6 am Monday morning and the sky was overcast in Lucinda. The rays of early sun created ‘fingers of God’ streaming down over Hinchinbrook Island. It seemed appropriate that, on a day we were hiking up to the wreck of the ‘Texas Terror‘, the weather should be sombre as well. The B24 Liberator bomber crashed into Mt Straloch on 18 December 1942. It took almost a year for any trace of the aircraft to be found.
Eleven of us boarded the ferry for the short journey across the Hinchinbrook Channel to begin our eight hour hike. Capt Lyle Cooke, one of the ‘elder statesmen’ of Qantaslink, was leading the walk. (We’ve renamed him ‘Mountain Goat’…) It was his sixth visit to the crash site. The rest were an assortment of aviation enthusiasts and/or bushwalkers. Plus the newly engaged couple, Shaun and Jordanna! Congratulations to them!! (I think they may have been walking on air.)
The journey up the mountain was tough for me – short legs, not so fit any more and a tendency to talk when I should be saving my breath for something more meaningful… The Wait-a while or lawyer vine was rife up the sides of the gorge and it lived up to its name, sinking its tiny spiteful teeth into anything that came close. The rocks were more like boulders and the angle just got steeper the higher we went. The upside was the company, the views, the amazing rainforest with its delicate orchids and moss and, of course, the final resting place of the Texas Terror.
I pulled the pin on hauling myself up the rope to the actual impact site as much of the wreck is spread around the hill slope below it. Hard to image that a versatile machine and its crew was destroyed in seconds, strewn down a hillside, with no chance of survival for the men. My mum lost two brothers during World War II in aircraft, so for me it was a poignant reminder of how fragile their existence had been. The Texas Terror crashed on its first flight on duty headed north to Lockhart River.
The trip down was bathed in filtered sunlight and the view was even more magnificent. Lucinda Pier – 5.8 km of conveyor belt for bulk loading sugar – stretched out across the azure water. The Hinchinbrook Channel floated serene and unruffled with Orpheus Island in the background.
Ten hours later with aching legs, shorts irreparably stained from sliding down on my back-side and a huge sense of achievement, I was back in the boat with the rest of the group. Those not driving home cracked the top off celebratory bottles of beer. The mozzies, the march flies and the potential crocodiles (the girls lead the way through the mangroves just incase…) hadn’t deterred us.
About fifty people a year make the journey up to the site and I think it’s fitting that Hinchinbrook Island keeps the resting place of the Texas Terror safe.