Tag Archives: Bass Strait

Shipwrecked Near Wineglass Bay, Tasmania 1935.

Never trust a postcard! Calm seas and blue skies, can turn in an instant as the fury of the sea reveals itself in all its might.

While researching Tasmania’s Wineglass Bay, I came across this thrilling story of being shipwrecked on Tasmania’s East Coast from 1935 when you largely had to save yourself from the stormy depths:

SHIP-WRECKED MEN TELL OF TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE .. . . . .

LOST CUTTER Crew’s Thrilling Escape LONG ORDEAL HOBART, Thursday.

Clad in the tattered remnants of the clothing they had worn during their terrible experience, and grasping battered suit-cases, still showing signs of immersion in salt water, Thomas Aldrich and Carl Henderson, survivors of the ill-fated fishing cutter Derwent, stepped wearily from a ferry steamer on to the Brooke-street pier to-day. They had reached Hobart – their goal-in a vessel called the Derwent, but their own vessel, similarly named, with all their personal belongings, fishing gear, papers, and money, lies in eight fathoms of water off the Schouten Peninsula. Unshaven and unkempt, one wearing thigh boots and the other borrowed shoes, with their clothes torn and dishevelled, and their faces want and drawn, as the result of their experience, the two men unfolded a remarkable story of their desperate fight against terrific odds, and of how finally they had won through to land exhausted on the East Coast after their vessel had sunk almost beneath their feet.

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“I have been at sea for 21 years, and have previously been shipwrecked at the Falkland Islands,” began Henderson; “but never in my life have I seen such terrific seas or experienced such a terrible day.” With his companion, who owned the vessel, Henderson continued, he had set out from Stony Point (Vic.) on Easter Sunday in good weather, and had experienced an uneventful run to Wilson’s Promontory. After passing Curtis Island, however, the first mishap had occurred. The cutter began to leak in the bow, and examination disclosed that a bolt in the hull had been jarred and loosened, allowing the water to slowly filter into the vessel.

“Although I was obliged to take long spells at the wheel, we did not regard the mishap seriously,” continued Henderson, “and decided to push on, despite the fact that we were only about 30 miles from the Promontory. The weather became worse shortly after this, and we decided to shelter under Chappel Island. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon we anchored, and we then found that a crack had developed in the tiller as the result of the buffeting we had received.

Raging Gale

Henderson said the tiller had been successfully patched and the voyage had been continued in finer weather. On Monday night last, when the vessel sheltered at Preservation Island, rain began to fall heavily, and the breeze freshened. Driving rain continued throughout the night, and gradually the south-easterly wind became a raging gale.

“We realised that our position was precarious,” said Mr. Aldrich. The sea had been lashed to a fury. The waves were leaping 40ft. high, and a 30-mile gale was blowing. Hour after hour my friend (Henderson) hung on to the wheel, and I pumped desperately. We had lowered the sail, and for 19 hours Henderson endeavoured to keep her to the wind whilst I worked under his instructions. When dawn broke, mist and blinding rain prevented us from sighting land. And then the engine stopped. The boat had been straining heavily under the power of the engine and the reefed sails, and we had sighted land somewhere near Maria Island and Schouten. We decided to make for Wineglass Bay, and would have made it all right only for that mishap.

‘Mountainous seas were dashing over the combings, and the engine stopped. “Our position was now even more desperate,” continued Aldrich. “Abandoning the pump, I clawed my way to where Henderson was fighting to hold the wheel over, and levered my shoulder to the wheel in an endeavour to keep her to her course. The gale was bending the staysail like a whip, and the terrific strain apparently was too much. Suddenly the water began to pour into her. Henderson scrambled below, waist-deep in water, in an endeavour to grasp our bags, while I struggled desperately with the dinghy. He threw a bag up, thinking it was mine, but he had found the wrong one.”

Unforgettable Hours

“We dared not delay,” said Aldric “and we lowered the dinghy with great difficulty into the heaving sea. Immediately the boat was half-filled with water, but, by bailing, we managed to keep afloat and move away from the cutter. Within seven minutes from the time the water began to pour in, she had disappeared. “We spent three hours in the dinghy that I will never forget,” continued Aldrich. “For two hours I bailed while Henderson used the paddles. Then for another hour we searched the coast in an attempt ‘to find a suitable place to land. It was only with the greatest difficulty that we kept the dinghy afloat, and as we could not make Wineglass Bay, we decided to make for Sleepy Bay, where the seas were crashing onto the rocks. Henderson; who was doing a wonderful job, forced the dinghy in, stern first, and with waves spraying up alot, I jumped for the shelving rock. How I landed I do not know, but I managed to grab the rope that Henderson threw to me, and we gained the shore. A few moments later the dinghy was dashed to pieces”

For a ‘while the men rested exhausted on the inhospitable shore, but rousing themselves from the stupor into which they had fallen, they scrambled up the steep hills of the Hazard Mountains. Luckily, Henderson knew the whereabouts of a prospector’s camp, and after wading waist-high through swollen creeks and streams the men reached the camp. “I was all in then,” said Aldrich, “and when I saw McCrac and Fenner I dropped at their feet.” The prospectors did all they could for us, and gave us the first food we had had for 15 hours.” The shipwrecked men stayed the night with the prospectors and then began to walk overland to Swansea “We must have walked 40 miles,” said Henderson, “and when we reached Swansea with our suitcases, which were practically empty, we went to Captain Taylor, of the Bay View Hotel, who communicated with the Commissioner of Police (Colonel J. E. C. Lord) and did all he could for us.” Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Friday 3 May 1935, page 7

 

Catching the Spirit of Tasmania: Melbourne to Devonport via Bass Strait.

