Sunday History Photo / NT

Submitted: Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 08:28
ThreadID: 119051 Views:3514 Replies:3 FollowUps:1
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It all started 1970's in a motorcycle workshop in 4th Street, Gino Chillis shed in Katherine. Trying with great success to see the back of the fridge shelf, with a few of the local revheads, Ken Callanan, (Pommie), Dave Hindley, Brian Bader, Phil Boyle, and some others . When Sylvia Wolfe from The Pinetree Motel behind the workshop in 3rd Street entered to complain about the excessive noise from the motorcycles as they were preparing them for an upcoming race meeting.
However, it turned out that Sylvia was the main organiser for a planned Katherine Carnival about May and needed more activities to amuse the crowds expected.
In those days, Katherine people were an adventurous bunch and made their own fun, no matter how outrageous it may have been, and after much discussion, they suggested to ride a motorcycle across the river, or rather under it.
Then some bright spark with no imagination said “you can’t do it”.Well that was enough to stir the pot. The first thing to organise was a bike. There was a selection of approximately 12 on the floor, new Hondas, Yamahas & Suzukis but they could not get a supplier to OK such a project. Then Hans Van Santen from Darwin Yamaha said he had a Yamaha TY250D in stock. A quick trip to Darwin, and return with a now pre-delivered and soon to be demonstrator.

As the river at the time was expected to be 14 ft deep (4.2 meters) scuba gear was called for. Enter John Pfitzner, an insurance salesman in Katherine with the equipment and know how as he had worked in European waters previously.
Many hours of water proofing, testing and still more water proofing, it came time to try the real thing. Enter knots crossing, freezing cold and pitch dark, scaring the sight see-ers.
The test itself went off without a hitch although only at a depth of 6 ft, (2 meters). Thinking they had got it licked, they still wanted to improve on the setup. Dragging out an old fuel formula book,(from previous racing escapades), they mixed one up with water, shaken vigorously, and poured off the fuel once separated and dipped the spark plug in the water/fuel residue and plugged it into the high tension lead of the engine without installing the plug back into the motor.
One kick and it burst into flames.
All in the workshop yelled “Lets try it” so after draining all the normal fuel from the bike and carbie, they poured approximately one litre into it.
But it won’t start. Kick, kick, kick, choke, choke, choke, BROOOOM, but won’t idle, more throttle, then the motor really started to rev, and wouldn’t stop!!
Disconnect spark plug, disconnect magneto, all to no avail. By this time most of the assistants had bolted out the door as the motor was revving waaaay over its designed limit. The only way to stop the thing was to choke the air intake, ok, a hand will do, on the end of 20 feet of intake pipe. The bruise on the palm of his hand was there for 5 days.

One more test run needed, but not at Knotts Crossing. (To cold). As it happened, new houses were being built opposite the workshop, enter 1 borrowed builders plank, the nearest water, and warm at that was in Sylvias motel swimming pool. Eleven PM seemed like the perfect time. It took her about 2 weeks to forgive them for that, after polluting her pool.
Kick start 12 times underwater, hit fridge, water in motor through throttle cable,because at 14 feet, there is 28psi water pressure and not just 14psi at the surface.
Meanwhile under the Katherine River............. the stalled bike was given another workout with the heel on the kickstart only to give a compression kickback (only a motorbike rider knows this pain). And in this instance it threw the rider over the handlebars while he still had hold of them and under 12 feet of water. Anyway swimming back onto the bike seat he kicked it into gear and continued along the bed of the Katherine River until he hit a washing machine that someone may of tossed off the bridge at some stage.
The bike stalled again and would not start.
12 Months Later on the trial run, it went across without any problems, however they couldn’t get the bike up the other bank without a crane. There was a rocky ledge about 2 meters above the water level, getting up on it could have been a problem but with the help of many onlookers they achieved it, although not without one minor problem.

The helper in the water who was supporting the snorkel for the air intake couldn’t hold it up from getting about 5 litres of water in, and consequently drowned the motor as the bike rose up, and another came to his assistance to elevate the snorkel.
No problem, they were used to this. Remove spark plug, turn bike upside down and after 10 minutes of cranking with the kick-start, the water went back to where it came from. Install new spark plug and fuel and away it went.
Now the next problem was to remove the bike. Easy, why not ride it back to the other side. Oh the joy we felt when it emerged and rode up the bank. We had beaten the river, crocs, refrigerators and boulders.

So there you have a bit of the fun Katherine people used to have before Indemnity Insurance, Light Beer & Computers.

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Reply By: Steve in Kakadu - Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 08:59

Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 08:59
Hi Doug

Then of course there was this Link
AnswerID: 554459

Reply By: Member - Cuppa - Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 23:24

Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 23:24
Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading it & seeing the pics.
See 'My Profile' (below) for link to our Aussie travel blog, now in it's 6th year.

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AnswerID: 554481

Reply By: duck - Friday, Jun 05, 2015 at 11:58

Friday, Jun 05, 2015 at 11:58
I was in Darwin around the early to mid eighties when the Raaf/dive/social club had a landcrusier they wanted to drive across Darwin harbour, from memory it was diesel that they had run on kerro or some aviation fuel & on its first trial it worked well but they got lost & bogged, they tried several times, but I don't know if they ever competed the task.

Ps My first 4wd was a Austin Champ (worst 4wd ever) that I did drive under water to the height of the snorkel but on a 3rd time I tried it I drove in to a hole an hydrauliced the motor
AnswerID: 554599

Follow Up By: Steve in Kakadu - Saturday, Jun 06, 2015 at 06:53

Saturday, Jun 06, 2015 at 06:53
Click on my link above.
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