UNIQUE MEMENTO: Bob Hulbert of Ballina with the map of the Las Balsas raft expedition route signed by the 12 crewmen.
UNIQUE MEMENTO: Bob Hulbert of Ballina with the map of the Las Balsas raft expedition route signed by the 12 crewmen. Doug Eaton

Unique 40-year-old map of Las Balsas journey goes on display

FOLLOWING the arrival of the Las Balsas rafts in Ballina in November 1973, Bob Hulbert, from Ballina, went on an expedition of his own.

And he came away with a unique memento.

Mr Hulbert has a map which shows the route of three Las Balsas rafts on their voyage from Ecuador to Ballina, with the autographs of all 12 crew members who made that voyage.

"It (the autographs) took a bit of getting," he said.

"The crew were very busy - everybody wanted to talk to them."

Mr Hulbert's expedition began after he hosted three of the raftsmen at his Skinner St home.

The men - Mr Hulbert can't remember which three were at his house - had guitars and sang into the night after dinner.

"They were a friendly lot of blokes," Mr Hulbert said.

"They were all good ambassadors for their countries."

It was then Mr Hulbert set out to get all the autographs on the souvenir map.

One of the crewmen, Mike Fitzgibbon, wrote that it was "a great feeling to have travelled so far ... and meet such friendly people like yourself".

Mr Hulbert has lent the autographed map to the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum where it will go on display for the inaugural Prawn Festival on November 16 which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Las Balsas rafts to Ballina.