Saturday, September 30, 2023


Townsville  by   Aeronautical  Correspondent   Abra .

Friday, September 29, 2023


Newspaper   cuttings  recently  received   from the   extensive    files  of   Darwin   activist / agronomist  Robert  Wesley-Smith  included    articles written   by   journalist    and  author  , the  late   Keith  Willey , one  dealing with  concerns  about  reduced numbers of  Magpie Geese in the   Northern Territory .

In his  life as a prominent reporter, Willey, below,   received three consecutive  Walkley  Awards  , wrote  a  large number of  books on a wide range of  subjects  including crocodile hunting,  Darwin , New Guinea ,  drovers , the South Pacific , the impact of colonisation on Aborigines ,  He  covered  the Six Day War in Israel in l969,the Indo-China War in l970,attended the  execution of Ronald Ryan in Pentridge  Goal and  covered the disappearance of  PM  Harold Holt .

He  went  on  patrols in Vietnam  , penned  rollicking  poems  about   Darwin barmaids   and  a   beer  drinking   dog .  A  keen sportsman , he played  rugby league in Darwin for Brothers and  wrote  many articles about  the code  in Sydney.     

Another  highly regarded   reporter,   the  late  Les "Thrasher " Wilson , a Kiwi  who worked in London, USA and Darwin , admired  Willey's  output ,referred  to  his  "busy fingers"  seeming  pounding away on something   new  and  interesting  non-stop .

Born  at  Boonah , Queensland , in l930, Willey  became  a  bank clerk and branched out into journalism , working in several states , in Alice   Springs on the Centralian Advocate  , in Darwin  on the Northern Territory News with  crusading editor  Jim Bowditch ,another Walkley Award winner ,  on The Sun , Sydney ,  was editor of  the  Cairns  Post  . Late in life he obtained a  degree  in history from the Australian National Library and taught at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education.

The above  famous   cartoon by Stan Cross  ,  from the Wesley-Smith  files , is believed to have come from Willey's book You Might as Well  Laugh, Mate . Australian humour in  hard  times . The caption..."For gorsake,stop laughing -this  is  serious!"

It appeared in Smith's Weekly in l933 and was regarded as  Australia's funniest  joke. 

 Keith  died from cancer ,thought to  have     been  caused  by   drinking   Agent Orange from  pools  of water while  on jungle  patrols  with  troops  in  Vietnam, in Toowomba on September 6,l984 . Knowing he did not have much longer  to  live, he threw  a  farewell party  at  the  institution .

The Keith Willey Award for Journalism was  named after him , administered by  the  University of  Southern  Queensland

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


It appears our Shipping Reporter  does indeed have the luck of  the  Irish . Recent  finds by him  include  four  leaf  clovers  in  a  plastic  letter  holder  and  the  above  well - illustrated book   about   a  colourful  vessel  which  started  life  in  Sydney as   the  22  metre   steam yacht  Ena. . Launched in December 1900 ,she had been   built  for rich banker Thomas  Dibbs , named after  his wife .

Dibbs was a prominent  , well  connected  businessman , a younger brother had been  the  NSW Premier for a  short time . Keen on yachting , he  wrote about the subject in The Sydney Mail under the byline "Lanyard".  

During the  First World War the yacht   was  commissioned  as  HMAS  Sleuth , to   patrol the dangerous  waters of the  Torres Strait  between Australia and  New Guinea   to  protect  us  from  the  Germans.

Unfortunately , while the  yacht was   great for  running   woman  about  on day   trips  in Sydney Harbour  , there were  problems  in  the open  sea,  These  became evident  when , armed with a Hotchkiss  three pounder  gun , and  subjected   to  several  alterations, it  was sent north, crewed by inexperienced naval  reserves .

Soon after departing Sydney,  Sleuth   ran into a storm ,shipped much water, bags of coal were  washed overboard  and there  was a variety of  damage . Repairs were carried out in Brisbane  and  it became  apparent  the  warship was not suited for  life  at  sea .

