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This is Bundaberg. A city in south east Queensland almost 400 kilometers north of Brisbane. The city boasts a population of over 70,000 people and is well known for a variety of different reasons including some of the grand old historic buildings that beautify and grace it’s centre.
Bundaberg was named by Surveyor John Carlton Thompson and its name is loosely derived from the name of one of the local aboriginal tribes. The traditional owners of the area were the Taribelang Bunda.
The first European to visit the area was an escaped convict from the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. Later, Bundaberg was populated by pastoral squatters who established sheep stations in the area.
The city was established in 1867 by John and Gavin Stewart who established a small settlement on the northern banks of the Burnett River, which is stilled spanned today by a magnificent 120-year-old metal-truss road bridge. Most of the early settlers made their living from the timber in the area, but sugar later became a lucrative business venture too.
Bundaberg is known for being the hometown of several notable Australians. But arguably the most famous son of Bundaberg is Bert Hinkler. There’s a large polished marble monument to him that holds pride of place in Buss Park in downtown Bundaberg.
Dubbed as the ‘Australian Lone Eagle’, Hinkler was an aviator, inventor and designer, and the first person to fly solo from England to Australia. And also the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
In many ways he wasn’t afraid to explore uncharted territory and to go where no one else had gone before, despite the inherent risks and dangers. Join us this week as we take a look at the remarkable life of Bert Hinkler – and others who had a similar focus and drive. As we consider their adventurous spirit, dedication and passion, we may be inspired to question how we can better live lives of purpose and significance.
THE EARLY YEARS
Bert Hinkler was born on the 8th December 1892 at Woodbine Villa, Gavin Street, in Bundaberg, Queensland. His father was a mill worker and Hinkler grew up in a modest home. He was born Herbert John Louis Hinkler, but the name was shortened to the much easier nickname of ‘Bert’.
In January 1898 young Bert was enrolled as student #685 at North Bundaberg State School. You can still find his name on the school admission register. Bert was a good student, but his mind was often outside in the sky.
As a child Hinkler was fascinated by flight, and would spend hours watching Ibis in flight near a local lake. By the age of nineteen Hinkler had built his first flying machine; a man-carrying glider. Each rib and spar was skilfully hand crafted in his backyard workshop.
In 1911 and 1912 Hinkler used horse-drawn carts to transport his glider to the nearby beach.
The beach, which sits inside the Mon Repos Conservation Park, is the nesting ground for the largest nesting population of Loggerhead Turtles in the South Pacific Ocean. Hinkler shared the beach with the turtles, as it was the ideal place to test his new flying machines to see if they were aerodynamic and working correctly.
The flimsy glider, with an ironing board serving as a cockpit, took to the air with him aboard, and launched young Herbert John Louis Hinkler into the exciting and developing world of aviation.
After the successful test flight of his gliders, Hinkler set off for England in 1914, where he worked for the Sopwith Company. Sopwith manufactured aircraft that were mainly used by the military in both the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. Later they were used in the Royal Air Force during World War I.
When World War I broke out, Hinkler served with the Royal Naval Air Service as an aerial gunner and an observer, responsible for manning aircraft guns and performing reconnaissance during a mission.
Hinkler was deployed to work in Belgium and France, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his work there. Then in 1918 he was posted to the 28th Squadron of the RAF, where he served as a pilot in Italy.
Hinkler was lauded as an exceptional mathematician and inventor by his peers. In fact, he is known to have invented a significant number of aviation instruments which were in use up until World War II.
After World War I in 1919 Hinkler got a job working as a test pilot for A.V Roe in Southampton. The company manufactured and designed aircraft which were used by the military in both World Wars.
Hinkler bought a quaint English home in Thornhill Estate, Southampton. He named the home ‘Mon Repos’ to celebrate and remember the beach where he first learnt to fly.
HINKLER’S ROARING 20s
Around the time that Hinkler moved to Southampton, the Australian government offered a ten thousand pound prize to the first pilot who was able to successfully fly an aircraft from England to Australia. Hinkler threw his hat into the ring, but his aircraft ended up crashing in Europe during a violent storm.
