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Missing A34-47 Dragon

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          The following is a description of a search which two friends and I recently conducted at Wiarborough NSW. This is one of several that I have conducted, and is unusual in that it was conducted outside of the Nattai locality. 

                                                          WIARBOROUGH GAP

 

Date:  Sat 2 - Wed 6 Mar 02.

 

  Location:  Wiarborough Gap, Wiarborough NSW.

 

Map Ref:  Richlands 8829-2-N 1:25 000, GR637063

 

Searchers:  Peter, Mace and Rod.

 

Background:  A Jan 02 discussion with another searcher revealed that an old aircraft wheel had allegedly been found in 1972 at Wiarborough Gap, approx 67 km north of Goulburn, NSW.  It was reported that the wheel had been sighted in Wiarborough Creek (inside the Gap), by a wilderness country fisherman. The fisherman, intrigued by the unusual nature of the find was reported to have placed the wheel on a nearby rock for later retrieval; (never retrieved).

 

          The wheel was reported in 1982 after the finders son read an article written about the missing A34-47 by a RAAF Historian. The report led to a search being conducted by the Historian and others of the immediate surrounds where the wheel had been sighted. The wheel was not sighted, although another item resembling a steel drum lid was located nearby. Subsequent investigation into the origin of this item showed that it was not a structural component of a Dragon type aircraft, and most likely had been discarded from a nearby farm

 

          On the basis of the above (and other research conducted into this matter), I decided to conduct a wider more expansive search of the Gap (with a metal detector), mainly for purposes of determining if any further items of interest could be located. Such action could assist to provide a more definitive answer as to whether A34-47 had crashed in the locality.

 

Details of search: 

 

Sat 2 Mar  

 

          Departed Brisbane at 5.30 am. Arrived Morrisset (Central Coast NSW) at 7.30 pm, and camped overnight at Morrisset CVan Pk.

 

Sun 3 Mar

 

          Packed up camp and departed Morrisset at 0730 am. Arrived Goulburn at midday. Met Mace & Rod outside McDonalds at 2 pm, then drove to Wiarborough via Taralga. Arrived at Wiarborough at 3.30 pm, and set up camp on a property at foot of the Gap; (with prior permission of property owner).

 

The gorge was impressive to look at from our campsite, with steep blue walls running down into a deep canyon.

 

Photo 1: Wiarborough Creek showing rock where the aircraft wheel was allegedly found.

 

After setting up camp, we left camp about 4 pm to get a closer look at the Gap (gorge), and to ascertain the best means of entry for the following days search. Entered Gap via creek, and walked through thick scrub along base of the walls. During walk in, saw one half of a green poly canoe which lay smashed in on some rocks about 100m into the gorge. Unable to locate other half of the canoe.

 

After approx 20 mins of battling scrub and large boulders along the creek, we located the rock where the aircraft wheel was allegedly placed 1972, (GR 635064). Commenced a search of the first of two main gullies to the immediate north of our position, (both having been previously searched in 1982).

 

This 1st gully was exceptionally steep, and for most parts we had to crawl up on our hands and knees. Didnt hold much hope of seeing any debris at this point, as large tree trunks firmly wedged between boulders clearly showed that floodwaters rushing down the gully would have scoured any bits of aircraft out long ago.

 

Photo 2 -  Rod about to ascend the first gully, (note the creekbank!)

 

          After reaching the top, we traversed along the northern main ridge to the summit. View was brilliant, and also provided a good opportunity to orientate map to ground.

 

Photo 3 -  View towards camp from mountain on N side of Gap.

 

           From top of the mountain, we identified a better way out than to return via the gully we had ascended, and descended via a goat/pig trail on E side. Returned to camp just on dark. The advantage of a base camp is that you dont have to eat dried food, which generally isnt that appealing. Mace heated up a top Thai curry which he had brought along, and was well received by all.

 

          About 10 pm, we were sitting around the campfire talking when we noted it was rather quiet around camp. Using two Dolphin torches, Mace and I scanned the beams around camp, noting three sets of eyes roughly positioned in a triangular formation around our camp. The first set belonged to a wild dog, which we initially thought was a fox. About 15m opposite was what appeared to be a Dingo.  The dog at the top of the triangle was approx 25m away, being too far out of the torchlight to make out anything but its eyes, (although they were a fair height off the ground!)  As there were a flock of sheep in the top corner of the paddock (about 200m from our camp), it appears the dogs had entered the paddock to attack them, but had been put off by our presence; (and were now checking us out to see what sort of threat we presented). They left after several minutes, but were sighted about 15 mins later, further out between us and the sheep. We got into the car to chase them off, but they took off when I started the engine, and we didnt see them after that. (A visit by the property owner the following day confirmed that they could not have been farm dogs, as farmers in the area maintained a strict policy of securing their dogs at night). 

