Las Balsas Raft at airport

PASSENGERS arriving at Ballina Byron Airport can learn about a unique adventure that ended in the coastal town.

A scale model of a Las Balsas raft was yesterday installed at the arrivals lounge to be on display to the 350,000 passengers a year who use the airport.

WOOD CRAFT: The model of the Las Balsas raft at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport in the lead-up to the November 16 Ballina Prawn Festival celebrating 40 years since Las Balsas crossed the Pacific on winds and currents. Pictured are builders of the model Raul Gomez from Byron Bay, Brian Walsh from Alstonville and president of Rotary Club of Ballina-on-Richmond, Wayne Crawford and airport manager Neil Weatherson.
WOOD CRAFT: The model of the Las Balsas raft at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport in the lead-up to the November 16 Ballina Prawn Festival celebrating 40 years since Las Balsas crossed the Pacific on winds and currents. Pictured are builders of the model Raul Gomez from Byron Bay, Brian Walsh from Alstonville and president of Rotary Club of Ballina-on-Richmond, Wayne Crawford and airport manager Neil Weatherson. Graham Broadhead

The rafts arrived in Ballina on November 21, 1973 and a composite of the surviving two rafts is on display at the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum.

Brian Walsh, who now lives in Alstonville, was holidaying in Ballina at the time and saw the excitement the arrival of the rafts generated.

Earlier this year he had an idea to build a scale model and teamed up with Byron Bay's Raul Gomez, a keen woodworker originally from Uruguay.

At about the same time, president of the Rotary Club of Ballina-on-Richmond Wayne Crawford had the same idea.

He thought a model at the airport would be a great way to promote the November 16 Ballina Prawn Festival, which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Las Balsas.

They all joined forces, with Mr Walsh and Mr Gomez working over two months to build the 2.5m long, 1m wide and 2.5m tall model - complete with toilet - and Rotary chipping in for the $1000 construction costs.

Mr Walsh's wife, Kaye, made the sail for the model and Tom Roach, a volunteer at the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, painted it.

The model has been made, as far as possible, the way the original rafts were.

Untreated pine, bamboo and four sizes of natural fibre rope have been used in the model.



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