Brisbane, QLD

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Our tour of Cape York had come to an end or so we thought.........
 Our bags were transported from the hotel on Thursday Island to the small ferry which would take us to Horn Island and the airport. We walked from the hotel as it wasn't far. I was interested to see the children arriving for High School by ferry and all sized boats.

 It didn't take long to get to Horn Island which is bigger than Thursday Is and that is why the airport is there.

 The Torres Strait Island People spend a lot of time on boats either fishing or travelling.

 Children on their way to school by boat. They are waiting for Dad to take them.

 We were met at the wharf by Vanessa the tour rep who drove us to the airport and went to check us in. Some minutes passed when Vanessa returned from the counter and told us that we have all been offloaded as the size of the plane had been changed and it was too small for everyone. The next plane was due at 3:30pm it was 9:00 am when we were told the news.

 Luckily the tour rep was a lady with many hats. She was part owner of the Gateway Resort, she was the founder and curator of the war museum, an author and a local tour guide. She organised for the airline to pay her for  catering for us all day, she had obviously done this before. She took us to her resort and gave us lunch. Then she took us on a historical tour of the island.

Gun emplacements being swallowed by the bush.
 It turns out that Vanessa has written books and been in documentaries about the research she has done into the war years on Horn Island. Not many people are aware of the plight of the Island during the war, including us. After Darwin, Horn Is was the most bombed part of Australia. The Japanese had control of New Guinea and Horn Island airstrip was in a good position for a base from where they could attack the east coast of Australia.
zig zag trenches

The few men that were there did not have anti aircraft firepower they only had zig zag slit trenches to take shelter against bombing and strafing.
Luckily for them an American unit on their way to Darwin were able to chase off the 12 zeros and 8 bombers. However, The Japanese returned on six more bombing raids but by this time ground troops including Torres Strait Islanders, Australians and Americans had increased to 5000.

They flew on bombing raids to New Guinea.

 Many planes crashed on their return. The airstrip was too short for the big bombers. The wreckage of planes is still lying where they fell.

The men not only had to fight the enemy but tropical illnesses as well. These men were never recognised for the effort and successes that they had. Vanessa and her husband and his family have made it their mission to rectify this state of affairs. Vanessa has made submissions to the Govt. She also organised a reunion of the American unit that was based here. The veterans were flown from USA back to Horn Island.

After the tour we returned to Vanessa's place, explored her museum and watched the documentary on the reunion she organised for the service men who were stationed here. Then we waited for her to take us back to the airport. So we had an extra day's tour than we expected. 

We were happy to be winging our way back to Cairns.

That night we had a delicious meal at the Hotel in Cairns. Lovely tender steak cooked by yourself on a volcanic hot rock.


  1. An unexpected delay but a happy one it seems like, thanks to Vanessa. She sounds like a wonderful lady and you have to admire her spirit. I enjoy learning about the world's history, and found this all very interesting. Thanks Diane, great post!

  2. How wonderful to get an extra day of touring with such a knowledgeable guide. I've never had dinner cooked on a hot lava rock before. :-)

  3. You are correct about Australians not knowing about Horn Island and the war. I certainly didn't. While the tour was a bonus, I think I would been anxious to be on my way.

  4. neat that you had an extra tour added in by a knowlegable expert, too.

  5. The steak is under done..........well for me it is as I like my steak well

    I liked reading about Horn Island I have learnt stuff that I didn't know so thank you for this, have to say you have visited some bloody awesome places

  6. I've never been happy to have been offloaded. But your predicament would have been just fine for me.
    I loved the tour - many thanks.

  7. What a great bonus that was! Not too often that a layover would result in something so interesting... and where you could learn so much. I had no idea about that history (probably needless to tell you).

    That steak looks good! I wouldn't even mind the 'do it yourself' bit if it meant I could experience cooking on a hot rock.

  8. I enjoyed reading about your extra tour day and learned a little bit of history while doing so. That's why i enjoy your blog Diane. It really is informative and your pictures take us to a place we'd never see otherwise. Thanks so much for your visits to my blog. I seem to have a little more time now but not mush to blog about this summer...

  9. OMW If that delay had happened in Africa, you'd sit on a dusty airstrip from 9am until the next plane arrived. Vanessa sounds a wonderfully versatile lady. Great that she's rectified the situation about the war heroes and great you got an extra tour to see this. Your first photo of the loaded pick-up truck (ute) is very similar to one of mine in my post later today. Safe travels and enjoy!

  10. Looks like an awesome day1 Lucky that you had that particular tour guide! And an extra days vacation!

  11. I'm sure there are lots of other Aussies like me who have never heard of Horn Island - how sad is that? And to think such an important part of our history was played out there. So glad fate delayed you there! For my sake, anyway, if not for yours. Although I think you enjoyed it, too! :)

  12. that was a strange situation to be in; one minute spirits dampened but then the blow softened with another day of activities. Dinner was looking good..

  13. Diane, it was nice that you had an additional tour thrown in. It is much better than hanging around the airport. Thanks for sharing the history and your trip! Have a happy day!

  14. Again Dianne you have met with another of the wonderful people we also met on our tour of FNQ. Vanessa has such a wealth of knowledge on the war and the interaction of Australia with the Americans and the threat to Australia.
    I didn't realise how much of that history that I had never heard about. looks like you have enjoyed your trip to FNQ as I know that we did also.

  15. Very interesting. That War effected many place up North & not known to what extent either. There is a interesting place not far from Rockhampton that has a wonderful story regarding the USA soldiers & Australian.
    Great to have an extra day on your trip, I somehow think that you were pleased to get back to Cairns.

  16. so it all worked out for the good in the end...i love those last two photos.the awesome view out the window and the food is really beautiful...

  17. What a nice bonus! Just shows you, if you stay in the moment, life is good. Too bad for anyone missing connections though.

  18. Love the meat, would like to try it. We flew once a propelor plane and it was nice. You don't see that a lot in Europe.


  19. It sounds as if you extra day was very worthwhile, filled with lots of great sights and interesting history. It looks as if it ended well with that steak dinner.

  20. Great storytelling as always Diane. I had never heard of Horn Island. I realised as a moved further north just how much closer the war was up there.

  21. That sounds like it was a wonderful little bonus at the end of your trip Diane... still, getting home would have been good too :)