In March 1977 six men travelled the Murray River from Albury, N.S.W. to Goolwa, S.A. The trip was completed in 18 days (16½ days river time) using a DeHavilland 13′ Snipe aluminium V-hull dinghy powered by a 20 hp Mercury outboard motor and a 13′ Humber inflatable boat powered by a 40 hp Mercury outboard motor.
The members of the expedition rotated between the boats and the two 4WD support vehicles. A written and photographic record of their expedition was published in the August 1977 editions of Seacraft magazine and Australian Outdoors and Fishing magazine.
This group acknowledged making many elementary mistakes in planning and execution (that will not be enumerated here), despite quality equipment and expertise.
Albury/Wodonga is the natural start point for an expedition of this nature. The river is not considered navigable for power boats above the influence of the Hume Weir. Albury/Wodonga is the first regional centre planned by the Australian Government.
The Murray/Darling river system is the third longest in the world and supports a major tourist industry as well as providing the water for a mammoth irrigation scheme. Fruit and wine growing is centered along the length of the river system. It is highly populated along part of its length and completely wild in other areas.
The Murray Valley Highway and other major roads closely follow the river for much of its length. Bridges, ferries and locks are interspersed along the river. Major towns include:
Echuca: At one time the third busiest port in Australia
Tocumwal: The gliding and ballooning centre of Australia
Swan Hill: Major regional centre
Mildura: Major fruit and wine centre
Renmark: Fruit and wine centre
The Murray River is not a wild river but rather a wide, winding river for most of its length with the hazards being sandbars, snags and the occasional rock outcrop.
After reading of the 1977 record claim we believed we could reduce the record from 16½ days to 10 days. We also intended to compete in the Edwards River Race and Albury to Howlong Race.
The expedition had to occur between early February and early April, dictated by the weather and river conditions and the scheduling of the Edwards River Race and Albury to Howlong Race.
The initial plan was to use six boats loaned by expedition member, painted and signwritten as part of the ‘group identity’ and then restored to original condition (if required by owners).
This would require 12 people ‘on water’ and four in the on land Support Crew.
Eight, large port, 7.5 h.p. Mercury outboards would be required (six on boats and two spares). The Mercury dealer network was adequate along the length of the river.
The boats and equipment would be transported by the support vehicles or by third party operators.
Apart from expedition members driving support vehicles, all other personnel would travel by bus to Albury.
We decided that a crucial aspect of the record breaking attempt was that the boat crews would have to be virtually self-sufficient each day – that is they will carry food, fuel, spares, and tools – with the obvious exception of refuelling.
The boat crews would not race against each other but rather against the clock. The boats and motors would be matched for equal performance throughout the expedition.
The Support Crew would pick up foods, fuel and supplies as required by the boat crews. They would find the overnight campsite and let boat crew know of the rendezvous point. The Support Crew would establish camp.
The preliminary costing estimate of the expedition was $5600 – $400 for each person.