Faisaf- Balalai Island

Lars Alfredson
Sun 12 Jul 2015 08:10
pos 6:59.81S 155:53.06E
Balalai Island

2015-07-12 Midnight and I’m on watch. The wind is going round in circles doing nasty things to the sails before it finally dies. We have now entered that part of the Chart that says “Uncharted” with some ominously dotted lines circling things with unhelpful comments such as “breaks occasionally” this in 400metres of water! You better believe it, there be reefs and islands popping up all over the place.

Off course this is no place for those of a nervous disposition, so Lars went off duty and took to his bed. Shan ignored my attempts of subtly saying, “Come and join me,” by switching on of lights and banging about gathering various bit of equipment I might need to help pass the night. This just left me peering into the dark, ducking the odd lightning bolt wondering who would get me first, Poseidon or Thor.

We arrive off Ballalai Island our destination being the site of an abandoned and forgotten (nearly) Japanese wartime airbase, which we had been tipped off about by our Aussie sailing mates. (Google the island name for more info.)

Using war time reccy pix and info from Google we circled the island looking for the landing site which is supposed to have a jetty. The jetty is in ruins having been washed away in a Tsunami, though having felt our way through the reef we anchor just off the remains in 18 mts of water near the shore.

Going ashore we head for a roof we can see through the trees, what a site, it’s full of Japanese warplanes in various stages of disrepair. Lars and I follow a jungle trail from here and come across rotting vehicles and oil drums, several large bunkers and lots of empty beer bottles with the name of the Tokyo brewer moulded in them.

Walking along the beach to another well-worn trail we come across the airstrip and a memorial to the British soldiers who had been transported here from Singapore by the Japanese as slave labour to build it. Then when competed, those who hadn’t been killed by the American bombing were executed and flung into a mass grave, which the Australians discovered when they finally landed in 1947 as the island had been bypassed by operations and left to “Wither on the vine”.

Who could think amongst such beauty such horror? The island was sacred to the natives who held many of their special ceremonies here but today has suffered much looting and wrangling with the local government who have been the victims of some very slick conmen trying to remove the artefacts and thus a hidden source of wealth in terms of tourism  from this heritage site.


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