Soon after  reaching the  Torres Strait, Sleuth and her  seasick crew, were involved in several accidents,went   aground twice, managed to limp back to Thursday Island , where it  was  the butt of many jokes.  

The book points out that a  mutiny- like situation  developed in which the officers and crew  refused to  set sail  in Sleuth . 

 The Naval Board eventually withdrew   the  vessel from the north and after  further  mishaps,was employed in  South Australia and in  Sydny.   

Sold off, she became the  Aurore  , involved in the Tasmanian fishing industry for 40 years,  eventually  sinking after striking a  submerged object in April 1981. 

Raised and returned to Sydney , it was  refitted  and now attracts much attention..

The Shiping Reporter said he had another  stroke of luck in a  tip shop  when  a keen yachsman   who has given  up  the sea  ,   no  longer the owner of a yacht which is in Cairns  , came  in with  some nautical books   about  cruising  the  coral  coast , a collection of   stories from  the  Sailing magazine , and a  waterlogged copy of  Sailing Alone Around The  World, by Joshua Slocum, edited and introduced by Tim Flannery.  All of which ended up in the Shipping Reporter's kitbag. 


Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Townsville  windy  day  view,   Abra  photo .

Monday, September 25, 2023


A Magnetic Island  resident  with 20-20  vision has informed  our  feeble-eyed  Shipping Reporter that the  "dark head"  he recently  saw  on the  mutilated  island   mermaid  was  actually a  coconut , which has  since  disappeared , possibly blown away by  strong   winds , which have produced   bumpy trips for ferry  passengers . 

Ever since the mermaid's original head was  pulled off  ,she has had a  variety of  objects  placed in the   cavity , including a  rock, above,   and a   cardboard cutout of  Prime Minister  Scott Morrison , who was  later revealed as the Minister  for  Davy  Jones's  Locker  and  a  bundle  of   other  shipwrecked  Coalition   ministries .  

Sunday, September 24, 2023


Part  of  the  Sir Charles Maurice  Yonge  Collection on display at James Cook University, Townsville.  Marine zoologist  Sir Charles ( 1899-1986)  , led  the  Great Barrier Reef  Expedition of  l928-1929 , sold  his extensive private library of books, reports and papers relating to all aspects of the sea to the Australian Institute of  Marine  Science ,Townsville, passed to the  James Cook  University Library in 2016, housed under strict  archival conditions  in Special Collections.    

It consists of  several thousand  items , including works published from the early 1700s to the 20th century. The subject range is overall marine, with malacology  a  strong  topic.

Other topics include oceanography,fisheries,marine biology,marine botany and zoology,biographies, records of major scientific  expeditions ,history, marine fiction, anthologies and poetry , even seafood  cookbooks.

Expedition  photos  in  album.

Above available  as  JCU Open eBook  at  jcu.

Saturday, September 23, 2023


The  last  copy of  a   unique 2010  book  - Magnetic Island-A sense of place - by  longtime resident photographer and  artist  Vandhana  , sold  recently ,bought  by  a  person  who  intends  sending  it   to   America . 

 In the foreword Vandhana said  the  book resulted from  a five year  community project . It  included sepia photographs by Vandhana ,  reflective and  challenging pieces  , particularly from young members of  the island  community, one being   a 2009  speech by a 12- year- old  girl  at an island rally to mark the International Day of Climate  Change  Action,   and a photograph of   Wulgurukaba  elders . 

One  photograph showed  Melbourne  academics John and Inga Clendinnen    relaxing on the beach at  Alma Bay, watching  divers   entering  the water.  The couple had a close association with the island . Involved with the Melbourne and  Latrobe universities,  Inga  wrote  books on the Mayas , The Holocaust  and the first contact between Europeans and Indigenous Australians. 

A philosopher at  Melbourne University,John was later a  visiting lecturer at Pittsburgh, Indiana and Princeton unis.

Inga  was the guest speaker at the island launch of a book about  a resident, Tom  Wetherill , pictured in the book , who clocked  up  more than  100  years .

