21st January 1984 - San Carlos, Verde House and Third Corral Mountains

James M, Dave O, Martin R, Jim L, Tony R, Alan W, Frank S, John and Ian (Soil Mechanics), Malcolm ?, Chris ? and me went in four landrovers. Maurice C had objected when we wanted to take five and from now on we usually had three to a landrover.

James drove from Darwin and was in a very carefree mood that day, driving fast with his window open which meant wet mud flew all over my anorak and other kit in the back before Ian noticed it. We made good time to the estuary before Hell's Kitchen where James decided to cut a corner and got bogged. Matt G got bogged at exactly the same place coming the other way a year later. Martin R said "Oh God" and buried his head in his hands. It was essential to get the landrover out quickly before it sank in the soft mud and got caught by the tide, but we managed with two landrovers after much wheel spin, blue smoke and clutch slipping.

We got to the top of Sussex Mountains and bounced down the other side. We got to the San Carlos military camp late and found they weren't prepared for us. The officers didn't want scruffy, muddy people in their mess, so we went to the sergeants' mess.

Next morning our exit was blocked by a small parade and when it was over I found my landrover wouldn't move more than two or three feet forwards or backwards. After much investigation we found that the brake drum had a piece about two inches wide broken. We took the piece off and peered inside. we could see some bolts had missing heads. They were rattling around and obviously jammed somewhere. Eventually we turned the drum round so the hole was facing down and got two bolt heads and one washer out with a piece of wire, covered the hole with tape and got moving.

We were running late and got further delayed because the estuary was at high tide so we had to find a higher route. Alan W succeeded in getting bogged three times during our trip up through a shooting range and over the top to Verde House. We continued to Third Corral Mountains, looked over the centre of the Island to Bombilla Hill and realised there was a hell of a long way to go across unfamiliar terrain to the eastern side and down to Estancia House, Stanley and back to the site. There was smoke coming from near Bombilla Hill, probably a bombing range which we knew was somewhere in the interior.

We returned to San Carlos and tried a different route up Sussex Mountains. It was probably a BV track and it went vertically up, so we had a go. We all got massive wheelspin and just made it up slopes with loose rock, except Martin R who eventually gave up. We took the high road while he took the old lower route and we met up on the top of Sussex Mountains.

We really needed low-ratio and diff-locks. The low-ratio lever got jammed in most rovers later. The diff-lock wasn't a full diff-lock as we found to our dismay on some occasions later. The lock fixed the rear prop-shaft to the front one, but this still meant that one wheel at say the front could spin provided one at the back could also spin at the same speed. Since we often got one wheel down in a gulley where it slipped, the opposite wheel on the other axle was often tilted up without much purchase and tended to slip too, so the opposite corner wheels firmly on the ground didn't turn. This meant that the diff-lock was useless in some situations.

We found the tide in at Hell's Kitchen so Jim L tested the depth but we found a place to ford it. At Swan Inlet Frank S had another go at the ford successfully that time as did we all except Martin R who got stuck.

Jim L testing the depth at Hell's Kitchen

Jim L testing the depth at Hell's Kitchen
22nd January 1984

Fording Hell's Kitchen

Fording Hell's Kitchen, Dave O watches
22nd January 1984


29th January 1984 - Bertha's Beach

A pleasant hike to Bertha's Beach with Jim L, Mike S and John G. There were always new people arriving around this time, so inevitably we often went to the same places again to show the newcomers.

5th February 1984 - Fitzroy

Frank S wanted to go to Fitzroy but as it had been very stormy he wanted someone else to go too. I didn't want to miss another chance of "camp" driving, so I went with John G in our landrover and Frank went in his. We were beginning to realise that "camp" driving in a single landrover was not a good idea. The wind was very strong and pushed the rover sideways when going downhill across a slippery slope.

We also began to realise that there were often summer and parallel winter tracks. The winter tracks were trenches in the peat down to the clay, rough with lots of water-filled potholes. The summer tracks were grass making travel faster in summer but were too wet in winter. We tried out both. The winter track to Fitzroy was just about passable in winter, the one from Fitzroy to Stanley virtually impossible in winter and the one west to Goose Green totally impossible because the fords were too deep.

At Fitzroy bridge we met four landrovers that had come from Stanley and were coming down the boggy hill on the far side. We were supposed to pick up some people from Stanley including Gerry S the PSA runway designer, but none of them had arrived on the airbridge so the four landrovers just had Stanley's PSA guys out on a jolly.

The wind was howling and it started hailing. A bumpy, boggy trip both ways but no bog-ins. There were lots of ditches and minor streams. The Fitzroy track was getting badly churned up by the increased traffic since construction work started at Mount Pleasant. When we got back to site we heard a hissing from a tyre. I had heard a pop earlier and we had to change the wheel with frozen fingers. Even in mid-summer the weather could vary a lot.

