the salt conditions alter, Pink Lake could turn pink again. The lake is located approximately 2 miles south of Esperance, in Western Australia.

Pink lakes are rare, and there aren’t that many of them in the world, and Australia seems to have the lion’s share of them. There are some in California and the Great Salt Lake has pink hues as well. A pink lake is a lake that has a red or pink color. This is often caused by the presence of algae that produces carotenoids, such as Dunaliella salina. Dunaliella salina is a type of halophile green micro-algae especially found in sea salt fields. Dunaliella salina is known for its antioxidant activity because of its ability to create large amount of carotenoids. It is actually used in cosmetics and dietary supplements. Few organisms can survive like Dunaliella salina thrives in such highly saline conditions as salt evaporation ponds.

There are also rose rivers and rose beaches, in which the same compounds exist. It’s very complicated the dynamics of why a river turns rose. The pond color may be affected by external modifications and climate circumstances. The Pink Lake of Esperance has lost its blue color owing to modifications in the salinity resulting from human activities. Whatever the cause of these pink lakes, rivers, and beaches, they are a very unique phenomena, and one that I wouldn’t mind visiting.

Volcanoes don’t just suddenly start erupting without warning. There is always some kind of warning. Things like earthquake swarms, a bulging mountain side, and little smoke and ash showings from the crater, always come first. These may not always all happen, but they do happen. The biggest problem in 1883 is that scientists didn’t really know that then. When Krakatoa, in the Sunda Strait of Indonesia, began to wake up on May 20, 1883, it had been dormant for around 200 years. The first sign was an ash cloud that was reported by the captain of a German warship. It rose nearly 7 miles above the island. Strangely, no one in Anjer, 25 miles from the island, or Merak, 35 miles away, reported anything unusual that day, but the inhabitants of Batvia, 80 miles away, “were startled by a dull booming noise, followed by a violent rattling of doors and windows. Whether this proceeded from the air or from below was a matter of doubt, for unlike most earthquake shocks the quivering was only vertical.” The event started rumblings and blasts from the volcano’s vents that continued for the next three months. But this was just the beginning.

Krakatoa began to erupt in earnest on the afternoon of August 26, 1883, sending ash clouds at 22 miles above the island. Along with the eruption came a tsunami that rolled up both sides of the strait. The eruption continued into the night with increasing violence, and at midnight by volcanic lightning strikes to distances of ten to twelve miles. The event was similar to a horror movie, complete with electrical phenomena to a terrifying scale. The glow that surrounded the gigantic column of smoke and ashes was seen in Batava, eighty miles away. Some of the debris fell as fine ashes in Cheribon, five hundred miles east of the volcano.

While the August 26th event was terrifying, the most terrifying part of the disaster happened the next day. When Krakatoa erupted on August 27, the sound it made was accompanied by pressure waves that ruptured the eardrums of people 40 miles away, traveled around the world four times, and was clearly heard 3,000 miles away. That distance is comparable to the distance between New York and und from San Francisco. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic events in recorded history. Explosions were so violent that they were heard 1,930 miles away in Perth, Western Australia, and 3,000 miles away in Rodrigues near Mauritius. At least 36,417 deaths were attributed to the eruption and the tsunamis it created. The sound was claimed to be heard in 50 different locations around the world and the sound wave is recorded to have travelled the globe seven times over. Following the eruption, there were increased seismic activity that continued until February 1884, although there is speculation as to whether on not that was because of Krakatoa. Whether it was or not, really makes no difference, because the effects that can be confirmes as part of the aftermath of Krakatoa are big enough on their own. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was a major event, and possibly the biggest on in recorded history.

Pan American World Airways Flight 845/26, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Clipper United States, N1032V departed from Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SeaTac) on March 26, 1955 at 8:15am…a Saturday morning, destined for Sydney, Australia, with stops at Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii. Following its stop in Portland (PDX), the plane took off at 10:21am, with a crew of 8 and 15 passengers on board. It looked to be an easy flight to Hawaii, with plenty of onboard staff to make the trip enjoyable for the passengers. The plane was piloted by Captain Herman Joslyn, with First Officer Angus Gustavus Hendrick Jr; Second Officer Michael Kerwick; Flight Engineer Donald Read Fowler; and Assistant Flight Engineer Stuart Bachman. In the passenger cabin were Purser Natalie Parker, Stewardess Elizabeth Thompson, and Steward James Peppin.

