13 June 2010

Far North Queensland

Well, here I am in FNQ - Cairns to be exact - a couple of days early for a course (work, honest!) and I've had the chance to travel around a little bit and check out a few things. I'm leaving a lot of things for when my wife and I make it up here but I've managed to visit Mareeba aerodrome but, sadly, did not see much to inspire me in terms of the history of the place. I definitely should have done a bit more research as to what to look for but other than Beaufort Street and a couple of plaques/signs (and a closed aviation 'museum'), there's little to tell the casual visitor that is was once a thriving (and large) wartime airfield teeming with RAAF and USAAF aircraft (a visit to the nearby Syd Beck collection helps in that respect). A flick through Damien Waters' Beaus, Butchers and Boomerangs would have been the smart thing to do.

Every day of this trip I've been able to look out over the waterfront of Cairns - home to Catalinas during the war (check out Brett Freeman's Lake Boga At War and, of course, David Vincent's Catalina Chronicle and AE Minty's Black Cats) - and out to the Coral Sea. However probably the book I am reminded of most of all has little to do with the subject of this website. The wonderfully named Marsden Hordern wrote the equally wonderful A Merciful Journey which covers his days in the small ships of the Royal Australian Navy. Eventually becoming the skipper of several small patrol boats, Hordern, also a Captain Cook afficianado, worked these waters and those north to New Guinea during the war. His command pulled into Cairns on several occasions and, remembering this as I looked at the RAN's current patrol boat base this morning, I wondered if that was the very wharf he tied up to. It really adds to the reading experience (even though I read the book in 2008) when you're able to see the same things the author did. It does pay to leave the armchair on occasion!

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