Fantastic Voyage Part 1 – raft La Balsa ended a five-month journey from Ecuador

LA BALSA NEARING THE END OF THE TRIP AFTER SIX MONTHS FIGHTING BOISTEROUS SEAS. Below: THE EXHAUSTED CREW BEING WELCOMED BY QUEENSLAND. VITAL ALSAR (LEFT) WAVED BACK.

IN 1970, WHEN THE RAFT HAS DOCKED, IT LOOKS “STANGELY PRE-HISTORIC”. YES, MOST PEOPLE AGREED. LA BALSA HAD 8542 MILES ON ITS CLOCK – THE JOURNEY FROM ECUADOR TO QUEENSLAND.

FRANK MORRIS

Thousands of spectators were ferried to the public jetty. Excitement was building up. Then the noise turned into a mighty roar, the La Balsa’s motley crew had joined the crowd.

They were glad to have reached land.

La Balsa had travelled from Ecuador to Mooloolaba, Brisbane; not bad for a pre-historic raft.

“The oceans of the world provide a chronicle of life and death,” an old seafarer said. Since remote antiquity, seafarers and explorers have defied the dangers and made voyages that were thought to be impossible.

Vital Alsar, one of the heroes of the story, recalled later that his father was probably right when he said that “men who take to the sea are touched with madness.”

In 1970, four men and a cat sailed into Mooloolaba Harbour, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, ten minutes before midnight, on Thursday, November 6. They had just completed the longest raft voyage in history: an 8600-mile journey across the Pacific from Ecuador, South America.

They had drifted for five months “to prove” a 1000-year old theory that South Americans could have migrated to Australia.

When the four men in tattered clothes, the battered raft La Balsa, and a cat named Minet, entered the harbour, there was a huge crowd to greet them. They clasped their hands above their heads, cheered, laughed and waved.

The Spanish skipper, Vital Alsar, and his three crew mates “were fit and well and in a jubilant mood” when they were discovered twenty miles (40kms) from the Queensland Coast, reported the newspaper.

La Balsa “bobbed” the rest of the journey on the blue pacific to Mooloolaba “at the end of a 300ft tow rope” which was tethered to a charted press launch.

Alsar and his crew later described their five-month sea voyage “as incredible”.

They had faced many treacherous storms. Some waves almost engulfed the raft. And the nights “were very bad”.

The great danger, reported Alsar, was being knocked overboard by the tremendous power of the waves. They harnessed themselves to the raft. “We all fell overboard many times but were able to get back,” he said.

He said Minet the cat “fell overboard” many times but “we dived in and saved her.”

In his book three years later, Alsar wrote: “On our ninety-seventh day at sea, a violent storm almost destroyed our wooden raft. (I) watched my three crew members stubbornly holding onto the mast, which was on the verge of collapsing in a howling gale.”

Alsar and the crew had many narrow escapes from death. They saw hundreds of sharks. “Sharks came around La Balsa all the time,” the skipper said.

A BIBLICAL REDITION OF A ‘RAFT’ BEING TOSSED LIKE A TOY IN THE HEAVY SEAS.

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IT’S THE OLYMPICS CONTEST …
IT WAS TOKYO IN 1964. TOKYO WAS TO BE THE HOST BUT WITHDREW IN 1940. THE SECOND CHOICE, HELSINKI, IS INVADED BY RUSSIA. WORLD WAR II CANCELED ALL HOPE OF FURTHER GAMES. BUT TOKYO WAS CHOSEN TO HOST THE OLYMPICS GAMES IN 1964, AUSTRALIA WON 18 MEDALS, SIX OF THEM ARE GOLD.
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NEXT: From Ecuador and across the Pacific.


YOUR DOG: We Capricorn’s share a birthday together and have a great time …

FOR ME, TO CELEBRATE TWO BIRTHDAYS AT ONCE, IS SOMETHING I DON’T RECOMMEND. Below: MY PAL, ROUGHIE, HE NEVER FORGETS.

… I SHOULD KNOW. I WAS THERE!

FRANK MORRIS

Every Christmas, I started counting the time left before the Birthday Bash. Whoosh, the month goes quickly. Suddenly, the big day is upon us.

My owner is full of glee. “It’s time to organise a bash you would not believe”, he shouted. “Pick an age? That’s how old I’ll be! And don’t forget, Chrissy, you will one year older”, he whispers in my ear.

My owner is a big-wig journalist on a newspaper. He’s knows all. He’s invited everyone who crossed his path in the last month. He often tells me that he knows all “the people who matter”.

“On with the show,” he jumped for joy, smiling voraciously. He was getting the pool all spruced up. My owner is divorced. He knows what he was up too!

All I can tell you, there was usually were more unattached women than I expected.

I can still recall the day, six years ago. Uncle Ralph was busy talking to this man and they were coming towards the kennel. I was walking all over my mum in a playful way and not taking any notice.

The other gentleman was my potential owner. Personally, I liked him.

He lent on the wooden fence. “How old is she now, Uncle Ralph,” he asked. “She turned nine months today,” Uncle replied.

