King George Twin Falls

At King George Twin Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the King George River plunges 100 metres over a sandstone cliff in two streams into tidal waters. They are Western Australia’s highest waterfall at more than 50 metres high, with 180 feet of water beneath.

These falls are in full force from late December through to early May each year and gradually recede to a small flow in September. They are situated 8kms from the coast and if entering the river from the sea the route up the river from the gorge to the falls is one of the worlds most spectacular sights.

The surounding coastline is also spectacular, with coastal cliffs, gorges, mangrove lined bays, enormous sand dunes and rugged sandstone country. This remote coastline is known as the Diamond Coast. Access is by boat or you can take a scenic flight to Faraway Bay airstrip and stay at the wilderness retreat called the Bush Camp. There are similar falls on Casuarina Creek, a tributary of the Berkeley River. The surrounding coastline is also spectacular with coastal cliffs, gorges, mangrove lined bays, enormous sand dunes and rugged sandstone country.

Koolama Bay

Along the coast to the King George River is Koolama Bay where the Merchant Vessel Koolama was bombed by the Japanese in during World War II, a part of Western Australian history that is rarely told. In January 1942, following the outbreak of war with Japan, Koolama carried members of the ill-fated 8th Division and their equipment to Ambon and West Timor, in Netherlands East Indies. On the return voyage she carried Dutch refugees to Darwin.

On 20 February 1942, a day after the first Japanese air raids on Darwin, Koolama was off the coast of the Kimberley, when it was attacked twice by a Japanese Kawanishi H6K flying boat near Cape Londonderry. Three bombs hit the ship during the second raid, and it was severly damages.

Later that afternoon, with the ship taking water at the stern, and its steering and internal communications out of action, Captain Eggleston decided to beach the ship in Rulhieres Bay (later known as Koolama Bay). He sent an SOS by radio and ordered that the ship be evacuated by lifeboat, but did not officially abandon Koolama. The following day, as the evacuees awaited help in an inhospitable area of mangroves, inhabited by many saltwater crocodiles, Japanese planes attacked again, albeit without effect.

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Eggleston and his first officer, Ken Reynolds, disagreed regarding the best course of action. The captain wanted to refloat Koolama, using the high tide, and head back to the small port of Wyndham, however, Reynolds believed that Koolama should be abandoned. The crew split into two factions along these lines. Because of this, some people would later accuse Reynolds of mutiny. While they waited for assistance, the crew undertook some repairs to the stern.

On 25 February, a lugger crewed by Benedictine priests and Aboriginal people from the Drysdale River Mission arrived to take the sick, wounded and women passengers to the mission, a journey of 24 hours. After enduring a week on the shore, most of the passengers and crew members began to walk to Drysdale River, guided by a priest.

By 1 March, all possible on-site repairs has been completed and the badly damaged Koolama, with Eggleston, 18 crew members, three civilian passengers and two military personnel, was refloated and set off for Wyndham. Two days after arriving in Wyndham another air raid shot at the crew and wharfers. The half-sunk ship was now pulling the wharf so they had to cut her ropes. At about 4.45 pm the ship rolled onto its side in the shallow water. It was written off.

In 1947, an attempt to refloat Koolama was unsuccessful. The hull was raised the following year, albeit only to clear Wyndham harbour. It was towed out to sea and scuttled.

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