The flight was proceeding as normal, until it hit 10,000 feet, at which point a severe vibration lasting 5 to 8 seconds began. The Number 3 engine, which is on the right side, on the inside, suddenly ripped away from the starboard wing. The damage to the wing caused severe shaking. At the same time, the nose pitched down and the airspeed increased rapidly. Captain Joslyn immediately reduced engine power slow the plane down some, but they were losing altitude rapidly, quickly dropping by 5,000 feet. The damage cause by the engine ripping away included damage to the engines’ electrical system, and the flight engineer was not able to increase power on the remaining three engines. Without the added power on the remaining engines, the Stratocruiser was too heavy at this early stage in the flight to maintain its altitude. She still had too much fuel onboard to compensate. The Stratocruiser was doomed, and there was nowhere to land.

The flight crew ditched the Stratocruiser into the north Pacific Ocean at 11:12am, approximately 35 miles west of the Oregon coastline. The conditions were ideal for ditching, with smooth seas and little wind, but it was a hard impact. As the plane hit the water, seats were torn loose, and several occupants were injured. Nevertheless, no one was killed and evacuation began immediately with the inflation of all three life rafts. The water temperature was 47° F, so getting out of the water was essential. Soon after the crash, a North American Aviation F-86F Sabre flown by Captain W L Parks, 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group, Oregon Air National Guard, located the scene of the ditching. When he saw the smoke flares that had been released, he was able to see the two life rafts tied together. A Lockheed Constellation also rushed to the scene from the south. After confirming that Air Force rescue aircraft were on the way, Captain Parks returned to Portland, because he was low on fuel.

Among the injured was the airliner’s purser, Natalie Parker, who had been assisting passengers with their life vests and seat belts when the airliner hit the water. Because she was standing in the aisle, she was thrown forward, knocking down five rows of seats as she hit them. She was badly bruised and suffering from shock. Nevertheless, Parker assisted the passengers in abandoning the sinking Stratocruiser. When everyone was off, she enter the water and saw that some of the injured had begun to drift away. In an amazing act of bravery and duty, and suffering from shock, Parker swam out and towed the only seriously injured passenger to the nearest raft, some 200 feet away. The Stratocruiser floated for an amazing 20 minutes before sinking. While all survived the impact, four of the 23 persons on board, passengers John Peterson, David Darrow, First Officer Hendrick, and Flight Engineer Fowler, died of injuries and exposure. The survivors were rescued after two hours by the crew of USS Bayfield (APA-33), a United States Navy attack transport.

During the Civil Aeronautics Board hearings into the accident, Vice Chairman Joseph P. Adams commended Natalie Parker, the flight’s purser, “. . . all of us feel inspired that a fellow citizen, or just a fellow human being, can rise to such an occasion in the manner in which you did. It is most commendable, Miss Parker.” The exact cause of the loss of the Stratocruiser was not fully determined, because the engine and propeller were not recovered. Th investigation assumed that the most likely cause was a fracture of a propeller blade resulting in a severely unbalanced condition, causing the violent separation of the engine from the wing. This was the fifth time that a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser had lost an engine following the failure of a hollow-steel Hamilton Standard 2J17 propeller blade. Further complicating the matter, was the flight engineer’s attempt to increase the propeller rpm on the three engines simultaneously. That caused an electrical overload occurred which opened the master circuit breaker. This prevented any engine power increase, effectively bringing down the Stratocruiser.

These days there aren’t many people who haven’t heard of the Santa Ana winds, the California wildfires, or this year, the burning of Australia. We hear all about how global warming is the cause of the tragic fires and loss of both vegetation and life, human and animal. I agree with the analogy that the fires in Australia are horrific, but the cause…well, that has been determined to be, not global warming, draught, or lightning, but rather arson…ARSON!! Disgusting just isn’t a big enough word for what that is.

I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to burn something…anything. You can call it a sickness, and maybe it is, but that cannot be an excuse. If we allow such an excuse, more and more people will use it, take out their frustrations on things around them, and then expect to be excused because they are “sick.” At this point, firefighters are battling wildfires across Australia. Meanwhile, the police in New South Wales have arrested dozens of people for offenses related to fires, including 24 for deliberately lighting fires and three for looting fire-ravaged communities. There is also a story saying that 183 to 200 people are suspected of “fire-related offenses since November 8th, including for ‘allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land,’ but no verification as to the exact charges being lodged.