In 1921 Hinkler shipped this small Avro Baby, one of the smaller aircraft manufactured by A.V Roe, to Sydney. The aircraft was topped up with fuel, and then flown over 1,300 kms non-stop to his hometown of Bundaberg in Queensland.
The 1920s proved to be a fruitful time of adventure for Hinkler. It was during these years that he took on numerous aviation projects and set a significant number of world records.
But Hinkler’s most notable achievement was his solo flight between England and Australia in 1928. It was the first solo flight between the two countries, and was a feat that was applauded on both sides of the world.
Hinkler departed England on the 7th February 1928 and arrived in Darwin, Australia at 5pm on the 22nd February. There were plenty of challenges and daring escapes along the way. After the first few legs of his journey, he arrived in Indonesia and spent some time in the hut of a local resident, battling mosquitoes and unable to sleep.
When he departed from Indonesia, he had a full load of fuel and manoeuvred a tricky ascent over the mountains, before he flew nonstop over the ocean between Indonesia and Australia for roughly eleven hours.
His first sight of Australia was Bathurst Island, and it led to celebration in the cockpit. He was given a hero’s welcome in Darwin after an exhausting but ground-breaking 18,000 km flight.
He later flew to Brisbane where swarms of well-wishers thronged him and his plane. He was welcomed with a triumphal parade through the city in an Armstrong Siddeley open vehicle, which has been immaculately restored and is on display in Bundaberg Hinkler Hall of Aviation today. After Brisbane, Hinkler continued his record-breaking flight on to his hometown of Bundaberg
Initially his flight between England and Australia didn’t really make any headlines, but when he reached India the media interest ramped up. He was nicknamed the ‘Hustling Hinkler’ by one newspaper, and became the subject of a popular song titled ‘Hustling Hinkler Up in the Sky’.
Hinkler continued to gather accolades throughout the course of the 1920s. He picked up two Britannia Trophies, a gold medal from Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a second Oswald Watt Gold Medal and an Air Force Cross for the finest aerial exploit of the year.
THE NEXT LEG
Hinkler’s life is interesting because it is a study in passion, focus and drive. He was a man who had a genuine interest in aeronautics from a very young age, and he channelled that interest into a lifelong mission that ultimately impacted the aviation industry in both big and little ways.
Then in 1931 Hinkler performed his most amazing feat. He flew a de Havilland Puss Moth, a three-seater light winged monoplane, from Canada to New York, and then on to Jamaica non-stop, clocking a record-breaking 2,400 kms.
But that wasn’t enough of a conquest. He then took the Moth from Jamaica to Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil and then across the South Atlantic to Africa. The leg of the journey between South America and Africa was undertaken in extremely bad weather.
Yet despite the gale force winds and poor visibility, Hinkler managed to complete the journey. Then from West Africa he flew on to London. When he completed the journey, he was awarded a slew of medals, trophies and accolades.
His flight had been the first solo flight across the South Atlantic, and at the time Hinkler was only the second person to cross the Atlantic solo, after Charles Lindbergh accomplished the feat in 1927.
In 1932, after a decade of exploration and breaking barriers in the field of aviation, Hinkler married Katherine Rome. He was 39 at the time, and still full of energy and drive, continually drawing up plans for his next grand adventure.
Not long after he got married Hinkler was off again, pushing the limits of aviation and breaking new frontiers. This time he set out to break a flying record between England and Australia which was held by C.W.A. Scott.
The record was 8 days and 20 hours, and Hinkler was determined to do better. He left London Air Park in Hanworth, England on the 7th January 1933 in his de Havilland Puss Moth. He wasn’t heard from again until his body was discovered in the Tuscan Mountains in Italy.
His plane had apparently crashed into the mountains in Italy after his departure from London. He was given a State funeral, and was buried with full military honours by order of Benito Mussolini, in the Protestant Cimitero degli Allori, in Florence.
After his death, countries around the world took steps to honour his memory. In Italy a monument was erected to his memory by the Aretino Aero Club. In England several roads and parks were named after him, and a monument was erected to him.
