Day 1 – Stanthorpe to Texas

Saturday 13 March 1982

After making a special ‘press run’ for the assembled media on the biggest tributary of the Severn River, Quart Pot Creek, the boats were put onto the bus for the journey to Mingoola Station on the Mole River. This start/re-start point was two kilometres from the Mole River’s junction with the Dumaresq River, 52 kilometres south of Stanthorpe.

Last minute checks took a considerable time but finally the expedition was underway at 12.28 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

For the next 460 kilometres the river (by its various names) forms the border between New South Wales and Quensland.

After a dash down the rocky-bottomed Mole River the boat crews sped out into a flood swollen Dumaresq River (headwaters of the Darling River).

The high banks allowed only occasional glimpses of cleared farming land.  Many irrigation pumps were seen.  Tobacco is one of the major crops of the region as evidenced by the many drying sheds.

It was not intended that the bus follow the boats, merely move from camp to camp.  The 4WD Escort would refuel the boats and Rover would attempt to ascertain suitable routes for the Expedition.  With this in mind the bus crew headed towards Sunnybrook, nine kilometres out of Yelarbon.

Bonshaw Weir, eight kilometres downriver from the hamlet of Bonshaw, is termed a ‘stepped weir’ constructed from steel sheet piling, backfilled with concrete.The weir is 65 metres wide, with an initial drop of approximately 1.6 metres. The floodwaters reduced the drop considerably.

The weir provided anxious moments when my boat filled with water and ‘turned turtle’ at the bottom of the weir while Mark filmed the other boats jumping it.

Mark was caught in the backswirl of the water rushing over the weir and was unable to break free.  Kim made numerous attempts to push the nose of the submerged boat in towards him so he would have something to grasp but all to no avail.  After being sucked under four times (he would not let go of his movie camera) he was finally able to push off the wall and propel himself into calmer water.

The rest of the boat crews had driven to the south bank to meet Tony in Rover and were unaware that the river had very nearly claimed Mark’s life – a situation  that Mark and Kim had difficulty comprehending and even more difficulty reconciling, given the near tragedy.  However, life, and the Expedition, goes on.

It took some time to dry out and re-start Kim’s motor before the Expedition could continue.

Meanwhile the crews took the opportunity to replenish personal energy levels (have a snack) and reflect on their good fortune to find such agreeable water levels.

An aluminium canoe that had been found farther upriver was offloaded to Rover, as were the second fuel tanks and lunch boxes.  All other unnecessary weight was removed from the boats in an effort to coax more speed from them.  Rover departed full to the roof lining.

The weather had been hot and humid all day.  The crew in the bus arrived at Yelarbon and a few kilometres out of the town found their way blocked by the flooded Mackie Creek.  Bob unloaded the Yamaha motorbike, brought for just such an occasion, and headed off towards Sunnybrook to attempt contact with the boat crews – not realising that they would not be arriving.  After a marathon effort – all to no avail – he returned to the bus where Ted was waiting.

Back on the water the various delays caused the day’s run to be shortened.  The overnight stop was brought back to Texas.  As contact could not be made with the bus crew the boat crews were without bedding, cooking facilities or shelter.  It was believed that the bus and its crew were possibly trapped at Yelarbon due to floods but there was no way of confirming this.  The support crew in Escort arrived.  Money was found among all the expeditioners and the support crew was despatched to the local fish and chip shop.  They arrived back with sustenance and a large tarpaulin for shelter that had been arranged by the local Police.

SUMMARY OF PROGRESS

Departed Mole River 1228
Entered Dumaresq River 1232
Bonshaw Weir (fuel) 1514
Re-start from Bonshaw Weir 1603
Texas Bridge (overnight) 1648
   
Running Time 2 hours 55 mins
Refuelling  49 mins
Delays 36 mins
TOTAL TIME 4 hours 20 mins
   
Distance 79 kilometres
Average Speed 27.1 kmh

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