MAIN PICTURE: Prof Tim Flannery interviews Las Balsas raft expedition crewman Hugo Becerra for a History Channel documentary.
MAIN PICTURE: Prof Tim Flannery interviews Las Balsas raft expedition crewman Hugo Becerra for a History Channel documentary. Contributed

Las Balsas crewman to tell his story in new documentary

LAST year, Ballina celebrated the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Las Balsas raft expedition from Ecuador.

This month, a film crew from Great Southern Films and Television's Coast Australia show were in town with one of the raftsmen, Hugo Becerra, filming a documentary about that voyage.

Twelve men of various nationalities sailed from Ecuador to Ballina on three balsa-rafts in 1973, following the prevailing winds and ocean currents.

They had planned to arrive at Mooloolaba as a previous one-raft expedition had in 1970.

A French navy destroyer near one of the Las Balsas rafts on their voyage to Ballina in 1973.
A French navy destroyer near one of the Las Balsas rafts on their voyage to Ballina in 1973.

But a storm blew the rafts in the 1973 voyage south and two of the rafts were towed into the Richmond River by local trawlers, supported by the Royal Australian Navy landing craft, HMAS Labuan.

A composite of the two surviving rafts is on show in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum. Acclaimed author and scientist Professor Tim Flannery interviewed Hugo for the show, which is due to air on pay-TV's History Channel next year.

HMAS Labuan was granted Freedom of Entry to Ballina in 1988 in recognition for its role in the Las Balsas arrival and is scheduled to visit the town next month.

Jenny Danks, from Ballina, provided this photo of the Las Balsas rafts as they arrived in Ballina.
Jenny Danks, from Ballina, provided this photo of the Las Balsas rafts as they arrived in Ballina.

The crew of 19 will exercise their Freedom of Entry to the town on August 2 with a parade, starting about 10.30am.

The Ballina Sub-Section of the Naval Association of Australia and the Ballina-based TS Lismore Australian Navy Cadets will also take part in the parade.

The parade along River St is set to step-off from Moon St and head to the cenotaph.


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