Those   listed  for  special   thanks  in  the book  included  the  late  artist Mavis  Garman-Vik ,  see  following   earlier  Little   Darwin   related  post 


An  exclusive   look   inside Te-Nikau,  a   tropical  house  in  Olympus Crescent , Arcadia,  Magnetic  Island , with   a  fascinating  tale  to  tell ,  using   the    photos    and    memories   of      Vandhana ,  who  lived  in  it  for  a   time  after  moving   up   from  Melbourne. 

The above photograph  shows  the  front  of  the  dwelling , Vandhana on the  right , near  the  entrance  door. A glimpse of the  garden  in bygone days  follows.

Built in the  l940s, the house was originally   a corrugated  iron shed  on   a lime concrete base. It was  transformed into a liveable home by a retired sea captain.

In  1974 , the house  was  bought  by   Mavis  Garman-Vik , who  had lived with artists at The Rocks, Sydney, in  her  fifties, looking for a " new   chapter "  in  her  life, as  was  Vandhana . 

Mavis put her artistic stamp on the  house, filling it with cane furniture, numerous artefacts, painted the  inner  walls  burnt orange and dark blue ,contrasting   with  the  white .

The large casement windows opened out onto garden and bush, each window with a light green glass panel angle across it, so that when all were open, it  gave the impression of  waves  on  the  sea.

Mavis  designed  and   dyed    cotton  sarongs which she  sold   at  nearby  Alma  Bay. She also belonged  to  a Townsville writers' group. 

Vandhana moved into the house  after  Mavis died  , residing  there from   1997  to  2004  and said it  was  like   living  in  a  gallery.It was  only natural  that   Vandhana  made  it  the venue for her  My  Island Home   Exhibition  in  2004 , a large part of which is now in  the  Magnetic Museum ,

 The display   included  paintings by  Anita  Luchich  ,one  below , Journey's  End 

 An up and coming   island   artist  , Anita   died   several months  before the  exhibition and  her paintings were   spread  about the  house. A  2002  Te-Nikau  interior painting  by  Vandhana, below,  was included  in  the   exhibition.
A calendar was produced in conjunction with the  2004 exhibition ,dedicated to  the  art , soul  and  memory of  Anita Luchich  . The  same unique   illustrations  were  included    in  one  for     2022  as  part  of  Vandhana's   photographic   restrospective

Friday, September 22, 2023

Thursday, September 21, 2023


 Magnetic  Island's  grossly mistreated mermaid   now appears to  have   undergone a major change, according to the  Shipping Reporter  , whose camera is on the  blink  , so he could not produce  the  pictorial  evidence .  He says  the  poor fibre-glass  mermaid  , which had  its head  and arms   torn off  , now  appears , from  a  distance,   to  have  a  dark - looking  head-shaped object  , flapping   arms   and   is  possibly wearing  a   blouse .  

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Tankers  with  whopper names  spotted  by  Shipping Reporter.


Eight year old  crude oil   carrier  Two  Million Ways , flying under the Cyprus flag, followed by  Hong Kong registered Forever Brilliancy,two years old.  

Another stand out vessel  in  port  bore the name of Spliethoff   Established in 1921, Spliethoff operates a fleet of more than 50 modern, Dutch flagged, 1A ice-classed, multipurpose vessels, ranging from 12,000 to 23,000 DWT.All vessels are equipped with removable tweendecks and cargo cranes with capacities up to 1,400 tonnes in tandem lift. 

Saturday, September 16, 2023


The seemingly never ending sorting out  of  extensive   files  built  up  by  Darwin  activist  Robert  Wesley-Smith, shown here  wearing a  T-shirt  supporting * Witness K and  Canberra lawyer Bernard   Collaery ,charged  after it was revealed   Australia  had  bugged the  Timor-Leste  government  , continues  to  unearth  a wide  range  of  surprising   material , some of  which  has  been  shared   with   Little   Darwin .

By Peter  Simon .

