12 SAILORS, 2 MONKEYS, 3 CATS

Late last month on the 27th of May Ballina celebrated 40 years since three balsa wood rafts, twelve sailors, two monkeys and three cats left Ecuador on a gruelling, super-human adventure that somehow landed them in Ballina.

Last month’s was a relatively low-key celebration—after all, the real party must surely take place in November this year, to mark the day 6 months later, when these 12 weary, hungry pioneers were towed into Ballina by the Navy.

In May 1973 twelve men left their family and friends to drift and sail across the ocean. Their goal was to confirm their theory that sea currents were like road maps and to see if the South American Indians could have in fact travelled to Australia many 1000s of years ago.

After 14,000 km and 179 days at sea the crews were welcomed by the people of Ballina.

Their expedition was the first (and so far only) multiple-raft crossing of the Pacific Ocean in recent history and is the longest-known raft voyage in history. It proved the theory that people from South America could easily have emigrated to Oz.

The remains of those rafts are now housed at the Ballina Naval Museum. What’s more the crew also filmed most of their voyage and that DVD is available for viewing. It is the story of 12 men who showed incredible commitment and physical determination to cross the Pacific Ocean. It is also the story of friendship and the triumph of the human spirit.

But despite this tale of endurance and determination, the details are largely unknown outside of Ballina.

On November 16 this year Ballina Chamber of Commerce will hold a massive celebration of this amazing voyage.

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