It is sad that the most common motive for wildfire arson is crime concealment. Fires are set for the purpose of covering up a murder or burglary or to eliminate evidence left at a crime scene. Fires have also been known to be set to further social, political, or religious causes. The fire set to cover up a crime, while horrific, is at least explainable, but fires set for political, social, or religious reasons is completely disgusting. There is just no excuse for the loss of homes businesses, and lives, human and animal, that could excuse such destruction. One fire, set to cover up a crime is reasonable, though disgusting, but these are all over Australia. And while one person might be a “sick” arsonist, to find 24 to 200 “sick” arsonists, is not even possible. The other thought that makes me so mad I could scream, is that even if this is socially, politically, or religiously motivated, what is the point? What are they trying to prove? All I can say is, that I hope they find the people who did this and that they give them the maximum sentence possible. I don’t know Australian law, so I don’t know if they have the death penalty or not, but I think these people should get it, if they do. And if not, solitary confinement for the rest of their lives might…just might, be punishment enough, but I really doubt it.

These days, it seems we are all aware of what an emu is, probably due to the Liberty Mutual commercials that are out there, but in 1932 Australia, these were a nuisance bird. They were everywhere and they were not popular. In fact, they were running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia, and the public was very concerned. They had made several attempts to curb the growth of the emu population, including the Australian soldiers being armed with Lewis guns…leading the media to adopt the name “Emu War” when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.

After World War I ended, the Australian government gave land to large numbers of ex-soldiers from Australia and the UK. The purpose of the gift was to take up farming within Western Australia, often in areas that had been counterproductive. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, these farmers were encouraged to increase their wheat crops. The government promised assistance in the form of subsidies, but later failed to deliver. In spite of the recommendations and the promised subsidies, wheat prices continued to fall, and by October 1932 matters were becoming critical, with the farmers preparing to harvest the season’s crops and threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

To make matters, the area was hit with the arrival of as many as 20,000 emus. This is apparently an annual event as the emus regularly migrate after their breeding season, heading to the coast from the inland regions. With the cleared land and additional water supplies being made available for livestock by the Western Australian farmers, the emus decided that the farmlands were a good, and closer habitat, and they began to foray into farm territory, especially in the marginal farming land around Chandler and Walgoolan. The emus began to eat and spoil the crops. In addition, they left large gaps in fences where rabbits could enter and cause further destruction.

When the farmers relayed their concerns about the birds ravaging their crops, and a group of the ex-soldiers were sent to meet with the Minister of Defense, Sir George Pearce. Something had to be done. Having served in World War I, the soldiers-turned-settlers were well aware of the effectiveness of machine guns, and they requested their deployment to fight this new enemy. The minister readily agreed, although with conditions attached: the guns were to be used by military personnel, troop transport was to be financed by the Western Australian government, and the farmers would provide food, accommodation, and payment for the ammunition. The farmers agreed and Pearce also supported the deployment on the grounds that the birds would make good target practice, while some in the government viewed the operation as a way of being seen to be helping the Western Australian farmers, as a way of staving off the secession movement that was brewing.

Sir George Pearce, who was later referred to in Parliament, as the “Minister of the Emu War” by Senator James Dunn, ordered the army to selectively thin the nuisance emu population…by large numbers. The “war” was scheduled to begin in October 1932, under the command of Major G P W Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery. Meredith was supposed to use troops armed with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition, but the operation was delayed by a period of rainfall that caused the emus to scatter over a wider area. The rain finally stopped by November 2, 1932, and the troops were quickly deployed with orders to assist the farmers and, according to a newspaper account, to collect 100 emu skins so that their feathers could be used to make hats for light horsemen. On November 2nd, the men travelled to Campion, where some 50 emus were sighted. Unfortunately, when they got there, the birds were out of range of the guns. The local settlers attempted to herd the emus into an ambush, but the birds split into small groups and ran so that they were difficult to target. Nevertheless, while the first attack from the machine guns was ineffective due to the distance from the targets, a second round of gunfire was able to kill “a number” of birds. Later the same day, a small flock was encountered, and “perhaps a dozen” birds were killed.

The next significant event was on November 4th, when Meredith established an ambush near a local dam. More than 1,000 emus were spotted heading towards their position. This time the gunners waited until the birds were in close proximity before opening fire. The gun jammed after only twelve birds were killed and the rest scattered before any more could be shot. No more birds were sighted that day, so the decision was made to move further south, where the birds were “reported to be fairly tame.” The group had only limited success in spite of Meredith’s efforts. As the pursuit continued, it became apparent that “each pack seemed to have its own leader now…a big black-plumed bird which stands fully six feet high and keeps watch while his mates carry out their work of destruction and warns them of our approach.” In desperation, Meredith even went so far as to mount one of the guns on a truck. He was still ineffective, as the truck was unable to gain on the birds, and the ride was so rough that the gunner was unable to fire any shots, even if they had been able to get close. By November 8th, six days after the first attack, 2,500 rounds of ammunition had been fired. The number of birds killed is uncertain. One account estimates that it was 50 birds, but other accounts range from 200 to 500, the latter figure being provided by the settlers. Meredith’s official reported that there were no casualties among the men.

