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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Contraband, Chile’s 9/11 and black ops 

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Chris Dewhirst. Photo Jeff ‘Hot Hairs’ Dawson

Putting the life of local adventurer Chris Dewhirst into print would be no easy task. But he’s managed to do it, in part, with Everest Guns & Money.

For those unfamiliar with Chris, he helped to establish commercial hot air ballooning in Australia in 1980, and Byron Bay Ballooning in 2005.

But that’s not all, because from a young age Chris was breaking rock climbing records. In 1972, he helped to introduce commercial rafting to Tassie’s Franklin River. 

His record-breaking habits have continued throughout his life; in 1991, in his second attempt, Chris was part of a crew that made the first successful hot air balloon flight over Mount Everest.

But as his book title, Everest Guns & Money suggests, Chris explores another part of his life – his relationships with those involved in the CIA operation that helped destroy and overthrow Chile’s democratically elected government on September 11, 1973.

Michael Balson describes the book as the ‘best page-turning memoir I’ve ever read’. 

Balson’s review of the book says in part, ‘The story begins in a blizzard at 2,500 feet, on El Capitan in Yosemite California, when Dewhirst hears an aircraft lose power. The inevitable crash, not only kills the aircrew, but also changes the lives of the four climbers who find the wreck. And therein lies a story of avarice and opportunity’.

Kissinger’s role

‘Dewhirst’s memoir is woven through that of his friend and mentor, US Air Force pilot, Colonel Al Morgan, who reveals how Henry Kissinger ordered the execution of General René Schneider, Chile’s head of the military. Schneider supported President Allende’s democratically elected government, and opposed the US control of Chile’s copper mines. 

‘Morgan delivered the assassination weapons in a diplomatic bag to the CIA at the US embassy in Santiago.

‘With Schneider dead, General Pinochet seized power and launched his coup killing thousands of citizens, including the president and his government. 

‘A month after the coup, in October 1973, we find Dewhirst and Colonel Morgan, unlikely friends, air-lifting a load of M16s to Colonel Manuel Noriega in Panama, destined for Chile – and returning with 100 kilos of cocaine and three tons of cannabis’.

And while Balson says Dewhirst is groomed by the CIA’s black ops manager to take over from Morgan, he finds his conscience after meeting his future wife and spy, Bree Martinez at one of the regular dinners with the notorious Noriega. Under Bree’s influence, he sabotages the weapons destined for Santiago. 

Chris says, ‘Although Everest, Guns & Money has been written in the first person – and dramatised for entertainment – it still retains all the factual elements divulged by Colonel Morgan, during our multiple helicopter runs in the autumn of 1973’. 

Launched June 6

Chris says all profits from his book will go to Reforest Now. The book will be launched at The Book Room in Byron on June 6 from 6pm. Reservations can be made via .

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Spanish Film Festival

It’s fiesta time as the 2024 HSBC Spanish Film Festival, presented by Palace Cinemas, prepares to set screens alight with a superb selection of the finest new films from Spain and Latin America. The festival’s largest lineup to date opens nationally in June at Palace Cinemas.

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Driven with soul

Under a different stage name Milo Green is an award-winning songwriter and musician who has supported iconic artists like Diesel, Dragon, Josh Pyke, Glen Shorrock (Little River Band) and more.

Exciting live act

One of Australia’s hottest slide guitarists, Adam Hole is one of the most exciting live acts on the circuit today.