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INTRODUCTION TO THE BINTANG SIANG

For many years Singapore was the base for British activities, both military and commercial. Part of this area extended from Borneo, Malaysia, the New Guinea group and the extensive chain of Indone­sian islands. Britain’s commercial and military activities were well known and documented. What was not published, was the existence of a well-organized and wide spread system of contacts and spies all feeding information to and from Singapore.

As the Japanese armed forces moved through and captured island af­ter island in the Pacific this system was in jeopardy. When Singapore fell into Japanese hands in 1942, the British spy system and intelli­gence activity was inoperable. With the Japanese forces controlling the areas north to Burma, the only possible base would be to the south, in Australia.

Britain’s MI6 and Australia’s SIA (Secret Intelligence Australia) had­ worked together in the area from New Guinea to the Indonesian chain of islands. SIA had a secret base at Snake Bay on Melville island out of Darwin but had no boat capable of moving around amongst Indo­nesian fishing and trading boats and Japanese naval ships for months on end, without raising suspicion with the locals or the Japanese.

SIA only had one small workboat 50ft. long called the ‘Lady Emma’. She was used to take stores and personnel from a base in Brisbane up to the Lugger Maintenance Section in Darwin. From there, all move­ment of goods and people was secret. SIA decided that a small Indonesian style fishing boat could move around unnoticed. She must be able to fish with the other boats, go into ports, sell her catch, take on stores and food and go for months without taking on fuel or water. Some of the crew had to be Indone­sian and pass the scrutiny of the Japanese and any locals collaborat­ing with the Japanese.

The Australian and American Air Forces took aerial photographs of typical Indonesian fishing praus and through the SIA system, an ex­perienced boat builder was found on the island of Serua. Along with three other experienced fishermen, they were picked up by a British submarine and brought to Brisbane. They were secretly billeted with the parents of David Garland who later became second in command of this proposed strange new ves­sel. They were dressed in American uniforms which made them very proud and which concealed their true identity and purpose.

The Spy Ship – ‘Bintang Siang’ – A Glimpse into Her History Compiled by Spencer Fearnside

The well-established and respected boat builders, Norman Wright of Bulimba, Brisbane was selected for this top secret job. Local timbers were used but the finished job had to be typically Indonesian in every way and detail for a Makassan prau. She was a two-masted double ender, 42ft. long, 12ft. beam with a gross tonnage of 25 tons and a draught of 7ft.

The 12ft. long bowsprit was a squared beam. Solid sides ran the full length of the vessel and onto an extended afterdeck which was the crews’ lavatory. A big, heavy wooden rudder had a stock extending up through the rear deck with a tiller arm for manual steering. The anchor rope made of vine was three inches in diameter.

There was a low coach-house at the after-end to give access to the en­gine room and a big open compartment that was the living and opera­tional heart of the boat. A forward hatch led down to a sleeping cabin with four bunks. The two masts were heavy and held in place by steel stays covered in lawyer vine shrouds to give a genuine native appearance.

The decks were an odd assortment of timbers in varying lengths, widths and colours. Acid was poured over all metals to give them an old weather-beaten look. The sails were old discards from a pearling lugger with rungs of bamboo. Ropes were made from plaited lawyer vine cane. Braziers and native cooking utensils were scattered around the deck along with fishing gear.

Machinery:

There was a great shortage of engines during the war, so she was powered by a Southern Cross 4 cylinder 40hp diesel engine built by the Toowoomba Foundry. This gave a speed of 6 knots, coupled with very large fuel tanks, giving an operating range of around 4000 miles. Together with large capacity water tanks, the ‘Bintang’ could stay in enemy territory for months without refuelling, looking like any other Indonesian fishing boat, anchoring close to villages and trading for stores without raising suspicion.

Armament:

On board were three Browning 4.5 calibre machine guns, two Bren guns and two 2 inch mortars, as well as an assortment of submachine guns, two revolvers per man, shot guns and a variety of explosives. The coach house on a prau is usually a long, low deckhouse giving access to the cargo hold. On the ‘Bintang’, the port side of the coach house could be dropped down, uncovering a machine gun. In the bul­warks there were innocent looking holes designed to take the trench mortars that were stored below in the main hold.