Summarizing the operation, ornithologist Dominic Serventy commented, “The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month. On 8 November, members in the Australian House of Representatives discussed the operation. Following the negative coverage of the events in the local media, that included claims that “only a few” emus had died, Pearce withdrew the military personnel and the guns on 8 November.”

After the “Emu War” was over, Meredith compared the emus to Zulus and commented on the striking maneuverability of the emus, even while badly wounded. After the withdrawal of the military, the emu attacks on crops continued. Farmers again asked for support, citing the hot weather and drought that brought emus invading farms in the thousands. James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia lent his strong support to renewal of the military assistance. At the same time, a report from the Base Commander was issued that indicated 300 emus had been killed in the initial operation.

The killing continued periodically, with similar results. The Emu was just too fast, too aware, or too “lucky,” to be caught or killed. By December 1932, word of the Emu War had spread, reaching the United Kingdom. Conservationists protested the cull as “extermination of the rare emu”. Dominic Serventy and Hubert Whittell, the eminent Australian ornithologists, described the “war” as “an attempt at the mass destruction of the birds”. Throughout 1930 and onward, the farmers tried exclusion barrier fencing as a means of keeping emus out of agricultural areas (in addition to other vermin, such as dingoes and rabbits). In November 1950, Hugh Leslie raised the issues of emus in federal parliament and urged Army Minister Josiah Francis to release a quantity of .303 ammunition from the army for the use of farmers. The minister approved the release of 500,000 rounds of ammunition. The emu continues to thrive today.

As nations grow in size, population, or power, many no longer want to be under the rule of another nation, even one that helped get them to where they are, and even one that has owned their land for years. It is something we, as Americans can’t really fathom, considering that we fought the Revolutionary War to leave British rule.

The decision was very different for Australia on November 6, 1999. Treasurer Wayne Swan and senior opposition figure Malcolm Turnbull, who once was Australia’s Republican Movement president, came together in the capital Canberra on the prior Monday to launch a book of essays called ‘Project Republic: Plans and Arguments for a New Australia’. Mr Turnbull, who sits on the front bench for the conservative opposition, described this latest push as “simply, purely patriotic” and called for an ‘interactive plebiscite’ to use cyberspace to better inform Australians of the issues surrounding constitutional change.

As it was, many feared the change, and the work and uncertainty that could accompany it. Still others, like being a part of the monarchy. “Many argue that the sexy celebrity status of William and Kate will sweep all before it and their star quality will revive the monarchy in Australia. I don’t think so,” Turnbull writes. “They will certainly be far more interesting and telegenic than Charles and Camilla – but I am not convinced that will translate into enhanced support for William (or indeed Charles) remaining our head of state.” His opinions aside, the people of Australia voted and decided that they just weren’t ready, and quite possibly they never would be ready to walk away from the British Monarchy. That actually happened in America too, because while the overwhelming number of citizens wanted to go for independence, there were those who did not.

In Australia, it didn’t appear that the situation would have come to war, as it had in America, but one never really knows what can trigger a war of this type. I guess that in the case of Australia, if they are tired of the Queens rule, they have chosen to wait and see what the future ruling parties might bring. If they don’t like the outcome, they could always choose to break away at a later date.

The Swamp Ghost began its very short career on December 6, 1941, one day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Swamp Ghost started out as B-17 Flying Fortress, 41-2446 (which is not a tail number, and indicated that the plane was a new purchase) and under that number it was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Eleven days later, the bomber departed California for Hickam Field in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The plane and her crew were based at Wheeler Field in Wahiawa for a very short time, and flew patrol missions for the Navy until February 1942, when the Japanese Troops invaded Rabaul on New Britain and established a base. Of course, this was a threat to the rest of New Guinea and Australia. In response to the invasion, 41-2446 was ordered to Garbutt Field, Townsville, in Queensland, Australia. Swamp Ghost’s crew included Pilot Captain Frederick C. “Fred” Eaton, Co-Pilot Captain Henry M. “Hotfoot” Harlow, Navigator 1st Lieutenant George B. Munroe Jr, Bombardier Sergeant J.J. Trelia, Flight Engineer Technical Sergeant Clarence A. LeMieux, Radio Operator/Gunner Sergeant Howard A. Sorensen, Waist Gunner Sergeant William E. Schwartz, Waist Gunner Technical Sergeant Russell Crawford, and Tail Gunner Staff Sergeant John V. Hall. The only crew change would be Sergeant Richard Oliver, who replaced Bombardier Trelia after he became ill.

