The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise

Creator: Hudson Fysh   Qantas Heritage Collection, Australia
Object: The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise   EMu user since 2013
Manufacturer: Qantas Empire Airways    
Materials: ink on paper    
Date of Creation: 1944    

The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise In 1942, all air routes to Australia from the west were cut by the Japanese occupation of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. The only alternative was a 5,620km flight across the Indian Ocean from Ceylon to Western Australia. The US-built Consolidated Catalina flying boat was the only aircraft capable of making it non-stop.

Qantas obtained five Catalinas on loan from BOAC in Britain. The first Qantas Catalina departed Perth for Koggala Lake in Ceylon on 29 June 1943 and 271 flights were completed without loss until June 1945 when the last Catalina was retired.

Flight times varied between 24 and 32 hours depending on winds. The few passengers on each flight were given flying suits, fleece-lined boots and blankets. Mail was microfilmed to reduce weight. Fuel was the highest priority for the pair of reliable Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines. Radio silence was maintained throughout as Japanese aircraft and ships operated in the area and navigation was by sextant and astro-compass. Each of the Catalinas carried the name of a star used for navigation.

The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise was created by managing director Hudson Fysh to provide a memento for passengers. He described it as “… a richly designed certificate signifying that the bearer had spent more than 24 hours continuously in the air… and had seen the sun rise twice…Many prominent people crossed the ocean with us, though quite a few I might say shied off it as being too dangerous. The first woman traveller to receive The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise was Lady Rutherford of New Zealand.”

The Double Sunrise flights still hold the world aviation record for the longest time in the air for any regular passenger service.

Acknowledgements: Qantas Heritage Collection QHC-003399