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The following story and pictures were contributed by Gerry Ayre, (gerry.ayre@surfer.co.nz), a former member of 5 Squadron.

THE JOYITA

Pictures are of the "Joyita", a vessel with a strange and checkered history, and part of 5 Squadron history.

JoyitaWS.jpg (32041 bytes)


The book "Joyita" should be available in public libraries.  5 Squadron searched many hundreds of hours looking for this vessel.  She sailed from Western Samoa for the Tokalau Islands, then mysteriously disappeared.

It was eventually found adrift by the "Chinaman" seen in the picture towing the Joyita.  No sign of her crew or passengers were ever seen again..........  Her Captain was reportedly seen in Singapore months later by someone who knew the Captain well.........but it was never confirmed.

Joyita mystery still baffles (1950-1959)

bulletThere were 25 people on board the Joyita when it left Apia Port, Western Samoa on October 3rd, 1955.
bulletShe was bound for the Tokelau Islands, 270 miles to the North.
bulletThe Tokelauans were in a state of emergency. Medical supplies were urgently needed and foodstuff such as flour and sugar were dangerously low.
bulletThey also had 70 tonnes of cut copra waiting for export - copra which was the backbone of their small economy.
bulletThe Joyita had on board a representative of the copra buyers, Mr Williams.
bulletThe luxury yacht was built in 1931 by the Wilmington Boat Works in Los Angeles for a movie tycoon. Joyita is a Spanish word meaning `little jewel' and that she was. In 1941, during the Second World War, she was taken by the American Navy to Pearl Harbour as a patrol boat.
bulletDr Katharine Luomala of the University of Hawaii bought her in 1952 and chartered the boat to her friend, Captain T H Miller. He was popularly known as Dusty Miller and was master of the vessel at the time of the tragedy.
bulletThe 70-tonnes motor vessel was carrying 16 crew members and 9 passengers. There were two children and one woman aboard when she met her fate.
bulletThe Joyita was due in Tokelau on October 5th. On the 6th a message from Fakaofo Port reported that she had not arrived.
bulletThe Royal New Zealand Air Forces' `Sunderland' from Laucala Bay immediately flew to Apia, then across to Fakaofo and back without sighting anything.
bulletFrom the 6th to 12th October, when the search was called off, nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean was covered.
bulletFor 36 days there was no trace of the Joyita and the local press began to "write her off as yet another of the mysterious tragedies of the Pacific.
bullet" But on November 10th, Captain Gerald Douglas, Master of the `Tuvalu', enroute from Suva to Funafuti sighted a vessel drifting North of Vanua Levu. It was the Joyita - waterlogged and deserted.

Joyita.jpg (20427 bytes)

I had been aboard the Joyita a year before she disappeared.  As fate would have it I never took part in the search for her.  Most of the Squadron was flying out of Samoa.  I stayed in Fiji as my wife was in hospital with appendicitis.

Sgt. Frankie Doyle, Flt. Lt. Armfelt and myself were the first to board this vessel when she was towed into Fiji.  It was scarry opening hatches etc, looking for some sign of the missing twelve people or so who should have been on board her. We found nothing, not even a scrap of paper or a pencil. She was clean, no rags, no nothing.  The Joyita did sail again around Fiji.  Again another story.  

Cannot remember what year this happened....

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Last updated 04/11/2003

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