There is a photo in the Eden Killer Whale Museum of a very cranky Dick Jolly looking at the camera.
He’s unimpressed because he is about to say goodbye to 39 days of salvage effort on the cruise ship World Discoverer at Roderick Bay in the Solomon Islands.
It was April 30, 2000, and the Solomon’s were about to erupt into a violent coup attempt by the Malaitan Eagle Force against the Isatubu Freedom Movement. Dick received word that 60 to 100 armed militia were headed his way and likely to take him hostage.
He took the only sensible course of action he could, and abandoned the salvage.
As history tells us, it was just as well he did.
In June 2000 the MEF took the Solomon’s Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu hostage and forced him to resign. It would take months for a peace treaty to be negotiated between the two militias, and it was a time of intense unrest and uncertainty.
This story, and many more tales from Dick’s extraordinary life, are currently emerging to be shared with visitors to the Eden Killer Whale Museum.
The Museum has recently taken custodianship of most of Dick Jolly’s extensive working library of photographs, navigation charts, log books, scrap books, trade journals and brochures, salvage and survey reports of his company K Salvage (Aust) Pty Inc, maritime history and other more intimate items such as cigarette cards and even an old child’s puzzle.
Dick Jolly’s partner for the last 17 years of his life, Ros Warren, says Dick’s one wish was that the collection stay as a whole and be donated to a museum.
“I wanted it to come here, and stay here in Eden,” Ros said.
Captain Jolly was a great supporter and active member of the Museum – helping to establish the Museum’s library collection in 1993. His name can be found on the foundation stone of the eastern wing extension which recognises the efforts of dedicated committee members.
So it seems more than appropriate that the museum can now share the collection with any who are interested.
That sharing has already started with a special exhibition – a teaser really - of many more exciting ones to come.
Curator Jody White says: “When we get a sensational collection like this, we highlight it in a special exhibition. Captain Jolly had some amazing adventures. This is a picture of him towing the (tallship) James Craig into Sydney.
“This is interesting…” Jody points to the Solomon Island salvage photo.
“They had to abandon this salvage, they were going to take them hostage so they had to go. It (the ship) had already been looted once. They heard that there was 100 armed militia coming and they were going to take hostages so they took off.
“Look, here’s a jigsaw puzzle, post cards, cigarette cards…”Jody points out.
Ros Warren says Dick collected mainly nautical items, including lots of photos.
“Look at this one,” she says. “It’s the Pasha Bulker,” Ros says
Jody appears holding a framed photograph taken from above the shipwrecked Pasha Bulker.
The Pasha Bulker infamously ran aground at Newcastle on June 8, 2007.
Dick was working for a maritime insurer company at the time, supervising the salvage operation.
“He was in a helicopter when he took that photo,” Ros says.
I ask Ros what attracted her to Dick and she struggles.
“Well, he was just a lovely bloke,” she says.
“He was friends with my husband and myself. When my husband died he was extremely good and we sort of just got together. Then we were together for 17 years. My kids called him ‘grandfather’, they loved him.
“He never married, he was too busy. He would go away for three months at a time,” Ros recalls.
Dick Jolly was born in Colac in Victoria. He went to sea at age 16 on the Braeside as a cadet officer in 1958.
When he was in his early 20’s he found his calling in life while working for United Salvage and subsequently spent two weeks wages on buying two books; Lloyd’s Calendar and Marine Salvage Operations.
In 1961 he passed his radar observer’s course and in 1962 his masters and mariners course.
In 1975 Dick took a break from the sea and went to Andamooka for four years opal mining.
On September 12, 1979, he arrived in Eden and became the tug master.
“He loved the place,” Ros says.
“He went from the tugs to full time salvage all around the world. We would get a call at 3am in the morning and he would get on a plane and be gone for two weeks, two months, three months at a time.”
It would take many, many pages to list his life accomplishments. Poor substitute that it is, I can tell you it reads like a boys own adventure story and harks back to a time when adventure was there to be had.
Anyone interested in Dick’s colourful life, or boats and the sea, must visit the Eden Killer Whale Museum and dip their toe in what is an extraordinary collection reflecting Captain Dick Jolly’s extraordinary life.
Captain Jolly passed away on February 7, 2009.
The Museum is grateful of the assistance provided by Ros Warren and ESSCI in assisting staff and volunteers with the smooth transfer of the collection to the museum. The collection continues to be unpacked and catalogued, but will be available to researchers in 2014. Access is by appointment with the Museum’s volunteer librarian or curator.