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Sun, Jun 24th 2:07pm 2007: Family

I got an interesting phone call from my Dad this afternoon: he's currently on a boat just approaching Broome, having sailed about 700 nautical miles along the coast of Western Australia. He grew up in WA, mainly around the Kalgoorlie area, and he's spending a month or so back over there with my step-mother to wander around the state and look at the sights. The interesting bit of the call was that he's discovered an interesting bit of trivia about my grandfather, Gordon Oxer. Old Gordo was a bit of a slacker who didn't get up to much in life: he was a doctor, a pilot, an explorer, a cartographer, and probably about seven other things as well. You know, the sort of person who brings the family name into disrepute. He's even got bits of WA named after him including a mountain and a lookout at the spectacular junction of Joffre Gorge, Weano Gorge, Red Gorge and Hancock Gorge. Tourist info here, with better photos here and here. He was the first white man to explore certain parts of WA and some of his original maps are preserved in a public library somewhere. So anyway, the point was that there's an unexplained chunk of my grandfather's life that my Dad has never known much about until now: he knew Gordon was way off in WA somewhere, but not where, why, or what he was doing. Turns out Gordon spent the time stationed at Corunna Downs air base, a top-secret joint US-Australian facility located just outside Marble Bar and used to launch bombing raids against Japanese forces. Because it was located in such a remote and unlikely area the Japanese never figured out where the raids were coming from, and it seems quite likely that their repeated pounding of Darwin (64 times in 1942-43!) may have been at least partly a frustrated effort to stop the source of the attacks. Something else I learned a little while ago is that Gordon once got himself into a spot of official hot water by flying an aircraft into an open-cut mine, causing just a little consternation to those unlucky enough to be trying to go about their business of digging stuff out of the ground without being buzzed by a demented pilot. Told you he was a troublemaker.

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