Monday, February 1, 2010

The Pong Su Incident

On the night of April 15-16, 2003 Australian police observed two men on a deserted beach near Lorne, Victoria. The men walked to a nearby hotel where they met another man. A fourth man was left behind on the beach. All four were arrested while in possession of 50 kg of pharmaceutical-quality heroin. A search of the beach uncovered a buried dinghy. A GPS unit was also recovered. Coordinates in the GPS led police to a separate cache of 75 kg of heroin buried nearby.

The dinghy was determined to have come from the North Korean-owned freighter Pong Su, which was observed to be loitering offshore. The Australian Royal Navy ordered the ship into harbor, but the Pong Su turned and fled into international waters. A four-day chase ensued.

Under maritime law, a ship suspected of piracy or smuggling may be seized in international waters as long as it is kept in continuous visual surveillance. The Australians used cutters, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to follow the Pong Su for four days and nights. The chase ended when the Pong Su's ancient engines could stand no more and failed. A helicopter team of Australian Special Forces commandos boarded the ship and seized it.

Four officers and twenty-seven crew members were arrested and charged with drug offenses. The four men arrested on shore pleaded guilty and received long prison sentences. The crew members were released and deported in June, 2004. At trial, the four officers were found not guilty and they were also deported in March, 2006.

In March, 2006 the Pong Su was towed out to sea and used as target practice for the RAAF. A pair of two-thousand pound laser-guided bombs dropped from an F-111 sent her to the bottom.

All except the radio equipment; that was donated to the Kurrajong Radio Museum. Check out their collection! They have an outstanding collection of historic military radios, including the WWII Gibson Girl survival radio:

This is a 5-watt hand-cranked CW and beacon transmitter. It's called a "Gibson Girl" because of the "pinched-waist" design which allows it to be strapped between the legs for hand-cranking. It reminded people of the fashion illustrations of artist Charles Dana Gibson in the late 19th century.

The whole thing had its own parachute, plus a 4-foot diameter balloon for the antenna. A box kite was also supplied to loft the antenna in windy conditions. The balloon was inflated with two hydrogen generators, activated by putting them in sea water. The telegraph key could operate the transmitter or the signal lamp. Made in USA by Bendix Corp.


Old NFO said...

We actually carried those on the P-3s up through the late 70s!!! And yeah, the Aussies don't waste any time.

drjim said...

I had one of those when I was around 10 years old. It was new-in-the-box, and I think I paid about $7 for it.
I could probably get 100 times that amount for it on eBay these days!