WWII Plane Crashes and Mutee Head June 26 - 27 2019
  VH-CXD came to a sad end on 5th May 1945. En route from Archerfield (Brisbane) to New Guniea. Part of a regular courier service. The DC3 crashed, trying to land at what is now Bamaga Airport in the dark. No survivors.

The US Air Force logo (a big star) has weathered away. The plane was contracted to Australian National Airline and flown by a civilian pilot with Australian Air Force support.

  Recognisable to us. Both Ali and I had our first flights in DC3s. Though at different times.

Few windows in this plane, a big cargo door.

  Scattered around the airport area are the remnants of fuel dumps. Eventually they'll rust away to nothing.
  Remains of a Bristol Beaufort Mk VIII. Serial number A9-190.

Lots of detail about the plane, but nothing about the crash.

A twin engined torpedo bomber. It looked a bit cramped in the cockpit.

  The actuators for landing. The radial engines would have been attached.

This central bit of the wing looked sturdy, like a backbone. The cockpit would have attached to it.

  To reach the Beaufort site we had to drive across the end of the airfield.

There was another crash site we (and a few others) failed to find. Though we bush bashed for 500m to the edge of a large swamp.

  All that's left of a Curtiss P-40E Warhawk. A single engined, single seat, fighter bomber.

Just a few moments to contemplate the activity and disruption that war caused in this part of North Queensland.

  There's a stretch of the Peninsula Development Road that by-passes Bamaga from the airport. The real road through Bamaga, that we took on the way up, is wider and better maintained.

This is pleasant.

  I read a couple of accounts of the road into Mutee Head. One included an account of a harrowing river crossing.

The bridge was much easier.

  In 1947 a group of Saibai Islanders migrated to Mutee Head (sometimes spelled Muttee Heads). They had Australian Government permission to occupy the buildings vacated by the military people that operated the radar station here.

Saibai Island was inundated by high tides.

The group later moved to the newly created Bamaga and Seisia as there was insufficient water at Mutee.

The chief of the Saibai Islanders was Bamaga. Hence the name of the town.

  4km to our west is the mouth of the Jardine River. We drove a couple of hundred meters into the track that runs parallel to the beach, but 300m back, and decided it was a bit tight for us.


  An afternoon stroll along the beach, and a look back to our camp. The last white dot before the headland.
  Parau Island (the volcanic one) is on the horizon.
  Somewhere in the distance is Seisia, and beyond that Wroonga Point.

We are only 8km west of Injinoo, but 30km by road.

  From our campsite on the west side of the head we can see some structure on the tip, and a couple of 4wd struggling to get off the beach.

They adopted the "bull in a china shop" approach and took a run at it. Two were successful at the third attempt. A third vehicle became stuck further along the beach, was easily freed, and took a different line of approach. They presumably entered the beach half way along, there's a track.

  RAAF 52 Radar Station Mutee Head. Operational from March 1943 to September 1945.

Transmitted 180kW at 200MHz with a range of 150 miles. Enough to see all the way to New Guinea.

The aerial is 9.5 x 4.5m. Flat, design these days is curved to provide a bit of focus.

38 people to operate, including the commanding officer.

The radar was a British Mk V COL set with an Australian made tower. Chain Overseas Low Flying. There were 10 similar installations in Queensland. This is the only one remaining.

Somewhere are the remains of an 80,000 gallon water tank that contained water pumped from the Jardine River.

  We thought initially a small water tank. But there's a central steel post and a concrete "rail" around the inside of the base.

Its most likely one of two machine gun posts. Apparently boredom may have been a problem for troops. I can imagine the order - "sit in that hole in the ground for 8 hours".

There were two sheds to house diesel engines, the 180kW transmitter would require a lot of diesel.

  A bit of wear and tear on the clay pipes where they cross the track. Perhaps sewage.

The area immediately round the tower has been sprayed. The rest of the area is overgrown.

We retire to our camp. The tower is about 300m for crows, one km along the tracks for us.

  The sun set slowly in the west.
  Next morning we set off to walk the 4km along the beach to the mouth of the Jardine.
  A couple of recent turtle tracks where they have struggled up the beach to lay eggs.

Leatherback turtles apparently. We couldn't decide whether the nest had been disturbed or not. A passing ranger later suggested the turtles back fill the nest and locals may have disturbed it as there was some "sorry business" in Injinu.

The turtle took about 40 paces to reach the nest. We are here a bit early to have much chance of seeing one.

  As we walked along the beach, and the sand became less steep, there were a few birds leap frogging along the water's edge.

Possibly the dark phase of the Eastern Reef Heron.

  The structure we saw in binoculars from our camp is a very solid looking fence.

Its actually the end of the track behind the beach that swings round along the side of the Jardine for a couple of hundred meters.

We wus here graffiti and a recent (10 days) croc sighting that went along the lines of "slept on the beach, saw a croc".

  They had run along the beach in front of us for the last 500m then headed onto the spit.

Three beach stone-curlews. We seem to meet them quite frequently.

  Looking west across the mouth of the Jardine.
  And looking east, that's Mutee Head in the distance. Now we'll walk 4km back to camp.

We've timed our walk well. The major high tide for the day was before we got woke up. A brief pause on the way out around 10am with a very reluctant second high, then the major low around 4pm.

We were able to walk on relatively hard sand. Had we walked on the softer sand, further up the beach, we would have needed a few days to recover.

We saw no crocs.

Which doesn't mean there weren't any.

  This gentleman drove round the end of the fence, and the large notice saying "no vehicles" to launch his boat. The high speed approach to getting off the beach failed, with much wheel spinning and sinking. He had a friend and a long rope. We later re-attached the "no vehicles" sign that had become a discarded casualty of their efforts.

Interesting was watching the ranger earlier who drove along the beach in soft sand. Well practised in the slowly-slowly approach he crawled at snail pace until sensing he was free he stopped to adjust gears.

Jardine River North (Again) June 28 - 30 2019

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