Australia And The Solomon Islands


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Australia And The Solomon Islands

  1. 1. Rick’s Pictures
  2. 2. I left my house early Thursday morning. After four uneventful flights to Atlanta and San Francisco and then to Sydney and Brisbane, I crashed at my hotel Sunday afternoon. All my connections were on time and my luggage made it with me the whole way. The only problem was that Qantas had not given me sufficient time in Sydney to make it through Australian Immigration and Customs and to transfer to my Brisbane flight. But there is a flight from Sydney to Brisbane every hour, so I was only slightly delayed.
  3. 3. I visited Lone Pine Koala sanctuary, which is only about 12 kilometers from downtown Brisbane. After a nice walk to the downtown pier where I met a boat, I left on a cruise up the Brisbane River. Aboard the boat I was befriended by a Kiwi (New Zealander) named Jeff. Jeff was a helicopter pilot who had retired to a farm. When we got to the Koala sanctuary we headed for the area where you could have your picture taken holding a koala for $15 Australian. We took turns taking one another’s photos.
  4. 4. Jeff and I took one another’s pictures holding Koalas.
  5. 5. The Lone Pine Koala sanctuary is the largest Koala sanctuary in the world, and is home to more than 130 koalas, many of them rescues.
  6. 6. Koalas eat only certain kinds of eucalyptus leaves, and don’t get much energy from their food. They spend most of their days sleeping and resting.
  7. 7. Koalas are not the only attraction at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. There is also a large pen with dozens of kangaroos that can be fed by hand. Here is a teenage South African girl feeding one.
  8. 8. I didn’t like kneeling on the ground the way she did. Too much kangaroo poop everywhere.
  9. 9. One let Jeff scratch his ears like a dog.
  10. 10. One had a pretty big Joey in her pouch.
  11. 11. There were also birds. This is a kind of eagle. Can’t remember the name, but it resembles the American golden eagle.
  12. 12. A whitle-bellied eagle.
  13. 13. And a real, sho-nuff kookaburra.!
  14. 14. Various tropical birds, too.
  15. 15. And wombats, which are reputedly pretty vicious.
  16. 16. I thought they looked like a cross between a wild boar and a small bear.
  17. 17. On Tuesday, I flew to Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal, and capital of the Solomon Islands. I had sent my Dad’s ashes ahead to Marie-Claire and Tony Saunders, who are shipping agents in Honiara. They met me at the airport, and they took me to a yacht club where I met Neil Yates, who would be my host for the next two days.
  18. 18. Neil is an Aussie who had a successful career as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry. One day about seven years ago he decided he had had enough of the rat race and so he bought a dive shop on the island of Tulagi.
  19. 19. He brought me over to Tulagi, 22 nautical miles, in a small craft maybe 7 or 8 meters long. The seas were rough; lots of one to two meter swells. I caught a lot of salt spray in the face. It was quite a ride.
  20. 20. We crossed the “Iron Bottom Sound,” so named because of the literally hundreds of World War II ship wrecks and aircraft wrecks that litter the sea bed between Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
  21. 21. Tulagi turned out to be a charming place. The hotel was tiny, but I was well cared for by the staff, who were friendly and called me by name. The bill they gave me on the last day was politely and charmingly addressed to, “Mr. Ricky.”
  22. 22. The main language spoken throughout the Solomons is a pidgin English. Here is a get out the vote poster. Can you read it? Hint: just say the words phonetically the way they are spelled.
  23. 23. On Wednesday, Neil took me on a private boat tour of various World War II battle sites. We saw Blue Beach, on the island of Tulagi, which was the first site that Allied and Japanese troops encountered one another in ground warfare.
  24. 24. An American from the First Marines was the first killed in action. We more than made up for it, however. Guadalcanal and Tulagi, which are part of the Solomon chain, were the first places that the Japanese were actually pushed back. They became a staging area for the WWII island hopping campaign.
  25. 25. Today Tulagi is a sleepy backwater island, but in World War II, it was hopping with activity.
  26. 26. My Dad served aboard LST 1053 during World War II. It participated in the island hopping campaign and spent a fair amount of time in the Solomon Islands. LSTs were “Landing Ship Tanks.” They carried payloads of equipment and infantry. The ships had big doors in the bow and would run up close to the beach, open the doors, and their payloads would rush off.
  27. 27. LST 342 was one of the first to arrive in the Solomons. On 18 July 1943 she was transiting from Guadalcanal to the Russell Islands, about 30 or 40 miles , and was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The torpedo hit the LST amidships, splitting it in half. The stern immediately sunk. The bow stayed afloat.
  28. 28. When she departed Guadalcanal, LST 342 was carrying 282 personnel, 86 crew and 196 passengers, mostly soldiers from the U.S. Army. 5 crew members and 152 passengers survived the attack. The crew members who survived were those who had been topside. The passenger quarters were in the bow, which stayed afloat, the crew quarters in the stern, which sunk almost immediately.
  29. 29. The remaining half of the LST was towed back to Tulagi, where it was made into a Fleet Post Office. This is where all ships in the Solomons received their mail. I know Dad visited this post office, because he was the mail officer on his LST, and they were definitely in the Solomons. In fact, he told me it was the bioluminescent organisms he saw in the water after retrieving mail in Tulagi that made him want his ashes scattered in the waters there.
  30. 30. The remains of LST 342 are no longer in the same place as when she was a Fleet Post Office, but she has been towed to a spot not far away and she still exists.
  31. 31. But the real reason I had come was to give a final resting place to my father’s remains.
  32. 32. On Wednesday 27 August, after it grew dark, Neil and I went out in his boat hoping to scare up some bioluminescent organisms. We were not disappointed. Neil stopped the boat, I said a short prayer, and we laid my Dad’s remains to rest.
  33. 33. Latitude S 9 degrees, 6 minutes, 57.1 seconds Longitude E 160 degrees, 9 minutes, 50.0 seconds
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