07 May 2015

Las Balsas Equador - Australia

We've been in Balllina for a few days to meet up with friends from our New Guinea days. We try to meet up somewhere every year.

This morning we visited the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, the home of the famous 'Las Balsas' raft which sailed from South America to Australia across the Pacific Ocean in 1973. The expedition was led by Spaniard Vital Alsa.

On May 27, 1973, three balsa wood rafts were towed to the open sea off Guayaquil, Equadorand were set adrift. On board each raft were four men, their provisions and a small collection of monkeys, parrots and kittens. All were beginning a 8,600 mile voyage to the west across the total expanse of the Pacific to Australia.

On Wednesday, 21 November, 1974, the twelve man crew of the Las Balsas raft expedition landed in Ballina. Plans had been made for expedition to land at Mooloolaba in Queensland, strong southerly currents carried the raft into the Richmond River on the North Coast of New South Wales at Ballina.

The Navy landing craft HMAS "Labuan" followed the rafts south from Brisbane to the Port of Ballina, where two trawlers helped two rafts into the Richmond River.

One raft was considered too water logged to take the strain of being towed and was cut loose. This raft drifted to Newcastle, where it was towed into port and was ultimately destroyed by vandals who set fire to it. 

Three of the 'Las Balsas' crew now live in Australia.


  1. What a story! Why did they do this journey? Was it an experiment, or for charity and publicity? Or were they trying to emigrate? And how long did it take I wonder? I vaguely remember seeing this raft at some point. Very interesting Dad!

    1. It took them 147 days to sail across the Pacific Ocean on these rafts. They wanted to prove that the ancient Aztecs could have come across to Australia. But that theory has now been refuted by historians.

  2. How neat that this raft is still in existence. The story of that expedition is quite a tale. It's nice to be able to see a tangible piece of the story.

  3. Wow!
    I vaguely recall this expedition.
    Incredible to think that it succeeded, masterly sailing ability and fortitude.

    Shocking to learn of the vandalism in Newcastle - I hope the culprits were caught???
    Obviously far more in Ballina than I knew of.
    Great informative blog, mate.


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