Chapter 10.


Finally, when all the equipment had been doubly checked and made ready for the long and arduous journey, the Cat again arrived from Merauke, and on the 22nd March, 1944, took us for a further 20 minute flight to an uncharted swamp, some seventy miles almost due south of Hollandia.

Viewed from the air, the swamp — for some reason we called it Van Rees lake — looked rather forbidding and appeared to cover an enormous area.  It was bounded on three sides by hills of varying heights and on the north side, towards Hollandia, lay the catchment area of creeks and low lying jungle.  Ahead of that rose a series of low ranges fading into the northern horizon.

The lake was much bigger than expected and we found out later that it had grown considerably in area since the last recce due to torrential rains!  It was most disturbing to see the trees and undergrowth standing deeply in water for a considerable distance to the north, our proposed direction of travel.  A most worrying sight!

The pilot circled a couple of times looking for a clear landing space among the small islands that dotted the deeper water and during the landing preparations we sighted the Dutch party, led by Capt. Van der Vien, who had left the base camp the day before.  They were sitting in rubber dinghies and appeared to be having difficulty locating the shore.  We were soon to find out why!

Eventually the pilot was satisfied that a landing could be made in a clear spot and the aircraft settled with little room to spare and under power circled the swamp for almost an hour in an endeavour to find the shore.  Here we encountered the first of a series of setbacks.  We had decided, before leaving the river, that we would first land on the lake and then taxi as close as possible to firm ground and wade to the shore carrying our gear.  Clearly we could see this was not possible and we were at a loss to decide the next move.

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