Radios:

The ‘Bintang’ carried several types of very high quality radio equipment, with-power supply generated by the main engine.:. After the keel was laid, a part-of the Norman Wright boatshed was screened off to keep prying eyes off this unusual looking craft. The design had been worked out by SIA, Norman Wright’s people and the Indonesian boat builder, Romulus Ursea who could not speak English and had to work through an interpreter. The launching, trials and commissioning of the ‘Bintang Siang’ were all done under the cover of darkness. The selection of the name ‘Bintang Siang’ was in keeping with her future role as a spy vessel. It is said to mean Morn­ing Star, a star capable of moving around in daylight without being visible and seeing everything.

When she was ready to go to sea, the crew had no real idea how she would handle or how seaworthy she was. Food, fuel and water were taken on board, plus ammunition and all the special equipment needed for a spy ship going into action. She slipped unnoticed out of

Brisbane and headed up to Cairns, to be topped up with fuel and sup­ plies, and then straight up to Melville Island. As she looked like a for­eign vessel, she never came into Darwin. At that time Japanese recon­ naissance planes patrolled the Darwin area very regularly and their bombers flew over this area to destroy any military activity or rebuilt airfields and allied shipping. A small Indonesian fishing boat an­chored occasionally in a bay at Melville Island and a long way from Darwin was of little interest to Japanese aerial patrols who had more important targets.

There was a Catholic mission on Melville Island and they, in con­ junction with the aboriginal Tiwi tribe, helped to store goods and equipment and hide people being transferred to and from the Indone­sian area.

THE CREW

The original crew was a mixed Australian and Indonesian one:

Captain: Lieut. Lach Nicolson RANVR

First Officer: Lieut. Graham Garland

Radio Officer: Sgt. Fred Fowler RAAF

Boson: Romulus Ursea

Seamen: Carlos Pelmalay, Lonei Ga Matis Pelmalay & Pete Tutkey

Captain Lach (Lachlan) Nicolson

His family bought the lease on Lindeman Island in Queensland in 1929 when Lach was 11 years old. They began by running cattle and sheep on the island. But as more and more people wanted to visit Lindeman, they began taking on tourists and that rapidly became their major enterprise. Lach grew up with boats as they were a vital link to the mainland. He had a natural affinity and ability for anything to do with boats. By the age of fourteen, he had so much experience that his father would al­low him to do the run from Lindeman Island to Shute Harbour and back as skipper with the boat loaded with tourists and stores.

SIA had a well concealed training base on a remote part of Lindeman Island which the Nicolsons became aware of. Lach used to go over and watch and was invited to take part in their various boating activi­ties including manning of their boats. Lach’s boating skills came to the SIA notice and he was of­fered the opportunity of becoming a member of SIA which he ac­cepted and enlisted.

When the ‘Bintang Siang’ project was being planned, SIA was look­ing for a person who could be involved in all aspects from day one-in planning, right through to being ship’s master in wartime action. They chose Lach Nicolson and he moved to Brisbane.

One of his biggest challenges was to learn to speak Indonesian, along with their dress, habits and customs. He adapted to this and became very fluent and knowledgeable about what was to be the vitally im­portant area the ‘Bintang Siang’ was going to work in. There are no records of his wartime service as the British MI6 secret service covered the ‘Bintang Siang’s activities and all these records are still held in secret in the United Kingdom.

After the war ended Lach bought the ‘Bintang Siang’ back to Linde­man Island where she was left anchored at the SIA base. During the war, Lindeman was only allowed a tiny boat as all larger boats were commandeered for wartime use. An offer was made to buy the ‘Bintang Siang’ which was accepted and she became the is­land boat with Lach as the skipper.

Lach spoke very fondly of the ‘Bintang’ but she was really not suit­able for the budding tourist industry. Later the ‘Shangri La’ came up for sale. She was a much larger boat, better appointed and much more suited to the tourist trade. She had been General Macarthur’s floating base in the Pacific during the war-her fame and history were desir­able assets in the tourist industry. Lindeman bought the ‘Shangri La’ and Lach took over as her skipper, doing the job he loved best.

The ‘Bintang Siang’ lay at anchor off the resort for some time until she was sold. Apparently Lach spoke very little about the war. Possibly because some memories were painful, and partly because he was asked to maintain secrecy on some aspects of his wartime operations. He was awarded a wartime MBE but sadly was killed in car accident in 1980. His son, Roy Nicolson was living in the UK and tried to get information on his operations and the reason he was awarded a·war-time MBE but was told that the files were classified.

