I had a great night’s sleep, and had also been given the use of the wifi for flight planning which was incredibly helpful. I was running half a day ahead of schedule now, so when Peter and Sharon offered to drive me around Lord Howe Island so I could see some of the sights, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d only been expecting to make a short fuel stop here originally, so getting to see the island was a real treat. After breakfast at theirs, Peter and I met with the fueler Gower to fill the airplane; I wanted to catch him before he left, as the commercial flight due in that morning had been cancelled because of the poor conditions on the mainland. This done, we collected Sharon and set off to have a look around.
Lord Howe Island is not short of history to learn about. The first reported sighting was made in 1788. Shortly thereafter, it was claimed as a British possession and became a provisioning stop for the whaling industry, being permanently settled from 1834. With the decline of the whaling industry in the 1880s, the main trade became the export of kentia palms. These days, the primary income is tourism. The island is a UNESCO world heritage site, and tourism is limited to a maximum of 400 beds to help preserve the island’s fairly pristine condition.
Sharon and Peter introduced me to the story of Sir Francis Chichester’s successful attempt to be the first to fly solo across the Tasman Sea in 1931, a very fitting tale to hear about during my much less challenging flight in the opposite direction to his. After having his Gipsy Moth aircraft shipped to New Zealand, he had it fitted with borrowed floats and set out to cross via Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. The trip as far as Lord Howe went smoothly, but overnight on April 1st a storm blew up, flipping and wrecking his aircraft which was moored in the lagoon. The islanders persuaded him to repair it and continue, and pitched in to help with the process over the next couple of months; eventually he finished the flight to Australia.
We dropped two of their guests at the bicycle rental shop, and headed north. There are not a lot of roads on the island. The furthest north we could drive was Old Settlement Beach, which had great views of the bay that’s protected by the world’s southernmost coral reef, and from here we slowly worked our way south along the island. They told me all about how bureaucrats had banned the local beef and milk production for decades, before realising they had read the rules wrong, as well as about the new solar farm that was planned to provide a large chunk of the islands power. The side effect would be that the greatly reduced diesel shipments would push up the shipping price for everything else. We stopped at the museum to check out some of the historical exhibits, many based around aviation which has played a major role in the stories of a remote location like this. All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport, and get on the move again.
After final farewells, I backtracked down runway 10 and took off heading east to Norfolk Island. Before setting course for my destination, though, I flew south to see “Ball’s Pyramid”; the tallest volcanic stack in the world, at 562m high and only 1,100m long. It was well worth the detour! I retraced my steps for a last look at the island, and turned east. The remote communication outlet on the island made VHF communication with Brisbane easy, but as I reached cruising altitude and slowly made my way out of range, my efforts to communicate with the HF radio proved as futile as the day before. This was something that would definitely have to be taken care of before the longest of the Pacific legs.
With the HF issues, I fell back onto the usual relays via airliners. Auckland Control were very pro-active and lined up a couple of airliners, for me to call and relay at specific times. Velocity 1, Cathay 198, and Air Canada 34 all chatted to me as they passed overhead, with Air Canada passing me the latest weather report. Half way along, Air New Zealand 763 departed from Norfolk and passed over me at FL300 – I also spotted United flight 842 on the ADS-B and was able to get in touch with them for a message relay. I could clearly see them above me as they passed overhead on their way towards the USA.
As I drew closer to the island, the unicom operator called me up and passed the latest weather. It was a straight-in approach to 11, touching down gently on the long runway and taxiing to the terminal. Despite being part of Australia, one has to follow the standard bio-security and immigration procedures that one would need when arriving internationally, and I had made sure to be in touch with the airport a few days in advance to make sure I had all my paperwork in order, and that they’d be expecting me. Bio-security and immigration were indeed waiting for me, and I held up my insecticide cans to show that I’d used them, before being given the all clear to open the door.
Bio-security wandered straight off, satisfied, and Kevin from immigration took my passport off to do something or other with it. I secured the aircraft, covered it up, and headed in to find Kevin. He’d finished his paperwork, and also prepared the documents that I’d need the following morning for departure; and then proceeded to give me a lift to the hotel! A very welcoming and helpful man.
The Paradise Hotel and Resort had kindly given me a room a fair distance away from the party of travel agents who were there for some kind of celebration, and were apparently enjoying themselves at great volume. Given my lack of car I elected to eat at the hotel restaurant that evening. The meal was excellent, and I got chatting to a couple from New Zealand at the next table who were on one of their regular holidays to Norfolk island. They were interested to hear about the flight, gave some suggestions of where to go in New Zealand, and even donated some money to African Promise which was a pleasant surprise! I showered as efficiently as possible, as the island was under sever drought with water being flown in, and retired to bed after a couple of glasses of wine.
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