Clem MacMahon, president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, says the Las Balsas raft on display in the museum could be promoted as an icon of Ballina because of its national significance.
Clem MacMahon, president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, says the Las Balsas raft on display in the museum could be promoted as an icon of Ballina because of its national significance.

Raft could replace prawn

WITH the imminent demise of the Big Prawn and Ballina’s search for a new icon before the bypass directs traffic away from the town, Clem MacMahon says don’t forget about the Las Balsas raft.

Mr MacMahon is president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, where one of the three rafts from the 1973 Las Balsas expedition from Ecuador is the centrepiece.

“We are losing the Big Prawn as a landmark, but the raft could well replace it and attract interest,” he said.

“I consider it to be of national significance. There are only three (rafts of this type) in the world: one is the Kon Tiki raft in Oslo, a La Balsa raft (from the single-raft 1966 expedition from South America to Australia) is in Barcelona, and this one in Ballina.”

Mr MacMahon agreed the restored Ballina raft and the museum itself, considered by many to be the best of its type in Australia outside capital cities, is underdone in terms of its promotion.

The museum has so far been unsuccessful in having the raft registered on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels, administered through the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney.

But Mr MacMahon said visitors to the museum were amazed at the ‘fortitude’ of the 12 men who sailed the three rafts to Australia, arriving in Ballina on November 21, 1973, after having spent 178 days at sea.



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