Second in Command David Garland

He lived with his parents in Kitchener Road, Ascot, Brisbane where the Indonesian crew were later billeted. He spoke fluent Indonesian and had to ensure that there was no contact between the crew and other Indonesians for security reasons. He remained 2IC of the ‘Bintang Siang’ through her wartime days. After the war he wrote some very interesting stories about some of the Bintang’s activities but no proper history In the later years he lived at Paradise Waters on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

LAC Fred Fowler was transferred from the RAAP to act as the vi­ tally important radio officer. Unfortunately there is no mention of his involvement.

Romulus Ursea was a boat-builder from Serua Island in the Ban­dar Sea who understood the design and construction of a Makassan fishing prau and was sympathetic to the Allied cause. SIA and MI6 arranged for he and other Indonesian crew members to be picked  up by a British submarine and brought to Brisbane. He was responsible for the infinite detail required in the building of the ‘Bintang’ which would allow her to move around unchallenged under the watchful In­donesian and Japanese eyes.

Carlos Pelmalay, Matis Pelmalay, Lonei Ga & Pete Tut­key were all part of the crew who had to present the face of simple fishermen whilst in enemy waters with the Australian officers hidden below decks. All these men did a wonderful job but there is no men­tion of them anywhere or how they got home.

WARTIME HISTORY AND STORIES

Unlike the commando and Z forces there is no wartime history of the ‘Bintang Siang’. All records and history are still held by MI6 in Britain. It is unfortunate that Lach Nicolson did not keep and circulate details of the ‘Bintang’s wartime service before he died.

David Garland has written a very informative article for the NSW Z Force newsletter for their commando group. Also T W Vear has written an article “An Intelligence Operation”, a copy of which follows.

There are stores of how the ‘Bintang Siang’ would sail through wa­ters patrolled by the Japanese Navy and into harbours and moor alongside other local boats. Reconnaissance would be carried out and a few days later, she would sail out with other fishing boats and leave them during the night. Twice Japanese patrol boats came alongside and questioned the Am­bonese crew whilst the Australians were concealed in the hold.

In 1944 the ‘Bintang’ went on a special mission known as Bazo0ka to the island of Selam in which the Fairmile group was involved but her involvement was not officially recorded. David Garland has written “At one time the three Australian members of the ‘Bintang’s crew were on full alert. One of the SIA’s Indonesian operatives was taken into Java on a solo mission. He defected to the Japanese and told them all he knew. Fortunately he had not seen the ‘Bintang Siang ‘and could not describe her but was able to give good information on the Australians. He was shot by a person sent to Java just for that job.

We were alerted by Central Bureau, an American code cracking organization stationed at Gabba Street. Brisbane told us that they had broken Japanese signal which was sent to all Pacific units. We three ‘Bintang’ crew members were described and a price was put on

our head. All Japanese units were told to capture us and send us to Tokyo by the fastest possible means. There was no doubt in our minds that we would be questioned in the most brutal manner before the visit from the sword!

At one stage Lieut. Trevor Vear joined the “Bintang’ for a mission in 1944 to act as navigator and has written a most interesting account of a trip to the island of Serua, 100 miles south of Ambon to land 3 Indonesian operators who had been trained and bring back 3 other persons for training with SIA in Australia.

An I11 Intelligence Operation’ by Trevor Vear

In December 1944 whilst serving on MIA29, when stationed in Dar­win, I agreed to a request from the Naval Officer in Charge, to act as navigator for an operation to be conducted by the Australian Intelli­gence Bureau. Considerable time elapsed after the request had been made and I had completely forgotten about the commitment. I was therefore surprised to be awakened by our watch keeper around 4am one morning with the report that a small boat was awaiting alongside and a naval offi­cer, Lieut Nicolson whom I had met on a previous operation, wished to speak to me.

Lieut. Nicolson said he understood I had offered to join him on a particular assignment and that he would wait until I collected my gear. He said we would probably be away for about a week. No other information was given to me at the time. After leaving Darwin Harbour I was told we were going to Snake Bay on Melville Island where we would find the boat on which we were to undertake our assignment.

The boat turned out to be a small ketch supposedly built on the lines of a Japanese fishing boat but in fact bore more resemblance to a floating bath tub. Its name was ‘Bingtang Siang’ or translated from Indonesian ‘Happy Star’.

The boat had a small diesel motor, sails and two Browning machine guns which were concealed on a mounting below deck. There were no bulkheads between fore and aft and the air hung heavily with diesel oil, cooking fat and cigarette smoke. I was introduced to an RAAF sergeant who was to be the radio operator for the voyage and a num­ber of Indonesians. It was explained that our assignment was to land three of these Indonesians who had received intelligence training, on the island of Serua, their homeland, which was approximately 100 miles south of Ambon and to bring back and equal number of recruits for training.