 

Mon 4 Mar

 

           Our objective for the day was to scale Mt. Fatigue and search N along the top and sides of the mountain, then curve SW along the ridgeline to arrive at (and search), the second gully. After completing this task, we had a rest break on the creek bank about midday, (near the rock at GR 635064).  Mace & Rod explored around the rocks on the other side of the creek, while I searched through thick scrub areas along the creekbank with the metal detector. Approx 200m downstream, I located an old blue life jacket and took a photo; (after locating a broken canoe and a lifejacket, one can only ponder upon the fate of the canoeist!)

 

Photo 4 -  Life jacket/buoyancy vest found on sandbar in creek.

 

About 1pm we continued downstream and cooked lunch (baked beans), on a large flat rock near the creek bank; (approx GR629066). We then continued N and crossed the creek at GR630072. Some areas along the steeper hillsides we simply scanned with field glasses, as there was no way of safely getting up along the base of the cliffs from the river.

 

Vegetation was extremely thick near the creek, and at one stage we had to crawl through a pig tunnel on our hands and knees. About halfway along the 20m curved tunnel I was forced to stop for a small black snake which didnt want to move.  Despite our best efforts, the snake slid under a thick layer of matting on the tunnel floor, and we were unable at that point to shift it. We couldnt crawl forwards or backwards (due to the tight tunnel and backpacks), and were therefore forced to wait until I had carefully completed my check of the matting with a stick. It didnt take long to clear the spot, although we couldnt stop laughing at the time about the situation of being stuck in the tunnel, and wondering what would happen if a pig decided to use it.

 

            After exiting the scrub tunnel, we commenced our climb of a steep ridge in a E direction towards the summit of Mt. Fatigue. This was a particularly demanding climb (even with the lighter daypacks), and we were very glad to reach the top. We crossed over the summit, and then proceeded back to camp.

 

            The camp was a welcome site after the days slog over the mountain. Mace and Rod drove to Taralga in Maces Commodore to buy supplies. I stayed back at camp to talk to the property owner who was present on our return, having stopped by to see how the search was going.

 

Tues 5 Mar

 

Our final objective was to ascend the mountain W of our campsite. The climb over this 4.5 km long mountain (approx) was effected to enable best possible access to the gullies on the S side of the Gap; (entry via the creek was not considered a viable option due to the steep rocky cliffs on the S face of the Gap).  Following our ascent of the mountain, we proceeded along a lightly timbered ridge to a point at GR629059, then proceeded downwards along the gully at GR627063.

 

Photo 5 -  Looking into wilderness NW from GR629064.

 

On our way down the gully we followed part of an old marked trail, and also noted that many areas we covered appeared to be regrowth from old farms.  Both were indicative that there was little point searching any further on that side. This effectively completed our search, so we proceeded SE along the ridgeline back to camp, where we arrived at 9.15 am.

 

Mace and Rod packed their gear and departed for Melbourne approx 9.30 am. I filled in the camp fire after Mace & Rod left, using the remainder of my chlorine soaked (Puritabs) drinking water to put it out. The chlorine tabs had been handy to have along, although the taste of the chlorinated water wasnt anything special.

 

The trip home:  

 

Finished packing and drove out about 10.30 am. Stopped to say goodbye to the property owner on the way out, and thanked him for letting us stay on his property. As fuel in my car was low, drove to Westpac at Goulburn to get money, (card not working properly in machine, money had to be obtained from a bank). Refuelled the Corona at Goulburn, and ate lunch at McDonalds.

 

            Entered outskirts of Sydney about 2.30 pm, however instead of continuing north, I took the Camden exit and travelled west to have a look at Werombi. Apart from a church and school hall, the old town doesn't exist anymore, (so I was unable to locate the old Post Office). Continued through Wallacia via Penrith, and onto the expressway to Sydney.

 

            Arrived at Port Macquarie approx 11.15 pm, and camped overnight.

 

Wed 6 Mar

 

           Departed Port Macquarie about 10.30 am, and drove home along the Pacific Hwy.

 

Further information:

 

The fact that the creek runs into Wiarborough Gap, and regrowth areas existant on the S side of the Gap strongly appears to confirm  that wreckage of A34-47 is not located in vicinity of Wiarborough Gap.

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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