Out of left  field , as it were , he  sent me an email  in which he  said he had discovered  a   government  information   newsletter , one of a  number   I wrote in Darwin  for distribution throughout  the  Cyclone  Tracy    shattered  city  at  venues  like  schools   where  people  went  for  meals  and  information , help , details of the   systematic clearance  of  areas by  defence  teams ,  the  new  location of  key   departments  and  offices,  , federal   government  decisions   about   the  future  of  the city , etcetera . 

In  that  newsletter , Wesley-Smith  said  I had "revealed "  the location of  the  Australian Security and  Intelligence Organisation office . He  wanted to know  if   ASIO  had   asked   me   to   leave  town  after  blowing  their  cover.

After  chuckling , I  said   that   following  the  disaster ,  ASIO  had obviously wanted to  help  out  in some  way  and  must   have  notified me of their  location  for  public  consumption.

Then  Wesley-Smith ,  one of Australia;'s great  veteran   activists ,  revealed  a humorous anecdote about the time   he  had  , unannounced,  knocked  on  the   ASIO   door  in  Darwin. 

With him was a   reporter , Chris  Lee . He made the  suprise call because not only had   he  been a founding member of the  Northern Territory Civil Libeties  Council,  opposed the  Vietnam War, but  had    been an early suporter of  East  Timor and members of that   community in Darwin   consulted  him.

He was informed that a man claiming to be a Commonwealth Policeman  was  calling on Timorese   and   asking  questions. They  felt  intimidated , asked  Wesley-Smith  if  he  could  find out  what  was  going on.

So , with  reporter Chris Lee in tow,  Wes  knuckled the  ASIO  door.

The door, he said,  slowly opened  , and a  hard to see   man   was   visible  in  the  dark  interior.

The conversation that  ensued  is  said  to have   caused  reporter  Lee   to  "piss  himself   laughing" .

The   ASIO  man   within  told  Wes  he obviously knew   where  he  was , which  was  more  like  a  question  .  Wes   explained  the  reason    for  being on  the  doorstep .

It  seems  a   Commonwealth Police officer  genuinely   concerned about the welfare  of  Timorese refugees   had  indeed  been  making  the   calls 

As they  came  away from the  ASIO  office  ,Wes said  Lee could hardly contain  himself   because  he  laughed so much   about  the  counversation which had  taken place. 

Because Wes was  such a well known activist,-still is at 80- ASIO had a  file on  him .  It  would  be a whopper , but not   nearly as  big as  his  own files  , going back more than  50 years , which include   a vast number of  important   photographs , some  of  which  have appeared in  this  blog . 

He also has a  large collection of  protest T-shirts   built up over decades, which  should  be  in  the national   archives. 

In the mail,   this blog  has just   received  from him an envelope  of newspaper  cuttings  about  the   Lindy Chamberlain  case  in which he was   involved.   There  is a  scribbled  note  saying  they  might inspire  the writing of  a  book . 

* Witness K received a  suspended three month sentence , Collaery was placed on a 12 month good behaviour  bond. The T-shirt worn by Wes above  was  made in  Timor- Leste  where  Collaery is   highly regarded .  

 UPCOMING  :    Wes singing  in  Singapore ! Interesting  cuttings from his  files , sessions  with  crusading  editor  Big  Jim  Bowditch and  more items of interest .

Friday, September 15, 2023


 While listening  to  part of the   ukulele  festival  on Magnetic Island  , Little  Darwin  stumbled  upon an offbeat   story. From a nearby apartment which was being cleaned  , a  person emerged carrying   a birdcage  , placed  it  on   a table   within   hearing  of   the  catchy music . 

A jazzy parrot  appeared to be   swinging  about  inside  the  cage, could have been  whistling .

Upon  investigation  , it was discovered  that  the  bird, named Hippy, grew  up in Tasmania  ,  moved to the  Gold Coast  , then  Townsville , now  lives  on  Magnetic   Island .    

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Monday, September 11, 2023


 Former Magnetic Island  resident , the   late  Verne  Jack , kind to  wallabies   and a keen  golfer ,  is  remembered  in  this  seat  , near  wallaby  feeding location.