It took us about three days to reach the island which is a lone vol­canic outcrop far removed from any other land. All was quiet as we approached the island. Indeed we became increasingly apprehensive that no-one appeared from the shore despite continuous shouting by the Indonesians as we approached the island. However after some delay, people came from everywhere in all kinds of craft and we had to use every measure to stay afloat as they strug­gled to come aboard.

It quickly became apparent that the lack of wel­come was due to the fact that the Japanese had been there the previ­ous day and taken away several young men and women. Lieut. Nicolson had a good command of the Indonesian language and following discussion with one of the local officials, we were asked to come ashore at a specific point in about an hour. To our amazement on reaching the landing place, there was a red carpet about 1Oft wide and 30ft long heading up the track and on each side a flute band had been assembled.

As we stepped ashore they played our National Anthem followed promptly by the Dutch Na­tional Anthem. We were then introduced to a number of dignitaries and informed that the Chief and the rest of the island’s people were waiting for us at the top. As we proceed it was explained that the Chief and a number of sub­ chiefs had been educated at Dutch universities and that the island population worked strictly on a communal basis. Before getting too far along the track, we were invited into a sub­ chief’s hut and presented with a large glass of Seruan whisky (distilled from coconut juice) and some of the largest bananas I have ever seen. These obviously thrived in the volcanic soil and were a wonderful sight after being without fresh fruit for some time.

In the excitement of the reception, we completely overlooked the damaging effect it might have on us. It was clear however, that our hosts would have been grossly offended if we had not drained our glasses in unison with them. This procedure was repeated many times as we wound our way upwards and by the time we got to the top to be greeted by the Chief and his people assembled on a small football ground, we had difficulty arising to the occasion. Nevertheless, Lieut. Nicolson mustered all his mental reserves to give a reply in Indonesian to the Chief’s address of welcome.

That is about all we remembered until we woke up on board about 48 hours later with our lips, tongues and throats burned and swollen from the native whisky. We had been under instruction to break WT silence to report our arrival but this was completely overlooked with the result that we were put on the missing list. Our radio operator had also succumbed to the hospitality of the islanders. The islanders were extremely friendly and well-disposed to the allied cause. They had managed to save a number of airmen from Liberators, Flying Fortresses and other planes which had crashed nearby after raids on Ambon and Surabaya. These had been put aboard friendly submarines. They also took great pride in showing us the graves of those who did not survive which they had hidden in dense jungle so they would not be discovered by the Japanese.

The return trip was quite eventful excepting it spanned Christmas Eve and even our new Indonesian friends were happy to join in the carol singing. We were very disappointed when our colleagues in Darwin refused our Christmas gifts of Seruan whisky notwithstanding the scarcity of alcohol.

Vear, TWJ (Trevor), b 1922.

Joined RANR as Ordinary Seaman 1942 Commissioned as Sub-lieut 1943

HMAS Rushcutter (Fairmile a/s Course) 1943

Served HMA ML 429 as First Lieut. (Australia, North Western Area) 1943-45

HMAS Moreton for Allied Intelligence Bureau (Java) 1945-46 Demobilised 1946, Lieutenant.

War Ends & Lindeman Island

When the war ended in September 1945, the ‘Bintang Siang’ was brought back to the SIA training base at Lindeman Island. As boats of any consequence had been taken over by the Armed Ser­vices, Lindeman Island only had one small boat. The ‘Bintang’ lay at anchor for a while and as Lach knew her capa­bilities, the Nicolsons’ made an offer to buy her from SIA. Their offer was accepted and the ‘Bintang Siang’ became the official Lindeman Island boat.

Skippered by Lach, she did the cargo and passenger runs from Mac­kay and the tourist runs sightseeing and fishing around Lindeman Is­land. The ‘Bintang’ was neither built or fitted out for its tourist role so when a bigger and more suitable boat, the ‘Shangri La’ came up for sale, they bought it. The ‘Shangri La’ had been used as a floating base by General MacAr­thur for a period during the Pacific War and had all the requirements and luxury for tourism as well as being a famous drawcard. So once again, the ‘Bintang Siang’ lay at anchor mainly unused.

What Happened to Bintang Sian.

DRARMUID JENNINGS

The next owner was an Irish born Australian engineer, Drarmuid Jennings and his wife Isabel. With a crew they set off to sail to New Zealand and use the ‘Bintang’ as a charter boat for pleasure cruises. A cyclone off Lord Howe Island put an end to that venture and they returned to Newcastle. At that stage, the ‘Bintang’ was still in its war-time configuration of twin masts, low coach house and high bulwarks.