12th February 1984 - Goose Green and Lafonia

We four pioneers in cabin B1 (George L, Dave O, James M and Wickham) decided to go across the suspension bridge at Goose Green and walk in Lafonia. Ian D came with us, then others decided to join in - Ron S, Ray K, Stirling M, Dave G, John G, Frank S and Tony R. Recent rain had made the ground soggy. At Swan Inlet we waited while four LMA landrovers passed. The track had never seen so much traffic and was getting blacker and softer, especially at bridges, fords and gateways.

Frank S's bog-in on 12th February 1984

Frank S's bog-in near Burntside House on the way to Darwin
on 12th February 1984

Just before Burntside House Frank decided to take the shore (summer) route. He was racing along the sand in front of me when he slowed sharply to a stop. I was much too close but realised I needed to keep up speed if he was getting bogged. The land side was narrow and had lots of soft kelp so I zoomed past on the seaward side and continued to firmer ground. Luckily the soft ground seemed localised to a stream pouring out mud onto the beach. We had overtaken the LMA landrovers somewhere on the summer track between Swan Inlet and Burntside House, but they now passed us again, jeering.

We got to the Bodie Creek suspension bridge west of Goose Green and realised why the army maps said it wasn't suitable for anything larger than a landrover. We thought that comment referred to weight, but it referred to length as there was a very sharp, narrow bend between stone walls at the entrance to the bridge. Our long-wheelbase landrovers could only just squeeze round, sometimes rubbing the wing or rear end.

George, James and I wanted to go for a walk around the shore while the others went into Goose Green. Some of the others wanted to get back for dinner, (5 pm on Sundays) which meant leaving at 3 pm. Since we would have to travel back on our own, Ron S agreed to wait in Goose Green with one landrover. On our return we had a good look at the bridge which was a kit of parts from England made by Rowell and the cables were just twisted galvanised fence wire.

We wanted to have our baked beans and George had brought his gas stove but no matches. We drove back to Goose Green, found some boys and asked them. They were inquisitive and cheeky, giving us no idea where to get some matches. As we left they threw stones at the landrover.

We met up with the other landrover which turned out to have Tony R and Ian D. Tony was not in a good mood. The others had obviously wanted to get back to site so he had reluctantly volunteered to stay. The trip back was uneventful.

We stopped at the tillite quarrymen's container while Tony went on to the camp and looked for a stove but it was electric and the generator was off. There were some army guys passing so we chatted and gave them a cup of tea as they had matches for George's stove. They were typical squaddie grumblers. They seemed tough, though, the sort that would give the enemy hell while grumbling at the same time. We gave them a jam bun, they gave us a tin of compo sweets. We then went up to the quartzite quarry container looking for a better stove, found a gas cooker there with a very leaky connection, but had our baked beans with tinned apricots and chocolate. The mountain was in thick mist when we left at 8.30 pm.

15th February 1984 - Mount Pleasant

A pleasant evening trip up Mount Pleasant with James M. An orange evening sun and four of five thrushes and several finches hopping about near us, sometimes within three feet. The distant mountains had a foamy layer of cloud over them. We stayed at the peak until the sun set and a pink full moon rose.

19th February 1984 - The Waterfall north of Black Rock House

James M and I had agreed to take Taff the LMA west indian to Swan Inlet so that he could fish, but James noticed a waterfall marked on the map north of Black Rock House so we decided to go there too. John G and Ian D came as well and we left them all at Swan Inlet while we went further and turned north to Black Rock House which we found was a ruin. We continued a bit further until the going got a bit difficult and parked.

We were in a single landrover and James was driving at the time, but we had no real difficulty as the ground was firm. There were a few ditches that needed care but as long as the ground was firm and the ditches dry we felt confident of getting out if we got stuck.

It was another three kilometres to the waterfall, with a river to wade and gorges with steep sides and red kites' nests to walk through, but worth it. Part of it was a tumbling waterfall a few metres high but most was a glistening slope which the water ran down over mosses, ferns and rocks, sparkling in the sun. We walked over rock runs with water rushing underneath which interested James as a soils engineer. There is some dispute over how they were formed.

We returned to Swan Inlet and picked up Taff (who hadn't caught anything) and the others.

James M on a rock run near The Waterfall on 19th February 1984

James M on a rock run on 19th February 1984

The Waterfall on 19th February 1984

The Waterfall on 19th February 1984

The Waterfall on 19th February 1984

The Waterfall on 19th February 1984

Settlements including Fitzroy and Verde House