Sunday, September 10, 2023


In Singapore this is one of the boats that  goes around picking up  rubbish  from  the  waterways. A similar patrol is needed in  Townsville to remove  those  rusting  shopping trolleys, bits of metal , traffic  signs    and  other  junk  from  the  marina .    


 Shipping  Reporter  exclusive 

When Captain Cook ventured into  the dangerous North Queensland  waters in the 1770s   he came across   a  mysterious  island which  made his compass  perform strangely , so  he named it Magnetical Island  , now  Magnetic Island, Townsville's   so- called jewel in the  crown .

The Shipping Reporter   says  that if  Captain Cook  had  sailed  into the   same   waters  in recent months  Magnetic Island    would almost certainly have   a  different   name , one which would   rival  a  very  famous  American  resort . 

Why? Because   The Strand  on  nearby Townsville   contained   many  metal objects , part of the  Ephemera  Seaside Sculpture  Exhibition   , which would   send  Captain  Cook's  compass  gyrating madly  , resulting in him calling   the  island   Whizney  Land  , long  before  Walt  , now in deep freeze,  launched  his   playground , Disney Land , which  went  worldwide  .  

The Strand metal objects  included   a collection   of bunged up  pedestal fans  artistically  arranged  by  Cranky Curlew Productions of  Magnetic   Island , entitled  Their Second Wind, which mariners   like  Captain Cook would   like .   

 In   addition  , The   Strand has    a    large  metal  sculpture in  the  shape of a  land  boat    from  a   past  competition  which  would  cause interference  with  Captain  Cook's  navigation   equipment.. 


Desperately seeking Nemo   in   a   tank  at  the  Picnic Bay  Hotel , Magnetic Island .


Saturday, September 9, 2023


 With another anniverary of   the  attack  on  the  Trade Centre   towers and the Pentagon on  September 11, 2001  looming  ,   the   above  special   volume   marking  the  occasion  and  the aftermath   was   recently   found and   brought   back   memories  of   the  monstrous  event  . 

My  wife, who listened to the radio during the  night , in a separate room,  heard the  incredible breaking news  that there had been  an attack on  the  first tower.

She ran into my room,  where I was fast asleep , turned the television set  on at  the foot of the   bed, picked  up  my head ,   and shouted   the   incredible  news  about  the  attack  in  New  York . We sat  on the bed, shocked at the enormity  of  the   outrage .

In respect of  the  so called  9/ll   attack  , our  sons  were  personally impacted  by   the   event .  One , a  fireman , went   to   America ,  visited  the   site , spoke to  firemen ,  posted  on  a  public memorial  a   poem written by his brother -  in  the  voice  of  a  person who  had  been  sitting  in  one of  the  towers-   talking  to   his  family  after   his   death  .


During   th is  week  there  was   a   documentary on  the  rise and  fall  of the   towers  .

Another    American  outrage ,  the assassination  of  US  President  John  F. Kennedy ,  comes  to  mind. I  was  a   reporter  on  the  Rotorua Post in New Zealand   and was  called   to  the  newspaper  office    because  of   the   enormity of   the   event   and   listened  to  reports  coming  in .  

During   a  recent    book  search  in    Townsville  another    grim  reminder of  another  American  tragedy   ,the   shooting  of   Robert  F. Kennedy,   was  found.  


  Shipping  Reporter  discovers  Ladies   Day   in  the  Townsville Ghost Fleet  

There was  a  distinct  feminine touch  to the  port  in  the names   of  vessels unloading cargo , some of which  he  was  able  to  photograph  . Because of a problem with his  camera , he was unable to  get up close to the literary sounding  Bronte Lady . Another , larger  vessel  that  stood out ,  which also could not be snapped, was   the Japanese   vehicle  carrier  ,  Venus  Leader.

However  , Rosemary , above  ,  posed for the camera  , as  did   Carolyn,  from Singapore, who late in the  day  disgorged  a  large  front end  loader  which  had been  shifting    bulk  cargo  below  .





Relics from yachts  which passed through  in  roof .

Magnetic Island. Vallis.

Thursday, September 7, 2023


James  Cook  University , Townsville .