Because of the B-17’s long flying range, the Japanese control of Wake Island and Guam, and the Vichy government’s armistice with the Nazi government, 41-2446 island hopped nearly 5,700 detour miles to get to Townsville. They didn’t want to take a chance on running into enemy fighters, if they could help it. On February 22, 1942, nine B-17Es of the 19th Bombing Group were scheduled to take off for Rabaul. Unfortunately, this mission seemed doomed from the start, as nothing would go quite as planned. Out of the nine aircraft, four had to completely abort the mission due to mechanical problems. To further complicate matters, bad weather conditions made it difficult to see up in the air for those who were able to takeoff. Finally, poor visibility separated the five remaining in flight.

I would like to say that was all the problems they ran into, but there’s more. When 41-2446 was to drop its payload, the bomb bay malfunctioned. The crew had to go around for a second pass, where they managed a clear drop over their target. The Japanese were working hard to make this mission fail too. Japanese fire was intense and a flak round managed to punch a hole through the starboard wing of 41-2556. Fortunately for the crew, the wing didn’t detonate. While the crew hoped to make it to Fort Moresby, they were low on fuel. The dog-fight, had seen to that. They would have to land in New Guinea.

Captain Fred Eaton thought he was setting down the bomber in a wheat field, however, they actually landed wheels-up in the middle of Agaiambo swamp. The only good news in this horrific failure of a mission was that the crew was unscathed, except for one with minor cuts and scrapes. Now, they still had to get out of the swamp. It took two days of hacking their way through the razor-sharp kunai grass for the men to reach dry land. They ran into some locals who were chopping wood. The locals took them, horribly bitten by mosquitos and infected with malaria, to their village. After a night of rest, they traveled downriver in canoes, where they were handed over to an Australian magistrate, and eventually arrived at Port Moresby on April 1…thirty six days after their crash. After a week in the hospital, the men returned to combat, but their plane did not. After 41-2446’s crash, Captain Fred Eaton flew 60 more missions. Whenever these missions would take him over the crash site, he would circle it and tell his new crewmembers the story of what happened. I suppose it was therapeutic to re-live the amazing escape from the Agaiambo swamp. This was where the plane’s legend was born. After Eaton returned home, 41-2446 slipped from the public eye for nearly three decades.

Then, in 1972, some Australian soldiers happened upon the crash. After spotting the wreckage from a helicopter, they landed on the aircraft’s wing and found the plane semi-submerged, and strangely intact. The machine guns were in place, and even the coffee thermoses were intact. They nicknamed the plane, Swamp Ghost, and the name stuck. Thanks to warbird collector Charles Darby who included dozens of photographs in his book, Pacific Aircraft Wrecks, word spread in 1979 . Once the fad of recovering World War II aircraft really took off. Trekkers hiked into the site and began stripping the aircraft for keepsakes and sellable items. Despite the stripping, the aircraft structure itself remained remarkably intact, until it was removed from the swamp.

Alfred Hagen, a pilot and commercial builder from Pennsylvania, set his sights on Swamp Ghost and wanted to take it free it from the disintegration of the swamp. In November 2005, he obtained an export permit for the B-17 for $100,000. For four weeks they labored over the aircraft, dismantling it in order to ship it out of the country. The controversy over its removal halted the cargo before it could be shipped to the United States. Eventually, it was cleared for import and by February 2010 it arrived at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor for display.

In the midst of World War II, February 1942, to be more exact, the Japanese fleet gave the combined Dutch-American-Australian-British fleet a beating that almost wiped them out completely, during the Battle of the Java Sea. The defeat brought about the Japanese occupation of the entire Netherlands East Indies. After the battle ended, only four Dutch warships were left in the Dutch East Indies. They knew there was no way they would be able to take down the Japanese fleet by themselves, so they decided to try to escape to Australia. The failed attempt left three of the four ships sunk, and one in hiding. The problem they had, was that the seas were full of warships and the skies were swarming with Japanese planes. It was going to be virtually impossible to sail the 1,000 miles of ocean to safety. The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, which was the last ship, had a big problem, for which they found a crazy solution.

