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March 2, 2021

Las Balsas anniversary

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Lisa Sharpe, now a photographer in her own right, appears in this family photo at the arrival of the Las Balsas rafts at Ballina in 1973. Photo Anne Sharpe


Today, May 27, marks 40 years since three remarkable craft, the Las Balsas rafts, left Ecuador on their way to Australia. Thousands of well-wishers lined the port of Guayaquil.

The rafts eventually landed in Ballina in November 1973 after a non-stop journey with no loss of life.

The historic journey, the longest raft trip ever, is an important part of maritime history and one of the original rafts, Aztlán, is in the Maritime Museum in Ballina.

Local entrepreneur and Greens member Tony Gilding is working on preparations for celebrations to mark the anniversary of their arrival.

Mr Gilding told Echonetdaily, ‘anyone who has not seen the DVD should visit the museum and watch this first class account of an incredible human achievement’.

He added, ‘it is also worth recalling Navigator Gabriel Salas’ comment, “Instead of being forgotten, the Aztlán could be seen by thousands of people; used as an educational material and, by becoming one of the important tourist attractions of Ballina and Byron Bay, generate additional income for local business and for the Museum itself.”’

‘This comment was made in 2008 and it appears Ballina is gradually waking up to the opportunity this gift from the sea has given us,’ Mr Gilding said.


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  1. Since my kids were little we spent many happy hours at the Maritime Museum and around the raft. Watch the DVD, walk around the craft and let your imagination sail. It’s a great community resource no one seems to know about. Years later, we still get a kick out of it. If you haven’t been, or haven’t been for a while, go make an outing of it. It’s fun, inspirational and just an all around cool experience.


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