FIRST STAGE TO JAPAN
The Australian Navy took me into Sydney Harbour, and then I had to set about finding refuelling places and the necessary permits for the second half of my flight round the world. With the Gipsy Moth’s range as a seaplane reduced to 600 miles, I had to find a sheltered river or inlet every 500 miles or so where the half-ton seaplane could ride out the night at a mooring, and where there was someone who could understand my talk or signs, and where I could get some petrol.
The first 2,000 miles up the coast of Australia was easy enough; the difficulties started with New Guinea. Merauke sounded all right; a steamer called there once a month. But where could I find a spot within range after that? The Admiralty Sailing Directions were the only guide I had at first: ‘Frederik Hendrik Island about 100 miles long everywhere covered with dense forest and so marshy as to be almost inaccessible.’
Australia Map Road Photo Gallery
‘The Digul River the natives were hostile, the boats and bivouacs being repeatedly shot at.’
‘The Inggivake twice shot arrows at the boats. Kaimana Bay seemed my best hope, it had several houses with corrugated iron roofs, but it was 600 miles from Merauke. Fortunately I met a Dutch skipper who knew the Arafura Sea well, and he told me that the settlement at Kaimana had been withdrawn and that Fakfak, 700 miles away, was the nearest place to Merauke. So the only hope seemed to be for me to dump some petrol myself in a creek, and return to Merauke to fill up again. My Dutch skipper said that if I alighted alone at 10 o’clock, I should be in the stewpot by noon; he said, ‘Why not fly from Merauke to Dobo, the pearling centre in the Aru Islands 480 miles west of Merauke?’