ADRIAN SCHUMANS

He bought the ‘Bintang’ for private use and moved her up to Cleve­land, Queensland.

PETER MONAGHAN

The name Peter Monaghan burst into the headlines in 1962 when he was involved in a dispute over a warrant issued for his arrest. This in­volved the Commonwealth Police who were working for the Taxation Office.

Monaghan was looking for a vessel that could stay at sea for months and bought the ‘Bintang’ for that purpose. He took on enough fuel for a 4,000 mile voyage, water for a year and as much food and provisions as could be stored. He brought his wife and family on board, headed to sea and just dis­appeared.

After some time, reports started to come in that he was coming into various ports up and down the Queensland coast to hurriedly buy food and provisions and sneak out beyond the three mile territorial limit and sail onto another area. At one stage, a seaman from the dredger ‘Trinity Bay’ in Cairns did clandestine deliveries of food to the ‘Bintang’ at sea off Cairns

There were lots of romantic and unconfirmed stories of how Mona­ghan was continually hiding and making fools of the authorities. It was said that the ‘Bintang Siang’ was heavily armed and carried the latest radio equipment. At one stage an Air force plane found the ‘Bintang’ and fired warning shots alongside her to frighten Mona­ghan into going back to the nearest port, but it took more than that to frighten him. In the ‘Bintang’ he continued to roam the coast from Maryborough to north of Port Douglas until an engine failure near Portland Roads stopped him.

Passing fishing boats went to look at this unusual foreign-looking boat and it’s description and location soon got back to the authorities. A boat with police was dispatched from Cairns, Monaghan was ar­rested and he and his family were all brought back to Cairns. Mona­ghan was later sent south to stand trial. The ‘Bintang Siang’ was towed back to Cairns and left at anchor near Woodnuts Slip at Smith’s Creek. At low tide she sat in the mud and began to deteriorate. It is said that Monaghan tried to take legal ac­tion against the Commonwealth Government for allowing his boat to rot away.

Finally when she was full of borers in the hull and rotten timbers throughout, the Cairns Harbour Board had a big clean up and offered her for sale “as, where is”, lying on her side in the mud. She was put up for auction and if they could not sell her, she was to be destroyed.

KEN FISHER

Ken owned the Barrier Reef Hotel in Cairns and his wife had a va­cant block of land next door. The ‘Bintang’s wartime history coupled to the Monaghan saga in North Queensland had made her quite a talking point. Ken thought she would be a drawcard up on their land next to the hotel, so he went to the auction and bought the ‘Bintang Siang’ for £300 as she lay in the mud.

When he had a good look at her condition and got advice on the cost and problems involved in moving her ashore and onto the proposed site, he put it off for a while. A young fisherman who had a small mackerel boat used to see her as he sailed in and out of Cairns and found out who owned her. He wanted a bigger boat as he worked mainly out of Townsville and asked his brother if he would become a partner in the bigger boat. They offered Ken Fisher £100 which he accepted rather than the Cairns Harbour Board destroy her.

DIETER & RUDI BEHRENS

Dieter was a commercial fisherman with a small boat, hand-lining and trolling for mackerel between Townsville and Cairns. Rudi, his brother, was foreman for a company installing aluminium ceilings, with carpentry experience as well. Dieter had seen the ‘Bintang’ lying in the mud and as he was looking for a bigger boat that could be rebuilt, he and his brother Rudi bought her.

They moved the ‘Bintang’ to Gilpins slipway in Smith’s Creek or Woodnuts as it is now called. Here the rotting planks were stripped away and many areas replaced with swamp gum timber. There are no details of changes to the ‘Bintang’ in previous years but a photograph taken when she was rebuilt as a fishing boat shows that the after mast had been removed along with the low coach house. A head high wheelhouse was built on the after deck

She was later towed to Townsville to have an 80HP engine fitted, navigation equipment fitted and ice boxes installed below so as to commence a new life as a fishing vessel which included spear fish­ing, hand-lining along the reef, trolling for mackerel and catching sharks

At one stage the Behrens secured a contract with BHP for exploration work in the area from Weipa to Thursday Island. This involved sur­veying the offshore seabeds with divers looking for mineral deposits and extended times at sea.

PAUL CAYLEY

Paul had fishing and trawling licences and nominated Gladstone as his home port. Reports were that he was a bit of a nomad and could turn up any­ where on the Queensland coast. He did quite a bit of charter work anywhere he could find it.

