Ver Noticias The search for a missing Salvador Dali work in Ballina

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The search for a missing Salvador Dali work in Ballina

The search for a missing Salvador Dali work in Ballina

Forty years ago an ambitious bunch of men from seven different countries took on a challenge deemed impossible. To sail three wooden rafts across 14,000 kilometres from Ecuador to Australia. Expedition Las Balsas. They wanted to prove that in ancient times hundreds, if not thousands, of indigenous people from South America could have navigated across the Pacific and made a life over here.
In 1973, with only stars to guide them, expedition leader Vital Alsar set off with 11 men, three monkeys and three kittens from the port of Guayaquil. Before reaching the ocean, he answered his critics.
"If you want to do something extraordinary, something different, you must put all your heart into it. I am not afraid of critics or people who say that what I am doing is impossible. We are doing something that everyone would like to do. That is the biggest satisfaction in the world. To have an idea and turn it into reality".

Luis Anibal-Guevara from Ecuador was one of the sailors. His daughter, 28 year-old Elyse Guevara-Rattray, lives in Redfern, Sydney.

"There was a very real chance that not all of them were going to make it and they all knew that. I wasn't around when they did the adventure, but I can imagine it would be heartbreaking to see your family member go and not ever know if you were going to see them at the other end".
Someone who was around at that time was Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Mexican sailor Paco approached him to ask if he wanted to sponsor their epic journey.

"Everyone else in the world has seen your paintings, but not the dolphins, whales or seagulls."

With that, Dali painted a 5-foot by 6-foot sail in his unique style as assurance, to be sold if they got into trouble. And it was lucky he did, as when the men reached Ballina, their clothes were rags, they were hungry and had no money. Their food only lasted for one hundred days. They were at sea for 178.

Their special Dali sail was taken down and given to Laurie Wood, owner of the Suntori Motel in Ballina for clothes, food and a place to stay for the weary sailors. That sail is now missing. It's believed it was once held in a local bank vault, but now no one seems to know of its whereabouts. No one seems to know where Laurie Wood is either, although many rumours circulate.

The crew were later invited to Parliament House and some were given immediate clemency due to their achievements and troubled home countries and settled here.

One raft remains. Aztlán. It can be seen at the Maritime Museum in Ballina. In November the small NSW town will hold a festival celebrating 40 years since Las Balsas. Organisers are hoping to trace the Dali painting and a sketch that came to Ballina with the rafts to put on show at the festival.

Kelly Morton of CPR Management working with the Ballina Chamber of Commerce says: "It's really important to us to try and locate the sail for the anniversary celebrations. Although not all of the crew are still living, we are working hard to try and gather the rest of the guys from all corners of the world and bring them together in Ballina for this festival."

Guevara-Rattray agrees. "Australians know very, very little about Las Balsas. It's a shame when you've got the Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-tiki expedition museum receiving over two million visitors each year in Oslo. We want Australia to be proud of this achievement."

Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian adventurer, known for his 1947 expedition. He sailed 8000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands, inspiring Las Balsas.

The ambitious Las Balsas expedition is also is an important part of maritime history. The journey of the 12 men from America, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, France and Spain is the longest raft trip ever made.

"They knew they were going to make history with what they did," Elyse says proudly.

Finding the Dali painting would no doubt help preserve the historical adventure.

This article originally appeared

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