Uncle Ralph pushed the gate open and strolled towards me. His big hands – Uncle was a coal miner – and picked me up. Hey, that’s me they were chattering about. I hope mum’s coming too.

But mum didn’t come. I never saw her again.

“There you are, Chrissy, meet your new owner,” Uncle said, with tears in his eyes. That was that. We have come a long way since those days.

When my owner showed his wife what a little bundle of fluff he had secured for her, she said, “Don’t bring that mutt anywhere near me. You know I hate them!”

That was six years ago. And the divorce? Well, it followed shortly after that. Things got a bit out of hand. It was painful.

People started to arrive at the party, pushing and shoving, screaming and yelling. Most of the souls who rolled up were either important people or famous people all tarted up in vivid colours of the rainbow.

I’d heard a growl at the side gate. It was my mate Roughie. He had a sign around his neck with “Happy Birthday” – meaning me.

So, now we’ll have a good time too. We drank and ate our way like there was no tomorrow. Roughie was busy eating some leftover dessert. I looked at him. He looked at me.

Wearing my scarlet tiara, I asked, are you happy. You betcha, replied Roughie.

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SOME OLYMPICS CHATTER …
FANNY BLANKERS-KOEN, OF THE NETHERLANDS, WAS THE “STAR” OF THE 1948 OLYMPICS. BLANKERS-KOEN WAS A REMARKABLE ATHLETE. SHE COMPETED IN THE HIGH JUMP AT THE BERLIN OLYMPICS. AT THE AGE OF 30, THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO SAID “SHE WAS TOO OLD TO WIN THE OLYMPIC SPRINTS”. BUT COMPETE SHE DID. SHE WON GOLD MEDALS FOR 100 AND 200 METRES, THE 80 METRES HURDLES AND THE 4 X 100 METRES RELAY. BLANKERS-KOEN FINISHED HER CAREER AS HOLDER OF SIX WORLD RECORDS.
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TENNIS CHAMPS: Norman Brookes – the man and the player

NORMAN BROOKES SHOWED THE CONCENTRATION NECESSARY WHEN YOU PLAY AN OPPONENT WHO IS PRONE TO DASHING AROUND THE COURT. Below: NORMAN BROOKES, OUTSTANDING SPORTMAN.

FRANK MORRIS

HIS CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT WAS THE 1914 WIMBLEDON CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN HE WAS PITTED AGAINST A PLAYER WHO WAS A 4 TIMES WINNER OF THE TITLE.

Tennis critics summed up the 1914 Wimbledon Championship as the “triumph of the tactician over the athlete”.

Brookes’ Wimbledon tussle was just like an act of war had landed on his doormat. It was his first in seven years.

Anthony Wilding, of New Zealand, has been the Wimbledon champion the last four times. The final time was 1913.

During the match, Wilding relied principally on the strength of his drives and his dashing ability around the court.

Whereas Brookes played with splendid judgement. He used his drop-volley angle shot magnificently and, overall, showed a vast superiority in tactics.

On the scores, the German player, O. Froitzheim, who Brookes defeated with some difficulty in the semi-final (five sets), was a much different proposition to Wilding. Brookes won the final 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

The Sydney Mail cable report said that “the last game was the most thrilling ever seen on the centre court at Wimbledon”.

“Twice Brookes came within a point of winning the set, Wilding saves on each occasion. Brookes won the match with an untakeable drop volley off a fast drive”.

Born in Melbourne in 1877, Brookes received a top-flight education and joined his father’s business, Melbourne Paper Mills.

He played interstate tennis from 1896. At Wimbledon, in 1905, he won the Allcomers’ singles title.

In 1907, Brookes and Wilding won the Davis Cup in great style. Brookes in singles, and with Wilding won the doubles and mixed doubles – a historic first Davis Cup for Australasia.

Brookes captained six winning teams for Australasia in the Davis Cup until 1921.

He was the first president of the Lawn Tennis Association from (1926-1955), and was responsible for raising the tennis standards throughout Australia. Much of the eventual revival of the Davis Cup was influenced by Brookes.
He was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and knighted in 1939. He died in 1968.

<< Sydney Mail newspaper.

Next: Margaret Court was named Australia’s greatest woman tennis player.

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IT’S THE OLYMPICS …
IN 1952, FINLAND, DENIED THE GAMES IN 1940, PLAYS HOST TO A RECORD NATIONS ATTENDANCE IN HELSINKI. RUSSIA SHOWS UP AFTER IGNORING THE CONTEST FOR 40 YEARS. AUSTRALIA’S MARJORIE JACKSON POCKETED TWO GOLDS – 100M AND 200M SPRINT. WHILE SHIRLEY STRICKLAND TOOK OUT HER FIRST MEDAL IN THE 80M HURDLES. AUSTRALIA WON GOLD FOR THE 200M BREASTSTROKE; RUSSEL MOCKRIDGE WON TWO GOLDS IN THE 1000M TIME TRIAL, AND THE 2000M TANDEM.
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THE SHOW-OFF!

CONTINUED.

<< From the 1968 Surfabout Magazine.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 07 February 20

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