The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen was a slow-moving minesweeper vessel that could get up to about 15 knots. It also had very few guns…a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20mm cannons…making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above. The secret weapon of the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, however, was it’s captain, who came up with a crazy scheme to disguise the ship as a small island. The Abraham Crijnssen was a relatively small ship, but it was still a big object, measuring approximately 180 feet long and 25 feet wide. The crew used foliage from island vegetation and gray paint to make the ship’s hull look like rock faces. They figured that it was better to be a camouflaged ship in deep trouble, than a completely exposed ship. Still, logic said that the Japanese would probably notice a mysterious moving island, and they might wonder what would happen if they shot at it. So,the plan came about that during the day, they would not move…thereby actually becoming an island.

Moving only at night, the ship was able to blend in with the thousands of other tiny islands around Indonesia, and miraculously the Japanese didn’t notice the moving island. The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces, and fought with the Allies until the end of the war. During those years of service under the Australian Navy flag, Abraham Crijnssen detected a submarine, while escorting a convoy to Sydney through the Bass Strait, on 26th of January 1943. Along with the Australian HMAS Bundaberg, they depth charged the submarine. No wreckage of the submarine was found, nor was the kill confirmed, but the ex-minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen suffered some damage due to hastily released depth charges. Several fittings and pipes were damaged, and all of her centerline had to be replaced during a week-long-dry docking. After this incident, the ship was returned to Royal Netherlands Navy service on May 5, 1943, spending the rest of the war in Australian waters. Abraham Crijnssen ended its WWII career just like the ship started it, as a minesweeper that was responsible for clearing mines in Kupang Harbor before the arrival of an RAN force to accept the Japanese surrender of Timor.

The reasons that Britain decided to start a Penal Colony at Botany Bay, Australia are not fully agreed upon. Some say that that there were deeper motives than just a place to house their criminals. The soil at Botany Bay was perfect for growing flax. I suppose that the prisoners would need to be doing some kind of work as penance for their crimes. Nevertheless, Britain would be making a profit from the flax that was produced thee, and the bay was perfect for a port, which would be necessary to assist with trade. All in all, Botany Bay seemed like the best option for a penal colony for Britain, so the plans were put in place, and before long the penal colony became a reality.

When Governor Phillip arrived in 1788, he asked for carpenters, masons, bricklayers to help set up the colony, along with many tools of the trades. In January of 1788, the first 736 convicts banished from England to Australia arrived in Botany Bay. Over the next 60 years, approximately 50,000 criminals were transported from Great Britain to the Botany Bay in one of the strangest episodes in criminal-justice history. I think many of us have thought that some criminals should be place on a deserted island, but Britain basically did just that…with every criminal, it seems.

The accepted wisdom of the upper and ruling classes in 18th century England was that criminals were inherently defective. They did not believe criminals could be rehabilitated and that they simply required separation from the genetically pure, law-abiding citizens. Consequently, lawbreakers had to be either killed or exiled, because prisons were too expensive, and they criminals were not worth the money. With the American victory in the Revolutionary War, transgressors could no longer be shipped off across the Atlantic, so the English had to look for a colony in some other direction.

Captain Arthur Phillip, a tough but fair career naval officer, was charged with setting up the first penal colony in Australia. The convicts were chained beneath the deck during the entire hellish six-month voyage. The first voyage claimed the lives of nearly 10 percent of the prisoners, which remarkably proved to be a rather good rate. On later trips, up to a third of the unwilling passengers died on the way. These were not hardened criminals by any measure; only a small minority were transported for violent offenses. Among the first group was a 70-year-old woman who had stolen cheese to eat.

Although not confined behind bars, most convicts in Australia had an extremely tough life. The guards who volunteered for duty in Australia seemed to be driven by exceptional sadism. Even small violations of the rules could result in a punishment of 100 lashes with a whip. It was said that blood was usually drawn after five lashes, but they didn’t stop there. Convicts usually ended up walking home in boots filled with their own blood, if they could walk at all. Convicts who attempted to escape were sent to tiny Norfolk Island, 600 miles east of Australia. The conditions there were even more inhumane. The only hope of escape from the horror of Norfolk Island was a “game” in which groups of three prisoners drew straws. The short straw was killed as painlessly as possible and a judge was then shipped in to put the other two on trial, one playing the role of killer, the other as witness. I guess the only hope of escape was, in reality, death. There were no second chances for them.

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