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.
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
Jeff and I took one another’s pictures holding Koalas.
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.
Koalas eat only certain kinds of
eucalyptus leaves, and don’t get
much energy from their food. They
spend most of their days sleeping
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.
I didn’t like kneeling on the
ground the way she did. Too
much kangaroo poop
And wombats, which are
reputedly pretty vicious.
I thought they looked like a
cross between a wild boar and a
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
Today Tulagi is a sleepy backwater
island, but in World War II, it was
hopping with activity.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
But the real reason I had come
was to give a final resting place
to my father’s remains.
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.
Latitude S 9 degrees, 6 minutes,
Longitude E 160 degrees, 9
minutes, 50.0 seconds