While you can fly to Tasmania, we decided to catch the ferry…the Spirit of Tasmania. This meant we had our own car, without the hassles of a hire car.

I should also point out that there are no passenger trains in Tasmania, so driving is the way to go. That is, unless you have any crazy ideas about circumnavigating Tasmania on foot. Tasmania might fit into a tiny 1cm square at the bottom of Australia on the map, but it’s much, much larger than you think and I blame that on the hills. It’s seemingly been scrunched up and I’m sure it you rolled it out flat, it would be twice the size and potentially even larger than Victoria.

We decided to do a day sail on the way over and, we’ll be travelling overnight in a cabin on the way back.

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Drivers were told to line up literally bumper to bumper to conserve space. I was relieved Geoff was driving as I have no sense of how much space is around the car!

Usually, you have to get to the wharf at 7.30 AM for a 9.30AM departure. However, being our Summer school holidays here, it’s the peak time to visit Tasmania and the ferry was chockers. We’d received a text notifying us that due to high volumes of traffic, they were starting to load at 6.00 AM. Not wanting to take our chances and leave anything to fate, we woke up at 5.00AM (in the middle of MY night!!) and pulled up at 6.15AM.

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It was only a short drive to the wharf and we soon spotted the Spirit of Tasmania. A former North Sea ferry, it was absolutely ginormous. …and it needs to be.

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Leaving Port Melbourne.

Perhaps, you haven’t heard about that notoriously rough stretch of sea called Bass Strait, which lies between Tasmania and “the Mainland”. However, here’s footage of waves crashing over the deck and this seemingly giant ship at its mercy… A Treacherous Crossing. Apparently, a number of cars broke free on that trip and were damaged. Bass Strait is not for the faint-hearted…especially, when it’s having a bad day!

Of course, we didn’t show our daughter any of this footage before we left and kept very, very quite about the furies of Bass Strait.  Had she had her radar out, she should have been suspicious. Silence and absolute avoidance is a dead giveaway, that there really is something to worry about.

However, I suspect that she was also caught up in the throws of avoidance. We said nothing. She said nothing. Then, the mighty moment came and we were driving the car into the bowels of the ship (or was it the stomach cavity?) At this point, the little voice did make a few discreet inquiries and wasn’t overly sure of herself but being part of the family, she had no choice. She was onboard. There was no escape.

As my Dad used to say to me, such experiences “put hairs on your chest”. That’s all very well if you want hairs on your chest, but what if you’d rather go without? As a kid, I never quite managed to ask him that and perhaps that’s now a question for when we get home.

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I hoped my “Titanic” pose  wasn’t prophetic!

We had booked our seats fairly last minute and so we could only get one reserved seat. This meant we were travelling cattle class, which was quite fine for a day trip. We took turns napping in our single seat and spent the rest of the trip on level 7. That is, except for the kids, who wandered around a bit.

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I did venture out on the deck a few times…mainly to take a few photos. I enjoyed being out in the open soaking up the real sea experience. However, as my hair was beaten from side to side and I wasn’t entirely stable on my feet, I didn’t stay out on the deck for very long.

By midday with 6 hours still ahead, I was totally over looking at blue sea and was desperate for a “land ahoy”! While there is some novelty value in being out at sea, I found the experience similar to driving down the freeway staring at gum trees. It started to feel monotonous.

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I’m not sure about exact times, but possibly around 5.00 PM we started to spot the Tasmanian coastline in the distance. Although we still had quite a way to go, not to mention however long it took to download the car, it was a relief and the coastline looked rather picturesque.

At this point, I should also let you know that we had a very smooth journey. Indeed, the staff said it was the smoothest sail they’d had in months. Given how our daughter felt about rough seas and hearing our friend’s talk about sea sickness and taking precautions (which we didn’t have), it was a relief.

It might have been around 7.30PM by the time we drove into Devonport. Found an open supermarket and loaded up.

We were in Tasmania.

Yippee!

xx Rowena

An Aussie Boxing Day.

I am starting to wonder whether chocolate, cheese and crackers could possibly equal dinner? How about if I throw in a bottle of wine?

Surely, Boxing Day must be a day off cooking for this exhausted kitchen slave?

After all, it’s Boxing Day. A day when traditionally speaking, (i.e before the Boxing Day sales took off), we lock the doors and bar the windows. Dig out that long lost novel or park ourselves in front of the box watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race dispersed with the cricket.