In Australia the Federal electorate of Hinkler in Queensland was named after him. In 1983 his house in Southampton, England was saved from demolition and relocated, brick by brick, here to the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, which has since served as a historical museum.
Bundaberg also erected a beautiful 7-metre high monument on The Hummock, the highest point in the district, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the sugarcane fields and the city.
There is also an aeronautics museum, the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, located in the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens that is dedicated to the pioneer aviator and innovator. The museum, which was opened in 2008, houses a collection of five aircraft that played a significant part in Hinkler’s career.
These include a reconstructed glider that is a replica of the first glider that Hinkler built and tested out at Mon Repos Beach. Then there’s Hinkler’s original Avro Baby. He acquired this machine and made two record breaking solo flights in the aircraft.
There’s also a replica of Hinkler’s Avro Avian. The original aircraft is on display at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. Hinkler had considerable experience with this aircraft. He flew it in several air races in 1926 and 1927. However, it was significantly modified over the period for his much celebrated and ground-breaking solo flight between England and Australia in 1928.
The museum also houses a Hinkler Ibis. The Ibis is a small two-seater wooden, amphibious monoplane that Hinkler designed and built while he was working in the United Kingdom.
And there’s a reconstructed de Havilland Puss Moth. Hinkler flew the Moth during his trip from Canada to New York, and then through South America and across the South Atlantic to England. He also flew a Moth on his final flight from England to Australia. Regretfully, as we’ve noted, he didn’t make it, and he and the plane met an untimely end in Italy.
There are many things that come to mind when you think about Bert Hinkler. He was a pioneer, an innovator, an inventor and an aviator, but perhaps most striking of all he was a man who was driven to accomplish his goals in life.
A BIBLICAL PARALLEL
Much like Bert Hinkler’s unabated passion and zeal for all things aeronautical, the Bible profiles the lives of men and women whose lives were driven by a singular zeal for their mission in life.
Purpose in life is extremely important. Every human being on the planet craves a sense of purpose and significance in their lives. A sense that they are more than hamsters on a wheel, a sense that their lives are making a difference in the world around them.
One of the most mission focused and driven individuals in the Bible was Nehemiah. An important government official in the court of the Persian Empire, Nehemiah was a man who was driven by a single purpose and he worked hard to achieve it.
There are a number of things we can learn from Nehemiah’s life that will help us to understand how we can discover and fulfill our own purpose in life. So, let’s take a look at the life of Nehemiah and the work he accomplished.
The Bible book of Nehemiah opens with a visit between old friends who were as close as brothers. Nehemiah was going about his life at the royal court, generally happy and fulfilled, but with an eye on what was happening in Palestine.
A group of Jews had relocated to Palestine in the hope of restoring Jerusalem and re-establishing the Jewish nation, seventy years after they had been taken captive by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
The work was hard and the terrain uncharted, and the visit that Nehemiah had from his old friend Hanani included a report on the progress of the group that had returned home. Nehemiah’s heart was with his people. Though active in the royal court of Persia, he longed to see his native land restored.
Hanani’s visit alerted Nehemiah to a need in his community at home. The walls of the city were broken down and they needed help rebuilding them again. Nehemiah’s love for his people led him to respond to that need.
The first principle the Bible teaches us when it comes to understanding a quest with purpose is that the most fulfilling tasks in life often revolve around meeting the needs of those around us. If you want to live a life of purpose and fulfillment, look around you to see and understand the needs of your community.
After his friend Hanani had left, Nehemiah was deeply affected. He couldn’t stop thinking about his people and the turmoil they were in. At that time in history, a city without walls was defenceless and vulnerable to attack.
His concern for his countrymen began to weigh heavily on him and a cloud of sadness settled over him. Since he was constantly in the presence of the King, the monarch noticed his trusted servant’s sadness and inquired about the cause.
At first Nehemiah was nervous; he wasn’t supposed to show emotion – especially sadness – around the king, but then he relented and told the king his dilemma. The King generously offered to provide the necessary resources for the project and offered Nehemiah a leave of absence to complete it.
At that point Nehemiah found himself not only inspired by a vision, but also empowered and equipped to make it a reality. The second principle the Bible teaches us about mission and purpose is the importance of being equipped.