GWINGANNA PASTORAL COMPANY

The owner Neil Craig from Rockhampton bought the ‘Bintang’ around 1981 and employed John Hobson as skipper to carry on line fishing, trawling and crabbing. A lot of work was done to upgrade equipment and be able to go out fishing for up to a month at a time.

A 3 tonne walk in freezer room was installed below in the hold with a refrigeration compressor, diesel engine and 240v generator to run it. On deck they installed a half tonne snap freezer box and in the engine room was a new 6 cylinder Ford Albacore diesel engine.

At some earlier stage the wheelhouse had been moved forward probably to allow fitment of a trawling winch and gear. The wheel­ house was moved back astern again and tidied up. The ‘Bintang’ did a lot of extended offshore line fishing until John Hobson became ill and she was then anchored out in Port Alma (between Rockhampton and Gladstone) and once again put up for sale.

PETER FEARNSIDE

Peter lived at Sunnybank, Brisbane and worked in the chemical in­dustry. He also held a commercial aquarium fishing licence which in­volved boats, diving, holding and marketing fish. During a business trip up the Queensland coast he heard of the ‘Bintang Siang’ and detoured to Port Alma to have a look at her. She was locked up, out at anchor but looked like a good solid diving mother-ship for offshore aquarium fish catching. After negotiation he bought her and moved her from Port Alma to Rockhampton.

We (Peter and myself, his father) went up later to tidy her up and move her to the town wharf where she was an unusual talking point. We went around the Keppel Islands fishing and diving and soon found that in a bit of sea she really rolled around and leaked badly; so it was back up the river to a slipway in Rockhampton to be re­-caulked.

The hull had been re-planked with 2 inch Huon pine which was going a little soft in places inside the hull. Being a double ender, she was very hard to keep tight around the stern and rabbit line. She was a very solid boat for her size but weighed 38 tons and drew 7 foot of water. Inside the hull which was filled with the walk-in freezer room running up to the forecastle bulkhead, you could see the massive stringers and knees and the huge long range fuel tanks. The main engine was where the original engine would have been with plenty of room for the Yanmar auxiliary engine, refrigeration compressor and 240 volt alternator.           

Peter decided that she would be better located closer to Lady Musgrave Island, Lady Elliott Is­land and Fraser Island. So we sailed her down to do a bit of spear fishing around Fraser Island, then up the river to Maryborough onto a big mooring near the bridge. Peter decided to Iive in America and left her with me.

When the summer rains come the Mary River floods. On this occa­sion it rose about 8m carrying along a big tree which got tangled up with the mooring and the whole lot was carried down the river and almost up onto the bank at the next bend. Hyne and Sons, timber saw millers sent one of their tugs to tow her back to their wharf which made it a lot easier to keep an eye on her. Peter decided to stay on in America and as I was away a lot travelling on business, it was decided that the ‘Bintang’ was to be sold once again.

ROBERT QUILL

Robert lived at Toogum near Maryborough and had heard of the ‘Bintang’s history which interested him. We settled on a price and he became the latest proud owner. He moved her down the river a bit to do some work and alterations but from there I lost track of the ‘Bintang’s movements. Some years later I saw her anchored out in the river down from the Fish Board in Bundaberg. She was low in the water so probably leaked a bit.

WHERE IS THE ‘BINTANG SIANG’ NOW?

In 2010 an application was made to the Dept. of Transport and Main Roads requesting detail of the registered owners of the ‘Bintang’ from the time Peter Feamside bought her in 1987. After a month’s investigation, a reply came back advising that after conducting searches, no records could be found of a vessel named ‘Bintang Siang’. The ‘Bintang’ was registered under Queensland commercial fishing licences for all the years she was owned by Gwinganna Pastoral Company and as EU7530 when she was owned by Peter Fearnside.

A recent internet search for the ‘Bintang Siang’ indicates that at one period she worked as a pearling lugger and was owned by Sylvia Gray and Meredith Gray trading as Grayson and Lindley. In 1955 she carried the commercial licence registration number C38. The prefix ‘C’ indicates that she was working out of Port Douglas in the pearling industry. Sadly many of the people who had contact with the ‘Bintang Siang’ have passed away and information is difficult to gather and verify.

 

One wonders how a 38 tonne vessel can disappear from the official registration system for about 20 years. If she sank there would be a re­cord. Hopefully more searches will find the ‘Bintang’ and even more hope­fully, she will end up at the Maritime Museum amongst other historic vessels.

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