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North of New Guinea

January 7 2015 at 1:46 PM
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Jacques  (no login)

Response to Re: The Way of Torres

Wow, almost 3 years ago Felix wrote:

“... landfall was made at Bougainville/Choiseul, with a course through the Louisiade Archipel, Jomard Entrance to Bligh Entrance etc. or Bougainville/Choiseul, China Strait to Bligh Entrance.”

That would be true if one was to sail westward directly from the Phoenix Islands and through the Solomon Sea but of course PensacolaCo went down to Suva first, then passed south of Éfaté and through the Coral Sea to a point 12°40'S 149°00'E, which means landfall would have been as I stated, near Port Moresby. No big deal, just want to avoid confusion!

To further my argument about a shorter route to Manila by going north of New Guinea, have a look at what Captain Kees Hagemans wrote of his wartime experiences:

“On July 30th a Dutch aircraft off the coast of New Guinea in the Straight of Salawati signaled us to stop. She landed on the water and I went to her in one of our sloops. All that they asked for was if we could spare them a couple of bottles of Dutch Genever and some Dutch cheese. They looked like Bushmen with long hair and beards. We called more or less at the same ports as the trip before. In Soerabaja I met my brother in law who was an officer in the Dutch Navy on board the “de Ruyter” and was torpedoed years later off Balikpapan by the Japanese after he was commander of a minelayer. In Soengi Gerong on Sumatra I visited my cousin and her family and in Batavia her sister and family. Going to anchor in Bali the anchor chain broke and we lost our anchor, a shackle just missing my head by a few inches. We made a total of three similar trips to the Far East until April 18th, 1941. We had been very lucky so nothing special happened on any of those three long voyages.”

Get out your maps, boys and girls! The"Straights of Salawati" is most likely Pitt Strait (Selat Sagewin), between Batanta and Salawati off the Northwestern tip of New Guinea (although Captain Kees could have meant Dampier Strait). Pitt Strait is about 28 miles long, narrow but deep and M.S. SOMMELSDYK used this passage on three voyages from US East coast ports to the NEI via Panama, between June 1940 and April 1941. See:

Incidentally, Pitt Strait was named after the East Indiaman PITT, (ex-French East Indiaman PONDICHÉRI) in which the British explorer William Wilson sailed in 1759 to find "Pitt's Passage", a new route to China. See:

and this 1911 chart "Eastern Passages to China Sheet II"

OK, back to my argument. The British had been using Dampier and/or Pitt Strait since the mid-18th century and the Admiralty published nautical charts and sailing directions for the area. The Admiralty chart 3745 "Selat Dampier and Selat Sagewin including Waigeo"was first published 2/11/1920 and in use until 2003. Sailing Directions for the area would have been covered in the Admiralty's "Eastern Archipelago Pilot Vol. III - Including the North-Eastern of Celebes, Molucca and Jailolo passages, Banda and Arafura Seas, and the western end and southern coast of Dutch New Guinea", third edition published 1930, to which supplements with corrections would have been added at least every 15 months and new editions published every 10 to 12 years (from The Admiralty Navigation Manual Vol.I of 1938)

I therefore with great confidence, propose that charts and sailing direction would indeed have been available and it is highly unlikely that the US Navy would not have had sufficient copies on hand. The route North of New Guinea, passing through Dampier or Pitt Straits, and then through the Molucca Sea onward to Manila via the usual route, would therefore have been a good alternative and must have been seriously considered at one point or another.But in the end, as I now understand, and as someone else on this forum suggested, a strategic decision had been made prior to the Pearl Harbor attacks that it would be - Australia first, then maybe Manila if the coast is clear.



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  • Nope--you are quite wrong... - Melmoth the Critical on Jan 8, 2015, 3:57 AM
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