Humph! When it comes to not cooking, it’s not looking good. Although the kids aren’t home, even I’m feeling peckish.As much as I love chocolate, even this chocoholic can’t quite consider it a meal.

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Map Showing the Route of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.

However, before I head off scrounge around in the kitchen, let’s get back to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The Sydney to Hobart, which started in 1945, is the pinnacle of the Australian sailing calendar and is a notoriously difficult race. While you do hear of yachts dropping out along the Australian East Coast, the real challenge comes when the race crosses Bass Strait, which is located between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

Bass strait was named after George Bass, after he and Matthew Flinders passed through it while circumnavigating Van Diemen’s Land (now named Tasmania) in the Norfolk in 1798–99. At Flinders’ recommendation, the Governor of New South Wales, named the stretch of water between the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land “Bass’s Straits”…Later Bass Strait.

Personally, I’ve never even dipped my toe in Bass Strait, let alone sailed across those treacherous waters. Indeed, I’ve only ever flown over Bass Strait.

However, my intrepid husband who is something like a 5th generation Tasmanian whose roots date back to the 1830s, has sailed and kayaked in Bass Strait, albeit on the edges: “You don’t play silly games in Bass Strait”.  He has even crossed Bass Strait in a storm on board the ferry, The Abel Tasman, the precursor to the Spirit of Tasmania. He told me how the bow of the boat was punching into a wave and the spray was landing on the observation deck eight decks up. The waves were absolutely ginormous! Geoff says: “Bass Strait can be some of the roughest water in the world. I’ve heard it described as being as rough as the North Sea.”It’s apparently twice as wide and twice as strong as the English Channel.

AbelTasman04

Can you imagine the spray from the waves hitting the top deck of this huge ferry? That’s some wave!

If you’re interested in reading about sailing across Bass Strait:http://www.mysailing.com.au/news/satori-in-the-strait-reflections-on-a-summer-bass-strait-cruise

However, while the Sydney to Hobart provided background entertainment, I’ve actually been working hard today. Instead of doing absolutely nothing, the house started moaning, groaning and complaining about months of accumulated neglect… AKA: “The Dump and Run”.

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Just to add to the pressure, as I’ve mentioned before, both our kids are starting at new schools next year. So, we need to get organised. We can’t do our usual trick of arriving back from holidays the night before school goes back and bluffing our way through on auto-pilot. No! I’ll be needing to have my long-suffering brain well and truly switched on and I’m sure some extra caffeine won’t go astray either…artificial intelligence!

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So, today I’ve sorted through numerous in-trays and filed and chucked mountains of paperwork. I’ve updated the 2016 diary. This new wave of organisation could inflict severe shock, especially on my daughter’s dance teacher. Let’s just say she’s been very understanding! Well, that was until the end of year concert was rapidly approaching and there were several stern discussions. Thankfully, all went well on the day. While we can’t comment on her technical prowess, Grandma and I both thought Miss looked like English ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn, in her snow white tutu. Even if she couldn’t dance a step, she still looks like a ballerina.

Rewinding just a little, how did your Christmas go? I know some of you are probably still enjoying Christmas Day.

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Mister received “Ollie”, a robot, for Christmas.

We opened presents at home and then drove down to my aunt’s place in Sydney. While nobody includes references to the heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic when they talk about Christmas, that’s as much a part of the celebrations here as the turkey and plum pudding. It wasn’t too hot yesterday and a much more comfortable 26 degrees Celsius. We had the usual hot Christmas turkey and baked ham along with Plum Pudding, which we set alight with brandy and dished up with custard and brandy sauce. Traditionally, I take loads of photos on Christmas Day but I was more focused on people and conversation yesterday and only took one of two possums which had been spotted in my aunt’s garden. I must be seriously ill! My camera never rests.

Vintage Ettalong Santa Truck 2008 Pearl Beach

An Australian Christmas, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

On a more serious note, in previous posts you’ll see pictures of Santa travelling locally on a fire engine and I’ve mentioned how nasty bush fires have caused devastating damage at this time of year in the past. News has come through that 116 homes have been lost on the Great Ocean Road near Lorne in Victoria. The fire was apparently started by a lightening strike. We’ve had many bush fires around here and a few have been quite serious. Even though those fires weren’t on our doorstep, the place still felt like a blazing inferno and it was terrifying and it was heartbreaking seeing the extensive damage to our local National park.

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The ghosts of Christmas past…

 

Well, now that Christmas Day is done and dusted, we’re now heading towards that night of unmentionable mutterings…New Year’s Eve…when even those of us who vow never to make a New Year’s Resolution again, still manage to fall victim!

With all of my New Year’s Resolutions past brutally smashed like a multi-car pile-up, I’m very reluctant to consider any more. And yet…just because a resolution didn’t succeed and reach it’s desired destination, some change or forward movement is better than none at all. Or, horror of horrors, going backwards instead.

So, I have a few more days to reflect on resolutions and goals for the New Year while I still try to plow a pathway through the carnage of the past.

How are things going over at your place? How was Christmas?

xx Rowena