In Nehemiah’s case he needed physical resources and also time off work to make his vision a reality. In other cases, equipping ourselves to meet felt needs in our communities might mean learning a new skill, partnering with people who have a similar vision and a diverse skill set, or finding financial resources.
What other tips can we pick up from the Bible about fulfilling our commission and purpose? Well, once Nehemiah received the King’s permission and resources to rebuild the walls, he made his way to Jerusalem.
The first thing Nehemiah did was tour the city to inspect the extent of the damage. The walls were broken down in several places and the work looked challenging, but not impossible.
Then Nehemiah assessed the situation before him, identified the problems and came up with a workable plan. He then turned his attention to gathering the support of the people and turning his plans into action.
He made sure that news spread quickly throughout the city that the walls of Jerusalem were going to be rebuilt. Nehemiah encouraged the people that the task could be achieved, and invited them to work with him to make it happen.
In no time at all, Nehemiah had plenty of people to help him. He soon had everything organised and ready to go, but his plan didn’t just happen. It wasn’t created on the fly. At the core of Nehemiah’s planning was prayer. He made prayer the centre of his plan.
And his plan was a splendid one: he divided up the wall into sections, giving one portion to one group or family, and another portion to another group or family. This way everybody had something to do and was responsible for some particular part of the wall.
With so many people working, the wall began to take shape. Some mixed mortar, others lifted stones, others carefully measured the distances to ensure that each stone was set in the right place. Women and children brought food and water to sustain the workers.
Then there were those who checked the levels. They used a plumb bob or plummet to establish exact vertical lines, and ensure the structure was centred. This was vitally important, because a few degrees out of plumb and the whole wall could come tumbling down!
Nehemiah’s plan, his strategy worked splendidly. With all this combined and well-coordinated effort the walls of the city were soon going up fast. Day by day the wall rose higher and higher, and more sections were joined, closing the gaps between.
In just 55 days – less than 2 months – this great wall was completed, all because one man had vision, faith and courage!
So, in summary, [there are] three important tips that we can glean from the Bible when it comes to formulating a quest and purpose for our life:
Number one: the best commissions are found when we try to meet the needs of those around us, be it our families or our communities. Serving others is one of the most meaningful missions in life that we can ever have.
Number two; equipping ourselves with the skills and resources we need to accomplish our mission is vital to success.
Number three; it’s not enough to understand the problem. We need to assess it carefully so we can come up with an effective and viable strategy or solution.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18 “where there is no vision, the people perish”. Having a clear vision and purpose in life is an important part of living fulfilled and meaningful lives. Jesus often spoke of his own mission in life.
In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus was always engaged in serving others, and we too can find an abundant life when it is spent in a life of service for others.
Bert Hinkler’s passion was flying. He allowed it to drive him, and he made a significant contribution to the field of aviation. Jesus’ passion was and still is people. He allows His love for people to drive Him, and this love has offered us the greatest gift we have ever been given; salvation – eternal life.
Each of us was created to live a life of purpose. A life much like the life of Jesus; dedicated to service and driven by a love for people. When you accept Jesus into your heart, your life will be filled with His Spirit and His spirit will inspire you to be a blessing to others.
If you would like to give God a chance today to give you a life of meaning and purpose; if you would like to let Him give you a new vision and commission for your life, then I’d like to recommend the free gift we have for all our Incredible Journey viewers today.
It’s the booklet, Finding Meaning and Purpose in Your Life. This booklet will share with you ways to find the meaning and purpose of life that we all seek. This booklet is our gift to you and is absolutely free. I guarantee there are no costs or obligations whatsoever. So, make the most of this wonderful opportunity to receive the free gift we have for you today.
Be sure to join us again next week when we will share another of life’s journeys together. Until then let’s commit our lives to the God in Heaven who created us to live a life of purpose. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father. We thank you for the lives of purpose-driven people like Bert Hinkler and Nehemiah. Lord, you created us to live a life of purpose. We know that You alone can bring true meaning and purpose into our lives. Today we pray that you will lead and guide our lives and make us a blessing to the people around us. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.