Two invasions, two nations and a solitary carving

Old Man’s Hat, where the 1940 inscription marking the detention of <em>Pierre Loti</em> was carved, offers spectacular views over South Head, the Tasman Sea and hundreds of historic inscriptions left by sailors, passengers and Sydney residents. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.

Old Man’s Hat, where the 1940 inscription marking the detention of Pierre Loti was carved, offers spectacular views over South Head, the Tasman Sea and hundreds of historic inscriptions left by sailors, passengers and Sydney residents. Image: Ursula K Frederick, Sydney Harbour National Park.

Saigon bristled with terror in April 1975. As shelling and small-arms fire sounded out an ever-shrinking cordon around the South Vietnamese capital, wails of a different kind split the airspace above the city. On board a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft, over 200 traumatised children and infants – primarily orphans – were being tended by nurses, doctors and military personnel. Leaving Ton Son Nhat airport on 3 April, these bewildered passengers were then transferred to a Qantas flight bound for Sydney. Numbering among the 2500 children scooped up by ‘Operation Babylift’, they arrived at North Head Quarantine Station just weeks ahead of the final collapse of South Vietnam.

Oddly enough, the Babylift children were not the first displaced Vietnamese to be held at North Head. It would be another year before the earliest refugee boats – the vanguard of a rickety flotilla escaping the humanitarian crisis afflicting Southeast Asia – landed on northern Australian shores. Although two small groups of these arrivals were briefly accommodated at Sydney’s Quarantine Station in 1977, in April 1975 only the Babylift evacuees were being tended by nurses and community volunteers at this hilly headland near Manly.

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Deferred – In the footsteps of Cook, La Perouse and d’Entrecasteaux

Unfortunately, we’ve continued to have problems finalising the voyage to New Caledonia and reluctantly, we have decided to postpone it. It will occur but probably in April/May next year. In the meantime, we are negotiating with a variety of outside agencies and authorities to cement in the other elements of this year’s program.

It is likely that the ship will sail to Newcastle in September, taking an opportunity to see the coast as Cook did and to understand something of sciences of botany and astronomy. In October/November the ship will sail to Eden on the NSW south coast and participate in the Eden Whale Festival and in January/February next year Endeavour will sail to Hobart for the wooden boat festival. It is also hoped to visit Flinders Island, Maria Island, Port Arthur, Adventure Bay, Port Davey and possibly Macquarie Harbour. The intent is to learn something of the convict history of Tasmania, the hardships of operating square rigged ships in Bass Strait and of course, Cook’s voyage to that part of the world in Resolution.

As soon the details are settled, we will begin posting those voyages on our website.

John Dikkenberg

In the footsteps of Cook, La Perouse and d’Entrecasteaux

Efforts are now well underway to get Endeavour ready for her voyage to New Caledonia. You’ll note that the dates for the voyage have changed slightly. The amended dates avoid clashes with other events underway in New Caledonia and are now:

  • 27 May to 6 June Sydney to Noumea.
  • 10 June to 17 June Noumea to Noumea. Coastal sail and visit Isle of Pines.
  • 19 June to 29 June Noumea to Sydney

The program looks really exciting and for those joining, the voyage provides an opportunity to sail this wonderful ship while going to a new destination. Hopefully you’ll disembark with an appreciation of what Cook and other 18th century explorers achieved, a knowledge of square rig sailing, a love of the sea and a little French language.

If you would like to become involved in this exciting event, full details are now on our website.

Sailing programs on HMB Endeavour

Sailing programs in Cook’s Endeavour are all designed to give those joining an unforgettable experience. Unlike passengers in a cruise liner, those joining this stunning ship do not enjoy a swimming pool, a casino or an evening in the cocktail bar. In fact, the ship is dry. Those joining the ship are not even referred to as passengers but as voyage crew and supernumeraries. The 36 voyage crew help sail the ship, climb the rigging and sleep in hammocks. The four supernumeraries occupy the cabins once the home of Cook’s scientific team including Banks and Solander. Whilst not compelled to crew the ship, the four supernumeraries often find themselves drawn into the same tight knit team of true voyagers.

With no modern sailing aids onboard, crew must climb aloft up to 39 metres to unfurl and furl Endeavour's 17 sails.

With no modern sailing aids onboard, crew must climb aloft up to 39 metres to unfurl and furl Endeavour’s 17 sails.

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