Excerpt from World Safari I

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Excerpt from World Safari I


Australian adventurer Alby Mangels spent the early 1970's sailing around the Pacific in the world's oldest still sailing vessel, the Klaraborg. This documentary chronicles his trip, which stopped in Palmyra for several weeks. This video excerpt show footage from that visit. Fair warning, it features images any decent conservationist or nature lover will find disturbing, but is a valuable picture of Palmyra and how it was treated by visitors.


Alby Mangels





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Narrator: And they were there. The Island was smaller than they’d expected. Only 6 miles long and half a mile wide, in the shape of an incomplete ring. The Americans had pulled out just after the end of World War 2, but the channel the bombed in the surrounding coral was still there, somewhere. They spent awhile looking for it to safely take the 150 ft catch into the protected lagoon. Once there, they were all alone. Breakfast on this uninhabited island is fish, but what a variety. They couldn’t put a name to most of what was being caught, but whats in a name if the taste is good. The boys had become quite proficient at using the Hawaiian sling type fishing rig by now, and just as well. They encountered this sharp toothed creature of the deep, the savage moray eel under the keel of the Klaraborg, as she lay at anchor. After exploring, the crew realized what a gold mine they’d struck on Palmyra. The army in their haste to leave after victory declared in the Pacific, left behind jeeps, trucks, machinery, now worth a fortune.

Alby: John got a jeep and one of the trucks working by pulling parts from a number of vehicles and putting in what we needed. We had to improvise with a trash can in for a radiator. Once the trucks were mobile we set off looking for material we could salvage and sell later on the trip. Miles and miles of copper wire, 3 tons to be exact, some covered with rubber insulation which had to be burnt off. Brass hinges, window frames, wall pinnings. 4 tons in all. We all loaded it onboard and sold it in Hong Kong 3 months later for a tidy sum. We soon settled into a routine. The women did the cooking, cleaning, and washing, and the boys went out to play. Exploring by day, we found a concrete dome, overgrown by jungle, that was as big as football field. It was crammed full of everything, from brand new washing machines to a grater and a jeep. And huge packages never opened which turned out to be tents for the soldiers.

Narrator: But perhaps the luckiest find was a huge General Motors diesel engine. 150HP, big enough to push the ship along at a good 6 knots. That was fitted into the Klaraborg in Hong Kong. Petrol was no problem, they found hundreds of 44 gallons drums of petrol hidden in a concrete bunker on the side of a hill. Left there untouched since the war. And luxury of luxuries, a bathtub. And, as they say, if your best friend won’t tell you, who will. The problem now was loading it all onto the ship. The original wharf rotted away, so they had to make a new one out of coconut palms. With everyone pitching in it took only a day. And that makes for a hearty appetite. The stores aboard the ship were getting low, so the crew lived completely off what the island had to offer, and it offered quite a menu. Wild game birds tasting something like duck, and crabs.

Alby: We’d all split up in pairs by then, and gone to different places to live. One guy and his girl lived in an old ruin of a barracks building. John and a friend roamed all over the place and slept under the nearest palm tree each night.

Narrator: Everywhere crabs. Measuring up to 3 feet across from claw to claw, which made them sometimes wonder, who was going to eat whom for breakfast. They were boiled up then and there on the beach, and eaten with a swig of coconut juice, and whats more they had no dishes to wash.

Alby: I built a hut of palm leaves for my lady friend on the highest point of the head land, over looking the most scenic beach I could fine. The house wasn’t much but the view was superb. After about a month of that lazy lifestyle, they decided it was time to move on again. Palmyra had been an idyllic and profitable stopover, but the skipper was getting restless, so they upped anchor and set sail for the gilded islands, sailing away.

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Alby Mangels


Alby Mangels, “Excerpt from World Safari I,” Palmyra Archive, accessed August 15, 2020, http://www.palmyraarchive.org/items/show/81.